Out of seemingly nowhere, I found out that Kamasi Washington has delivered another slice of musical heaven for his followers to consume. Yet again the modern jazz pioneer has managed to create and bring forth a beautiful landscape of sound, which harks back to the greats of yesteryear, whilst at the same time forging its own path and keeping the genre at the forefront of progressive music.
Kamasi Washington‘s first major release The Epic was game-changing, and his work with Throttle Elevator Music and as a contributing artist on others albums has won him accolades across the board. The Epic is a 2 1/2 hour monster of an album, which is hard to digest in one sitting, but extremely rewarding. Throughout the album, Washington pays tributes to the legends of the genre, like John Coltrane and Miles Davis for example, branching soul & fusion jazz. Its opening song “Changing The Guard” alone was enough to get me hooked and talking to others within the progressive metal community; he’s inspired many others to pick up his and other jazz musicians’ records.
Moving onto the subject at hand, Harmony Of Difference is an EP which plays start to finish within half an hour. However, the length is not to be snubbed, as this delectable release offers up everything that is expected of it (and more). Most of the tracks are short in length, before Washington knocks out a wonderful 13-minute song to complete this sonic journey through space and time. Kamasi Washington composes and writes the music but brings in magnificent artists to compliment his excellent soloist sax skills. On the album these are musicians like Cameron Graves, Ryan Porter and Dontae Wislow, each of them respected artists in the genre, who lent excellent keys, trombone and trumpet respectively.
The music throughout the EP is magical, and when listened as a full piece, really gives the listener the sensation of being in another world. Dreamy opener “Desire” chills you out with an organic, flowing sound to it, before Harmony In Difference explodes into “Humility”. This track wakes you up out of that slumber and fills you with the desire to groove. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my morning cycles to work lately, as this boisterous song takes you from 0-60 in mere seconds. Graves’ piano is brilliant on this track, leading you around in circles before the horns take turns at solos, in turn leading into a amazing climax. This transition remains one of my favourite moments of this year, and I’m chomping at the bit to see it live.
The layering on the album is glorious, too, and the mix feels really clean. The horns are very much front-and-centre of it all; the other instruments seemingly float around the mix, whilst at the same time feeling right at home. The percussion used on the record is equally excellent, and it’s especially evident in the tracks “Perspective” and “Integrity” which sport a calypso vibe to them, along with numerous other influences slipping in.
Tying this spectacular piece of music together is the illustrious final track “Truth”. This 13-minute beauty rolls the influences of the previous five tracks together, with reprises occurring throughout and up and down its totality. In this song, Washington brings in the choirs and bombastic ensembles that he employed so deftly on The Epic. This right here is where he’s really in his element, composing these incredible tracks which grip the listener with multiple layers and incredible twists and turns. The climax to “Truth” is overwhelmingly beautiful: the choir rises to a pitch as strings, horns and percussion vie for pole position.
Harmony Of Difference took me places during my time with it, and it’s well worth a journey for anyone who wants to experience mastery of a genre which has been absolutely on fire this year. Fans of Cameron Graves‘ solo work will dig this record heavily, as will fans of bands like Snarky Puppy, and of course the aforementioned John Coltrane. It’s got to be one of the top jazz releases of this year – if not the best – but I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Notable Tracks: “Humility”; “Truth”; “Perspective”
FFO: Cameron Graves, Snarky Puppy, John Coltrane, Miles Davis