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About Me:18-year-old sixth form student, studying English Literature, History and Government and Politics. My articles will broadly cover topics from the current affairs of politics to reviews of books and albums, as well as adding my own creative pieces, whether it be short fiction or general opinion.
In 2015 Kamasi Washington broke onto the scene, and with that also broke the jazz completely in half. His debut album, aptly titled The Epic, spanned across three hours and was one of the most complete tour de forces of the decade. In his debut Kamasi incorporated elements of spiritual jazz, G-Funk, and some Sun-Ra worship interspersed with choral and classic elements to collide in something truly grand on scale and beautiful in its experimentation. Not only that but Kamasi’s band, The West Coast Get Down, are one of the fiercest on the planet (who I have had the absolute pleasure of seeing and can safely say put on one of the finest live performances I have ever seen), with no one being a loose end on the album – everyone contributing one insane solo after another.
Next came Harmony of Difference, an EP of genius with Side A consisting of 5 disparate tracks relatively short in length, and then Side B being one song, ‘Truth’, with them all put into one homogenous entity – a ‘harmony of difference’. With two brilliantly genius records, as well as being an integral part of Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kamasi solidified himself as the biggest name in jazz.
So, being a jazz-head myself, you can only imagine with what anticipation I awaited this album to drop. Then the two tracks came, Fists of Fury and The Space Travelers Lullably. The former is a brash opener with a heavy riff, some accompanying vocals about ‘taking our retribution’. It’s a great opener – it forces you to sit up, and when the male and female vocals begin to intertwine and crescendo, you cannot help but get chills. The latter is the opener to ‘Heaven’ (although, sequentially, the title sends us in a bit of a misdirection). It’s a gorgeous, cinematic piece that heavily incorporates strings. The alternating elements of horns and strings that couple with the sizzling hi-hats give it an amazing momentum that culminates in one of Kamasi’s signature screaming solos. However, despite its orchestral density, the most touching moment on the track comes right at the end when Kamasi is left in what sounds like a well – his tenor saxophone longingly reaching out.
There are other similarly brilliant tracks on the album. Most notably, the second track Can You Hear Him features one of Kamasi’s most insane and primitive solos yet. With added reverb, his saxophone sounds crazy and chilling. Vi Lua Vi Sol adds a nice bit of variety to the album with a lead vocoder vocal, decent tender solos, and a brilliant pumping ending. However, the downside to this album is that it could do with a little trimming. Tracks like Tiffakonkae just seem superfluous, and sometimes the cacophonous endings to Kamasi’s tunes seem can at times feel like a structural repetition.
But there is no doubt that Kamasi is still on the throne of jazz. Looking forward, a little more variety is needed.
Image Credits: nme.com