Kamasi Washington

Last Summer, an album seemed to spring out of the musical ether and arrest our ears with its gripping presence and magnificent sound. It was huge, and some would even call it sprawling. At almost three hours long, it demanded the listener’s full attention. It was the kind of album that you made an event out of; either you could kick off your shoes after work and drown in the musical cosmos or invite your friends over and muse together.

In a word, the album was just… epic. No wonder saxophonist Kamasi Washington chose it as the title for his album.

What made The Epic so notable was its ability to bridge listeners from all over the musical spectrum. Kamasi Washington’s major label debut came hot on the heels of 2015’s consensus darling, Kendrick Lamar’s  To Pimp A Butterfly. Many hip-hop listeners were taken by the album’s unobscured jazz influences and arrangements, and blogs started publishing lists that guided hardcore hip-hop fans through Lamar’s gateway into the intricate world of jazz both past and present.

For someone who really enjoyed Butterfly, giving The Epic a chance was next to a no-brainer. Washington lent his tenor skills to the rapper’s album, and took responsibility for the sound that some listeners felt was so infectious. Keeping with the bridges analogy, it’s also fitting that The Epic was released on Brainfeeder Records. The label is headed by electronic musician Flying Lotus, another Lamar collaborator and the grandnephew of John and Alice Coltrane.

To other critics, Kamasi Washington’s presence isn’t something that should be lauded with praise and palm branches. He’s a fine saxophonist, sure, but his latest release isn’t something that’s utterly and completely new sounding. And that’s fine in a way, because you can argue that it only needs to be “new sounding” for enough new listeners. It gets them to explore and appreciate an area of music previously unknown to them.

And who wouldn’t want that?

from Emmanuel Garcia http://ift.tt/1YjeB5W

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