West Coast tenor saxophonist, bandleader, Kendrick Lamar collaborator, creator the The Epic, Kamasi Washington again flexes his restless stylistic muscles on this shortish 6 track EP. It’s a little more focussed than 2015’s sprawling 3 disc The Epic and again he’s roped in a bunch of his frequent collaborators, though this time there’s even a choir.
There’s a real smooth, soul jazz feel to many of the pieces, though also some bossa nova and even r&b elements that he manages to imbue his music with, and there’s definitely a 70’s soul/ funk riff that it feels like he’s lifted from something I can’t quite put my finger on. Though perhaps that’s part of it, there is a feeling of dejavu, even at first listen, which is quite remarkable. It’s more than he’s just hitting genre or stylistic tropes (which he is), or that motifs and riffs reappear repeatedly throughout, often voiced by different instruments or at a different tempo. It’s that this music is deep. You feel it deep down away from the brain where you have emotional connections to sound. It’s welcome ad reassuring. Like it’s always belonged with you.
The titles are interesting too, Truth, Integrity, Perspective, Knowledge, Humility, and Desire, the first five of which are in short supply politically in the US at the moment. In fact the title, Harmony of Difference, feels political, in a nation where you get elected by dividing people, and you remain in power by continuing to do so, the sheer warmth and exuberance of these tunes feels like an antidote. Washington seems to be saying that difference doesn’t have to be divisive, violent or grating. Difference can be a place of warmth, beauty and wonder. In these difficult times Harmony of Difference is medicine. Though unlike most over the counter prescriptions, taking too much of this is actually the idea.