Anyone who's had the distinct pleasure of experiencing Kamasi Washington's 2015 three-hour tour-de-force LP The Epic knows that the L.A. saxophonist doesn't do tiny. And on his latest EP, Harmony of Difference, Washington delivers an LP's worth of ideas, vision and passion into only six tracks and 33 minutes of music.
Originally composed for an installation at New York's Whitney Museum, Washington (alongside his sister, Amani) presented this work as, "the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies."
From the first notes of album opener "Desire," it's clear that Harmony of Difference is focused on storytelling through intuitive phrasing and melody, rather than scales and showmanship. Yet, when Washington's band unleashes a fury of noise on the Afrobeat-influenced "Humility," it brilliantly and purposely cuts through the song's potable rhythm. "Knowledge" and "Perspective" focus on harmonious riffs and fusion-type leanings that come off refreshingly off-book, while "Integrity" taps Brazilian jazz for its complex rhythm.
It's the final track, though that works as the album's focus. After laying out five new compositions, the EP's sprawling sixth track, "Truth," incorporates elements from those first five songs in order to create a sense of harmony amidst diversity. Here, Washington demonstrates his growing skill as a master arranger, melding together every single element that makes this EP so fascinating into a 13-minute work of art.
Harmony of Difference demonstrates Kamasi Washington as jazz's next great thinker, shaper and leader. (Young Turks)