Artist – Kamasi Washington
Album – The Epic (2015)
Check it out – https://open.spotify.com/album/2j2q2ySuVk43eHB8wI5XQj
Kamasi Washington is a saxophonist, band leader and composer from California, USA. As mentioned Washington mainly plays saxophone, tenor sax, due to it being the instrument of choice by his peers Albert Ayler and John Coltrane. It may seem due to the exposure of this album that Kamasi is a relatively new artist. The fact is that Kamasi has been performing and recording for years with a few self-published releases under his belt and helping numerous other musicians live and session recording wise (Nas, Snoop, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus). The Epic is Washington’s first release which isn’t being self-released, displaying why it has been getting so much promotion.
Naming an album ‘The Epic’ and the first track ‘Changing of the Guard’ to some may seem presumptuous, however I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it meets all expectations warranted from these names. The album is a massive three hours, so for some may require a few sittings, but it somehow manages to stay interesting, exciting and fresh throughout, leading you to wonder how some of the half hour albums out this year manage to become sleep inducing after the 3rd track. Style changes throughout, incorporating New Orleans jazz, be-bop, experimental and some elements of smooth jazz, displaying Kamasi’s understanding of these genres and ability to authentically compose for each. Kamasi is undoubtedly a virtuoso on the saxophone, having incredible technique and putting across a confidence in his playing which comes from session recording on this years best album (To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar) and last years best album (You’re Dead – Flying Lotus) … in my opinion anyway. As well as great technique there is also a depth of emotion in Washington’s playing, from short calm melodies creating interesting harmonies with the strings and piano to moments of pure aggression in which Kamasi is simply blowing a single note as powerfully as he can.
Usually I would recommend a couple songs that need to be listened to, but this isnt that kind of album, the whole thing is important and becomes one whole piece of art, each track flowing into the next. The Epic is one of the best albums out this year, certainly the best Jazz album, a required listen.