Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference Review


The standard road to jazz typically involves a series of supporting gigs and apprenticeships. But, along with his compatriots, saxophonist Kamashi Washington came up with their own unique thing in South Central Los Angeles’s relative isolation. His arrangements and playing on ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ by Kendrick Lamar first brought Washington into the national limelight. Members of the West Coast Get Down, the loose collective by Washington, also made contributions to the album. At the time of the album’s release, Washington was 34 and had created enough music for creating a three-disc and three-hour debut album, The Epic, which was released in 2015.

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Rather than releasing the album with a jazz label, it came out on Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus’ imprint. Once it hit the market, Washington and his band were able to score gigs at festivals, clubs and events that typically host rap or indie rock groups. Safe to say, nothing about Washington’s popularity follows the standard route. Yes, his music is considerably ‘of’ jazz, but the context he has created along with his crowd is somewhat outside it. The trend continues in Harmony of Difference, Washington’s new EP comes by a sublabel of XL called Young Turks, who have released music by FKA twigs and Jamie xx.

The EP comprises of music that was specifically written for an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Originally, Harmony of Difference was a part of a multimedia project that aimed to demonstrate how forces that seemingly work against each other could come together and form a complex beauty. A series of paintings were used in the original exhibit and Washington followed the same theme musically with a series of short pieces that were combined into a recombinant and lengthy suite titled ‘Truth’.

Get Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference Here


It was released earlier this year and gives you a sense of déjà vu. Harmony comes off as a meditation on association, memory and vantage point. When you hear it in one sitting, it feels as if you are viewing something from several angles and suddenly the three-dimensional form appears in your mind and you finally understand the whole. As far as tone and approach is concerned, Harmony comes off as a part of The Epic. The jagged and driving ‘Humility’ focuses on the piano notes whereas ‘Desire’ boasts one-two-three bassline. A tempo groover is found in the form of ‘Perspective’ and there are also elements of the R&B of the 70s and the small-group jazz of the 60’s.

The mode of arranging and how Washington layers the horn section gives the entire EP a lush and dreamy touch and it comes off as a cloud of healing sound. Even though he is an excellent tenor soloist, Washington’s essence and his artistry can be seen in the explosively grand arrangements and compositions. Washington has juggled all aspects rather expertly and has managed to create music that is deep yet accessible at the same time. It is his spiritual approach that has really brought

Get Kamasi Washington’s Harmony of Difference Here

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