First Listen: Kamasi Washington takes on a Zapp classic

(July 6, 2024) When I was in college, “Computer Love” by Roger Trautman and Zapp was guaranteed to get the dance floor crowded by people looking to connect with their sweethearts, as well as those looking to make a connection. When the tempo slowed and the party became that kind of party, “Computer Love” was that kind of jam.

“Computer Love” remains a song that gets played when the lights get dim at the house party, but the tune has become one that all ages sing and enjoy at the cookout. Like other cuts in the Zapp library, “Computer Love” has been sampled by a host of hip-hop and R&B artists. If there is a such thing as a canon of R&B/soul music – and I believe that there is – “Computer Love” is among the songs included.

So, it should not be surprising that saxophonist Kamasi Washington gifts us with a jazz interpretation of “Computer Love.” That’s even less surprising considering the ease in which Washington moves among genres like jazz, R&B, hip-hop, electronic, world and rock.

A classically trained musician who enrolled in UCLA’s department of ethnomusicology and played with jazz legends, Washington understands that jazz artists have historically put their interpretation on the popular music of the day. That’s how we get John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things.”

The kind of free-flowing reimagining of R&B songs of the kind that Washington does on this version of “Computer Love” are not as common as jazzy remakes of pop tunes from the “Golden Age of Songs.”

An artist like Washington took the challenge on fully. He found a vocalist in Patrice Quinn who knows how to stretch out notes and improvise vocally while remaining true to the song. Washington understood how to create enough space within the song’s melody he and the other players to improvise. What listeners hear is a song that includes elements of acoustic jazz, electric jazz fusion in an innovative version of an R&B song that was a cutting-edge tune when it came out in the mid 1980s. Check it out here.

By Howard Dukes

Kamasi Washington feat. Patrice Quinn

"Computer Love"


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