in Review

Kamasi Washington – Harmony of Difference

Kamasi Washington was one of those artists I’d always wanted check out, but like so many things, time was the thing holding me back. Much like Thundercat, Washington got a little bit of mainstream exposure from appearing on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, and adding to that record’s jazz-funk sound. However, it didn’t help that his most acclaimed album to date was 2015’s The Epic, which at a nearly 3-hour running time, might actually have been short-selling itself with that title.

Fortunately, 2017 saw the release of a Kamasi Washington recording that’s a little more friendly to those listeners not entirely willing to listen to 3 hours of modern jazz. Harmony of Difference is technically considered an EP, though it’s 32-minute running time still makes it longer than some albums that’ll end up on my top ten of the year. But whatever you wanna call it, I love the compact nature of this release, as it does certainly contain some first-rate musicianship, but it never meanders in the way a lot of jazz can, as there are a number of memorable motifs that keep cropping up over the course of these songs.

This culminates in the final track, the 13-minute “Truth”, where the different elements of the 5 preceding songs all come together in one epic, funky jam. While Kamasi Washington clearly has influences rooted in the more exploratory era of jazz in the late 50’s early 60’s, there are also traces of fusion, with a production style that seems to embrace a kind of modern sound that keeps the music from sounding like pure throw-back. In other words, it’s jazz that I think can appeal to people who don’t listen to jazz that often, and will especially appeal to people like me who pretend to listen to jazz more than they actually do.

Favorite Tracks: “Humility”, “Knowledge”, “Truth”