Label/Year: Young Turks, 2017
Lineup – Kamasi Washington: tenor saxophone; Ryan Porter: trombone; Dontae Winslow: trumpet; Cameron Graves: piano; Brandon Coleman: keyboards; Miles Mosley: acoustic bass; Thundercat: electric bass; Ronald Bruner Jr.: drums; Tony Austen: drums.
After the enormous acclamation received with the triple-album The Epic in 2015, LA saxophonist Kamasi Washington returns with Harmony of Difference, an EP that showcases six compositions deftly arranged to encompass such a different styles as post-bop, smooth jazz, psychedelic soul, funk, and gospel.
For this concise (total time is 31:54) yet impactful body of work he relies on many of the bandmates who helped him to conceive The Epic, namely, trombonist Ryan Porter, pianist Cameron Graves, keyboardist Brandon Coleman, acoustic bassist Miles Mosley, electric bassist Thundercat, and drummers Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austen. Trumpeter Dontae Winslow is the new addition here, replacing Igmar Thomas, while leading vocalist Patrice Quinn joins the influential choir that enriches “Truth”, the 13-minute spacey opus that closes the record. Despite sharing an identical melody as the opening tune “Desire”, set as an ambient soul-jazz trance with chill-out harmonies and cool solos, this piece is expanded with additional sonic layers that include an 8-piece string section, guitar, vibraphone, flute, an extra sax (alto), and stately vocals. Embracing a fully-fledged symphonic poise, the tune revolves around the melody at first but speeds up conveniently for Kamasi’s solo, favorably challenged by guitarist Matt Haze’s pretty annotations and Graves’ responsive and diametrically opposed harmonic layouts. In the final section, ornamental guitar and dreamy horn ostinatos function as pigment intensifiers.
Only sinning for their too short duration, the remaining compositions trigger instant empathy and connection, revealing the strong bond between Kamasi and his peers.
If “Humility” is a demonstrative spiritual exaltation suffused with plenty of joy and excitement and featuring fervent if succinct improvisations from piano, trumpet, and tenor, “Knowledge” is a seductive, danceable manifestation of the spirit, propelled by sweet-tempered funky bass lines and a fulfilling patterned rhythm. The improvisations belong to Ryan Porter and the bandleader.
“Perspective” boasts an outlandish, hypnotic intro before settling in a zone dominated by R&B and retro funk. It will make you clap your hands. As usual, the melody in the chorus is simple and attractive, a procedure also followed on “Integrity”, an unanticipated 100% Brazilian samba song with cuíca sounds included and a hard-driving groove.
Kamasi Washington, whose music remains passionate and poignant, exteriorizes his musicality with feeling and manages to attract followers from opposite sides of the jazz spectrum. He does this with a deep understanding of the past and an eye in the future.
01 - Desire ► 03 - Knowledge ► 06 – Truth