Two years ago, Kamasi Washington, a jazz saxophonist and composer out of California, was simply an accompanying, albeit key player for some of our favorite artist’s albums, most notably Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead!. Following a truly Epic triple-disc album, one amazing Meadows interview with yours truly, and a place in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2017 Biennial, Kamasi Washington no longer sits behind his contemporaries.
His new EP, a short half-hour compared to his near-three-hour debut, is a collection of his composition from the Whitney’s 2017 Biennial show, entitled Harmony of Difference. The description for the piece cites it as an exploration of “the philosophical possibilities of the musical technique known as counterpoint, which Washington defines as ‘the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies.'” It’s a specific tool that teaches the importance of the relationship between different musical voices, which are melodically independent yet harmonically dependent on one another.
This coming together of musical composition, detailed in the five pieces titled “Desire,” “Humility,” “Knowledge,” “Perspective,” and “Integrity,” are all key tenets in Kamasi’s plan for greater understanding, or the resounding “Truth,” the final, thirteen-minute track that combines the elements of the five preceding movements together. “My hope,” Kamasi told the Whitney, “is that witnessing the beautiful harmony created by merging different musical melodies will help people realize the beauty in our own differences.”
While The Epic was a tour-de-force of some of the greatest contemporary jazz music to exist today, such that landed Kamasi and his band on major music festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, Harmony of Difference puts his music in the greater social conversation; complex and challenging, yet thoughtful and reflective. A quick yet immensely powerful work, Harmony of Difference not only greatly exemplifies Kamasi Washington’s message, but proves his insane musical prowess once more.
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