Who: Kamasi Washington is a multi-instrumentalist and producer born and raised in Los Angeles. He grew up playing jazz in the city’s storied Leimert Park neighborhood. Forming his first band, the Young Jazz Giants, with Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner, Ronald Bruner, Jr. and Cameron Graves in high school, Washington went on to study ethnomusicology at UCLA and play with Snoop Dogg, Raphael Saadiq and more.
Sound: Washington fits into a progressive jazz category but expands beyond the genre’s limits and has found fans in the indie circuit.
TFN Final Take: I will be first to admit that I am not a Jazz man. Sure, I have listened to and even own several of the classics from Miles, Parker, Ellington and Monk but to call me a jazz fan would be a stretch. I respect the music but long sits, focus or even extensive knowledge is not my specialty. I say all that because this new release, Heaven And Earth, from the progressive Kamasi Washington is fantastic. It is a 2 hour and 24-minute journey that makes jazz cool for people that don’t know much about it or may not even typically like jazz. Purists will critique this record as they can quote all the things they have heard before while I will tell you just to listen how well this record rolls and not get caught up in comparing pieces to the past greats.
From the ear opening Bruce Lee movie theme cover, “Fists Of Fury,” Washington shows off his sax, style and how he seamlessly incorporates the vocals of Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible. It is a great first impression of his skill. With so much music, Washington has the freedom to move in all directions as you will hear Latin and Caribbean grooves, vocoder integration, old school r&b soul and synths. To keep this all maintained within his concept is even more an accomplished feat, as the Earth side of the album represents the world as Washington sees it outwardly, while the Heaven side represents the world as he sees it inwardly. Deep stuff but it does give the tunes context.
Kamasi Washington has created a timeless work with Heaven And Earth and I highly recommend just putting the album on and hitting play. I don’t care if your favorite genre is punk, indie, folk, rock or all of the above because if you give Heaven And Earth a legitimate chance; the progressive jazz from Washington will be added to your list!
Kamasi Washington Website
Kamasi Washington Facebook
– Reviewed by Thomas Wilde