Streamed on several US-based sites last week including NPR and picking up interest among tastemakers in the UK there is so much buzz, word of mouth, and hype about Kamasi Washington album The Epic that makes it very unusual. With elements of rap, electronica, orchestral free jazz and cosmic sounds, it is no exaggeration to say this is flooring a lot of people in the States, word rippling out day-by-day.
Part of the buzz emanates from the fact that Washington had a significant role arranging the strings on chart topping Kendrick Lamar album To Pimp a Butterfly released recently and he has also worked on Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead. As the description on the Ninja Tune site puts it in a litter of numbers: “The Epic is a 172-minute, three-volume set that includes a 32-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and 17 songs overlaid with a compositional score written by Washington,” it is something of a juggernaut of a release.
Performed by a Los Angeles band known as the West Coast Get Down joining thirtysomething saxophonist Washington, a former student at UCLA who was mentored there by the late Gerald Wilson, are bassist Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat) and his brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr, bassist Miles Mosley, drummer Tony Austin, keyboardist Brandon Coleman, pianist Cameron Graves, trombonist Ryan Porter plus singer Patrice Quinn. Washington has also been picking up incredible reviews for his live shows with the LA Times’ Randall Roberts for instance recently commenting: “What Washington accomplished wasn’t pastiche. It was banging, booming, swinging, defiantly modern music with runaway-train momentum.” SG