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Music Kamasi Washington

Published on July 4th, 2018 | by voxx

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Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth

The Kendrick Lamar-endorsed jazz messiah’s supreme second coming…

After featuring on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, West Coast saxophone virtuoso Kamasi Washington was hailed as modern jazz’s saviour, a player who not only reconnected with the genre’s rich past but pointed the way to a dynamic new future. Such expectations might have weighted heavily on a lesser talent, but 2015’s monumental, three-hour debut The Epic triumphantly proved Washington was more than ready to make the leap from gifted sideman.

His latest, a double album, is an hour shorter but equally expansive in approach. Again driven by Washington’s powerful soloing, with its echoes of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, the “Earth” side opens in explosive fashion. ‘Fists Of Fury’ sets a passionate message of black self-empowerment – vocalist Patrice Quinn chanting “Our time as victims is over!” – to roiling Afro-Latin rhythms and urgent blasts of Washington’s horn in a manner that fearlessly focuses its radical energy on the injustices of modern America.

Backed by stellar Los Angeles collective West Coast Get Down, Washington’s gift for euphoric arrangements and eagerness to explore new forms is evident throughout. Shifting gears through knotty improvisation and sweeping orchestration, the head-spinning, freeform mutations of ‘The Invincible Youth’ give way to the quick-stepping Latin dance moves of “Heaven” side cuts ‘Vi Lua Vi Sol’ and the luminous, Minnie Riperton-like soul of ‘Journey’. At such moments it feels as if Washington really is on a higher mission, reaching beyond jazz to deliver a jubilant celebration of music itself.

- By Jake White


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