When Kamasi Washington released his tour de force LP, The Epic, in 2015, it instantly set him on a path as our generation’s torchbearer for progressive, improvisational music that would open the door for young audiences to experience music unlike anything they had heard before. The 172-minute odyssey featuring his 10-piece band, The Next Step, was littered with elements of hip-hop, classical and R&B music, all major influences on the young saxophonist and bandleader, who exceeds any notions of what “jazz” music is.
Released to critical acclaim, The Epic won numerous awards, including the inaugural American Music Prize and the Gilles Peterson Worldwide album of the year. Washington followed that work with collaborations with other influential artists such as Kendrick Lamar, John Legend, Run the Jewels, Ibeyi and the creation of “Harmony of Difference,” a standalone multimedia installation during the prestigious 2017 Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.
In June 2018, Washington released Heaven and Earth to wide praise. The album garnered “best of” awards from Pitchfork, NPR, Variety, GQ, MOJO, and Complex among others. Collaborating with cutting edge filmmakers Bradford Young, Jenn Nkiru, Terence Nance, and Marc Thomas, Washington helped direct AS TOLD TO G/D THYSELF, a film inspired by Heaven and Earth which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2019. The film has also screened at The Broad, Stony Island Arts Bank, The Apollo Theater, and 180 The Strand in London.
JAW GEMS, an electronic outfit from Portland, Maine, is a collective of experimental producers bringing beat-music – traditionally programmed and played on samplers – to a live band setting.
Combine legendary beat-makers like Tokimonsta, Flying Lotus, and Dilla, with the deep gritty grooves of Thundercat, and Toro y Moi’s chillwave synth-pop, and you begin to approach the sound Jaw Gems creates. Since their start in 2009, the band has been exploring sonic and rhythmic ideas that emphasize interlaced melodies and hard-hitting slaps. The result is a harmonic workout for both the subconscious and neck.
Electronic producer, Daedelus, says “Jaw Gems have done the magic trick of delivering thoroughly listenable instrumental [albums] that you can also sing along to.” Outfitted with vintage, analog synthesizers sampled through a modern Roland sp404, a live drummer, and an electric bassist, Jaw Gems’ employ a variety of beat-repeating, sample-warping technology to design a sound which is commonly made by a solo artist.
It’s this unique technique that caught the attention of acclaimed producer Daddy Kev, founder of Alpha Pup Records — home to many of the aforementioned artists. “I fell in love with Jaw Gems the first time I saw them perform,” says Kev. “I think they’re a perfect fit for the Alpha Pup label.”
Jaw Gems will unleash a sonic spark in the shadows with the release their fourth album, Dim Kingdom, on Alpha Pup this March — Following up their recent works Heatweaver and Heatweaver Remixes with a big, expanding sound, and an intimate, calming intensity. Inspired by the band’s mood regarding the current state of America during recording time, Dim Kingdom represents a shifting stance for the group.
“With this album, we searched to try and find some light in the darkness” explains keyboardist Tyler Quist. “Considering the events of the past two years, it’s not hard to detect a general feeling of low morale in the country. We made this music in the hopes that it could lift us and others during this time.”
Two years spent touring has also affected Jaw Gems’ musical style with optimism and a powerful lucidity, as they saw their performance environment change drastically from intimate settings to much bigger venues, including Red Rocks Amphitheater.
“Playing our music on these stages with increasingly larger sound systems enabled us to craft songs to fit that territory.” shares drummer Dj Moore. “With Dim Kingdom, we were motivated to explore that inspiration and apply it to our sonic palette.”
In addition to national tours and landing their dream record deal, other recent Jaw Gems’ highlights include shared stages with icons such as My Morning Jacket, Flying Lotus at L.A.’s legendary Low End Theory (FlyLo’s first appearance at the famed L.A. beat scene event in years), Pharoahe Monch, and many more.
Dim Kingdom is out now on Alpha Pup Records and available to stream worldwide.