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Kamasi at the museum!

By Abigail Church |

With "Harmony Of Difference", the saxophonist delivers the original soundtrack for a multimedia work on show at the Whitney Museum...

In 2015, with his triple album aptly named The Epic, Kamasi Washington became, at over 34 years old, the new heartthrob of the jazz scene, even transcending its boundaries. It must be said that in parallel to his purely jazz works, the Californian saxophonist did a series of freelance works for artists as diverse as Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp A Butterfly and Damn), Flying Lotus (You’re Dead!), Thundercat (The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam), Run The Jewels (Run The Jewels 3) or even Ryan Adams (Gold). And since The Epic was released on Brainfeeder, the electro label created by Flying Lotus, all the elements were in place to make the man and his music even more atypical….

Here, this is yet again a “not really jazz” record label that welcomes him, Young Turks Records, a subdivision of XL Recordings where you’ll find The XX as well as FKA Twigs, Sampha and SBTRKT. A rather short opus (barely more than 30 minutes), Harmony Of Difference actually offers music that is mainly composed for a multimedia body of work presented at the Whitney Museum in New York, notably paintings by the saxophonist’s sister, Amani Washington, and a short film from the Spanish director AG Rojas.

We arrive at a result rather in the spirit of The Epic. Kamasi Washington mixes energy and spirituality with the virtuosity for which he is known, his breath awakening the ghost of Gato Barbieri as well as the one of Pharoah Sanders. Also present is his capacity to stack up the layers, whether percussive, instrumental or harmonic, without ever being indigestible. On the contrary, the passion as well as the tsunami of emotions that emerge from Harmony Of Difference will even be able to reach an audience usually unreceptive to the jazz idiom…

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