Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Sound Verite : Kamasi Washington – The Epic review

Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder)

Los Angeles jazz scene veteran saxophonist, bandleader Kamasi Washington has put in a lot of work in various genres, particularly jazz, soul/funk & hip-hop. He won the John Coltrane Music Competition in 1999, which was a great achievement, but his time is now - after almost twenty years in the game as an artist, studio musician, live player, and band leader. Washington has emerged and like the company he keeps in Flying Lotus, Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner and Kendrick Lamar, he is a visionary. Washington's grand statement The Epic on Flying Lotus' indie Brainfeeder is his fourth record and first since 2008's Light Of The World, his third self-released record. The Epic is a three-hour journey through the history of jazz with a post-John Coltrane aesthetic. Washington's influence seems steep in revolutionary jazz. While Coltrane's influence is clear, there's also heavy doses of Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Sun-Ra and Art Blakey. Jazz is at once meditative, soaring, wandering and welcoming. His debut The Epic is indeed a moment, or rather a movement at its beginning. The Epic is a three-record set of astonishing work; a varied journey celebrating some of the art-form’s most compelling and innovative artists.

Washington's ten-piece band including bassist Thundercat and Miles Mosley, keyboardists Cameron Graves and Brandon Coleman, trumpeter Igmar Thomas, trombonist Ryan Porter, vocalist Patrice Quinn, Dwight Trible, and double drummers Ronald Bruner, Tony Austin & percussionist Leon Mobley all provide the collaborative effort that is essential to its existence. Record one opens with “Change of the Guard”, a swirling symphony. On “Akim” he delivers the spiritual. The gospel sorrow of “Isabelle” feels like a meditative ballad as does “Final Thought”. Smoothing things out with “The Next Step” , before closing with the soulful “The Rhythm Changes” with the spirited vocals of Quinn. The second record takes on a more revolutionary tone with “Miss Understanding” where Washington soars. There's the emotional “Re Run”, the mournful “Seven Prayers”, “Henrietta Our Hero” anchored by Washington's powerful yet understated refrain and singer Quinn's search for a savior “can I tell you a story”. The 12-minute “The Magnificent 7” serves as orchestral overture. The final record reprieves the Miles Davis inspired “Re Run Home” into a mammoth soul-funk freestyle. The Ray Noble standard “Cherokee” is bookend by the drama of Coleman's steering organ. He translates Debussy's “Clair de Lune” into a gorgeous ballad. “Malcolm's Theme” includes a sample of a Malcolm X speech, with uplifting, celebratory vocals before blowing into a fierce, adventurous, wandering saxophone whirlwind as Washington pays respect to the charismatic American original. Closing with soulful strut of “The Message”. “The Message” melds from groovy jam session into full-on funky scorcher.

Washington recently told The Boston Globe “It feels like we’ve been doing something for a long time that we believed in, but no one really knew about,” he says. “This part’s been hidden for generations - my dad, his friends, they were all brilliant. It feels like we’ve been living for a long time in the dark, and the sun just came out.” Washington's manifesto the 172 minute The Epic is a triumph in love, revolution, spirituality and celebration of black American art. Through jazz Washington has introduced a new way of thinking of an old art form. Washington's masterpiece delivers a blueprint in originality for young players and redefines the modern avant-guard. by Jon Jon Scott

Kamasi Washington -"Miss Understanding"-mp3

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