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Kamasi Washington, close to heaven

By Marc Zisman |

After the triple, the double! Kamasi Washington, who shook the jazzosphere with The Epic (2015) is still thinking big, with Heaven and Earth, an equally-copious diptych.

Above all, it's a tsunami of pluralist jazz. It's just as mystical. It's just as collective. It's just as eclectic (we have a cover of Hubtones by Freddie Hubbard and, rather more madly, the theme from Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury by Bruce Lee). The Californian's music is as deft and ineffable as ever. It's his raison d’être. To return briefly to what sets him apart, our young saxophonist was a part of Brainfeeder, the Flying Lotus stable, the Young Turks, the label of The xx, FKA Twigs and Sampha, not really known for its jazz signings… Let him lead you by the hand across some sequences that are worthy heirs to the Afro-Futurism of Sun Ra, shamanic trances by Pharaoh Sanders, or Horace Tapscott's Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, the roars of Gato Barbieri, early Weather Report, flights of funk from Roy Ayers or alternate takes of Albert Ayler or John Coltrane… for Kamasi, Heaven and Earth are not two different volumes, but rather two parallel journeys: "“the world that we’re in [and] is what we imagine it to be... [Heaven is] one where what we think it’s going to be, it ends up becoming”. It is easy to be carried off by this stylistic richness across the two hours and twenty minutes of this jazz panorama; the listener is instantly overwhelmed by this creative torrent. It's impossible to be left unmoved by such force…


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