The Epic

The Epic

by Kamasi WashingtonKamasi Washington


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The Epic is saxophonist Kamasi Washington's aptly titled, triple-length, 172-minute debut album for Brainfeeder. He is a veteran of L.A.'s music scene and has played with Gerald Wilson, Harvey Mason, Flying Lotus, and Kendrick Lamar (his horn is prominently featured on To Pimp a Butterfly), to name but a few. Most of his bandmates have played together since high school, and it shows. There are two drummers (including Ronald Bruner), two bassists (including Stephen "Thundercat" Bruner on electric), two keyboardists, trumpet, trombone, and vocals (Patrice Quinn). In various settings, they are supported by a string orchestra and full choir conducted by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson. Washington composed 13 of these 17 tunes; he also meticulously arranged and produced them. At just over six to nearly 15 minutes, the jams leave room for engaged improvisation. The Epic is based on a concept, though it's unnecessary to grasp in order to enjoy. The music reflects many inspirations -- John Coltrane, Horace Tapscott's Pan-African People's Arkestra, Azar Lawrence's Prestige period, Donald Byrd's and Eddie Gale's jazz and choir explorations, Pharoah Sanders' pan global experiments, Afro-Latin jazz, spiritual soul, and DJ culture. A formidable soloist (he plays his ass off here), Coltrane is his greatest influence, but his tone is rawer, somewhere between Sanders and Albert Ayler. Disc one's "Change of the Guard" is an overture that commences with confident modal piano, a labyrinthine ensemble head, testifying choir, and bright, expansive solos from piano, trumpet, tenor, and upright bass, creating openness and drama. There's balladic progressivism ("Isabelle"), strident Afro-Latin grooves ("Final Thought"), and Central Avenue roots ("The Next Step"), before it turns toward soulful futurism on "The Rhythm Changes," with vocals from Quinn. Disc two features the carooming electric post-bop of "Miss Understanding" with explosive choir, nasty Rhodes piano, and killer solos by Washington and trumpeter Igmar Thomas. "Re Run" emerges as sun-kissed spiritual jazz with trilling strings and choir before it evolves swinging, with a funky swagger amid popping keys, fleet electric bass, and trombone solos and strident breaks. "The Magnificent 7" contains an obvious cinematic reference with its swirling kinetic strings and airy chorale, but the ground is roaring electric, spiritual jazz-funk courtesy of Thundercat and Brandon Coleman's organ and Rhodes. Disc three features the groove-drenched single "Re Run Home." Its head is straight on; Horace Silver and Harold Land come to mind, but the body spirals and turns left toward South L.A. funk. Traditions are bridged by a sunshiny soul cover of Ray Noble's standard "Cherokee," Terence Blanchard's poignant "Malcolm's Theme" (a gorgeous duet between Quinn and Dwight Trible), and a lithe read of Debussy's "Clair de Lune" before closing with the propulsive, Latin-tinged, funky vanguardism of "The Message." The Epic isn't fusion, retro, or remotely academic. It's 21st century jazz as accessible as it is virtuosic -- feel matters to Washington. Holistic in breadth and deep in vision, it provides a way into this music for many, and challenges the cultural conversation about jazz without compromising or pandering.

Product Details

Release Date: 05/19/2015
Label: Brainfeeder
UPC: 5054429000191
catalogNumber: 50
Rank: 30439

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Kamasi Washington   Primary Artist,Tenor Saxophone
Paul Cartwright   Violin
Taylor Graves   Choir, Chorus
Leon Mobley   Percussion
Tracy Carter   Choir, Chorus
Tony Austin   Drums
Dwight Trible   Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Dexter Story   Choir, Chorus
Tylana Enomoto   Violin
Neel Hammond   Violin
Lucia Micarelli   Violin
Stephen Bruner   Electric Bass
Cameron Graves   Organ,Piano,Choir, Chorus
Ginger Murphy   Cello
Thalma de Freitas   Choir, Chorus
Maiya Sykes   Choir, Chorus
Shaunte Palmer   Trombone
Brandon Coleman   Organ,Piano,Keyboards
Artyom Manukyan   Cello
Steven Wayne   Choir, Chorus
Andrea Whitt   Viola
Patrice Quinn   Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Igmar Thomas   Trumpet
Jason Morales   Choir, Chorus
Ryan Porter   Trombone
Miles Mosley   Electric Bass,Acoustic Bass
Ronald Bruner   Drums
Todd Simon   Trumpet
Natasha Agrama   Choir, Chorus
Dawn Norfleet   Choir, Chorus
Charles Jones   Choir, Chorus
Robert Miller   Drums
Molly Rodgers   Viola
Jennifer Simone   Violin
Gina Manziello   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Ray Noble   Composer
Terence Blanchard   Composer
Claude Debussy   Composer
Tony Austin   Engineer
Kamasi Washington   Arranger,Composer,Lyricist,Producer,Additional Music
Tyler Shields   Assistant Tracking Engineer
Jamie Davis   Composer,Lyricist
Chris Constable   Engineer
Patrice Quinn   Composer,Lyricist,Artwork,Additional Music
Brian Rosemeyer   Engineer
David Lee   Assistant Tracking Engineer
Carson Lehman   Assistant Tracking Engineer
Sol Washington   Layout
Patrick Henry Johnson   Cover Art
Mike Park   Cover Photo,Back Cover Photo
Julie Everson   Assistant Tracking Engineer
Conrad Leon   Assistant Tracking Engineer
Amoni Washington   Artwork
Adam Stover   Layout

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