It’s not everyday you hear the words “jazz musician” and “celebrity” in the same sentence, but Kamasi Washington, the Los Angeles-based jazz saxophonist is starting to change that. Washington’s rise to mainstream stardom was anything but slow. After making a name for himself in 2015 by playing saxophone and helping with arrangement on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly (“U,” “Method Man”) and Damn (“Lust”), Washington released The Epic, an aptly-named three-hour-long release that caught the attention of many music listeners and publications who don’t usually pay attention to modern jazz. Two years later, Washington’s new EP, Harmony of Difference, showcases the reasons he’s become arguably the most well-known jazz saxophonist of his generation. His passionate playing style and gift for creating infectious melodies make for a brand of jazz that’s both enlightening and accessible.
Harmony of Difference, in contrast to Washington’s last release, is a quick listen. At only 31 minutes in length, the EP is proof that Washington can be a pragmatic composer when he wants to be. The tracks are short, but each one contributes uniquely to a unifying theme of gradual self-discovery. The EP’s fourth track, “Perspective,” stands out as one of the highlights of the project, proving to be equally strong in both theme and groove. The song opens with a dreamy whirlwind of keys, percussion and sax that calls back to the first few seconds of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. As the culmination of instrumentation crescendos together, Washington paints us a picture of ascension. For the remaining two-and-a-half minutes, the band gravitates around a strong melody performed by Washington, aside from when he briefly interrupts the band to dive into a tight solo. The outro is triumphant, with the keys and electric bass joyfully filling up any empty space Washington affords them. Coming off clear, concise, and rewarding, “Perspective” leaves us with the feeling of realization that the correct perspective can sometimes offer.
Check out all of Harmony of Difference below.