Oh my God he is walking on water whilst carrying a saxophone. To some Kamasi Washington is the sort of person who could walk on water with his blend of psychedelic cosmic jazz and horn workouts. His first album 'The Epic' was a hell of a thing and 'Heaven & Earth' which is split into two bits ('Heaven'/'Earth') is bound to be just as ambitious and will further crown him as the lord of modern psychedelic jazz.
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With reference to everyone moaning about the football being on over summer ...what about those of us who don't like saxophones? There are at least two and a half hours of music here.. much of which contains saxophone. Add this to all the other sax music out there and it's starting to become a problem even leaving the house.
Sadly our sax expert Robin isn't here to take all this on - he likes both football and sax so he's having the time of his life at the moment. A straw poll around the office reveals mixed opinions on this the second Kam Wash full lengther. Phil "likes it's 1970s vibes" whilst Jamie, the man I'd hoped to fob this off on, found it "overcooked".
In fact "overcooked" is probably understatement of the decade. You should hear the solo-ing in "Can You Hear Him?"... endless keyboard squalls - the sorry sound of a musician wanking the keys. Utterly unbearable in this day and age. Possibly, just possibly ok in the 70s when people had more time for that kind of thing. You see 'Heaven & Earth' is an album made by show offs. Utterly brilliant musicians who spend the entire record trying to outdo each other. The rhythms are brilliant, lovely laid back chilled out grooves and by gum when they play as a team there's beauty to be had. The wondrous 'Connections' is a sea spray of samba beauty interspersed by the sound of what appears to be a billion piece choir. Being a fan of the Buzzcocks, I can appreciate the more simple musical movements, 'Tiffakonkae' continues the themes of 'Connections' with exceptional groove and feel. Very Axelrod and almost Bacharach-ian which makes skronk wastes of time like 'The Invincible Youth' stand out like the turds they are on this luxurious trifle of an album.
'Testify' sounds so much like Stevie Wonder I had to google to check it wasn't a cover....and that helps bring to close the first part of the album which was remarkably smooth in general with its upbeat neon lit soul and jazz. Bear with me though as we're only half way through. 'Via Lua Vi Sol' opens up the second part of the record with a quite lovely vocodered voice over music which sounds a lot less excitable than that on the first part of the record. 'Street Fighter Master' has a cinematic almost Isaac Hayes feel over which Washington plays some breathy, fluttery sax. 'Journey' has some delicious tonal chords on the piano sounding very much like Vince Guaraldi over which comes a soulful, vocal that sounds both melancholic and uplifting.
It appears that Washington has tried to play the entire history of soul, jazz, funk and gospel music and squeeze it onto one LP....and as a result it at times stuns the listener with its breadth of musical dexterity. At other times it all becomes too much and you wish for it all to stop. It's best when Washington and co remember that there are actual human beings listening and that it's not a competition to see who can play the most complicated solo. Luckily despite my initial fears, there's much to enjoy here. It's music. All of it.
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- Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington
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