My money’s on Kamasi Washington to go down as one of the great jazz artists of our time. Decades from now, he will be recognized as a key 21st century follower of Miles, Coltrane and the rest of them. I’m also betting you didn’t hear that here first.
His triple-album solo debut The Epic deserved its title. It’s an extraordinary work that marked the arrival of a powerhouse saxophonist. They were not his first recordings of course. Washington had four albums under his belt as a member of Throttle Elevator Music (now marketed on iTunes as “feat. Kamasi Washington”). And of course he’s well-known in hip hop circles as a Kendrick Lamar associate.
Washington’s new partners breathed fresh relevance into the big band format. His partners include Thundercat on bass, Brandon Coleman on keyboards, vocalists Dwight Trible and Patrice Quinn and a pair of drummers by the name of Ronald Bruner Jr. (Thundercat’s brother) and Tony Austin. His touring band in 2016 also included Washington’s father Rickey, who was every bit the family business owner at the merch table after the band’s Toronto show.
The cozy Danforth Music Hall was bursting at the seams that June night. Those of us lucky enough to score a ticket saw a young man with endless potential backed by a stage full of major talents. The reverence they hold for the man is clear. Washington stood front and centre, and absolutely dominated the room. I was surprised during a quick meeting afterwards to find him unassuming and even a bit shy.
Washington’s beautiful new work landed today. “Truth” packs many of the same punches we heard on The Epic. It is big and bold with a kind of spiritual nuance prevalent in late-stage John Coltrane recordings.
In some respects, it’s an extension of his debut. But it has its own backstory. The piece is from Washington’s forthcoming Harmony of Difference EP; his first for the Young Turks label. He recorded the music as part of a collaboration with film director A.G. Rojas, whose video of “Truth” is also now online. (A nice sidenote: Rojas’ film – presented along with Washington’s EP in March at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York – features art by Washington’s sister Amani Washington.)
No firm release date for the EP yet. Expect it this summer.