If you’re not a jazz fan, are under the impression that you flat-out don’t like jazz, or have never listened to jazz out of sheer association, consider Kamasi Washington square one. With an insiders perspective looking out, Kamasi knows a thing or two at a ripe young age, and his most recent release, Harmony of Difference is a brief intro to the world of jazz. In fact, it’s such a perfect intro that he should’ve considered naming it “Jazz 101: A Brief Introduction” (there’s a high likelihood this crossed his mind once or twice). It’s got all the fancy bells and whistles of classical jazz standards while staying strictly contemporary.
Luckily for all newcomers to Jazz 101, this time around you don’t have to listen to 3+ hours of purified jazz glory to wrap your mind around the absurd and eccentric world of jazz like you did with Washington’s 2015 release, The Epic (full disclosure: if you haven’t heard The Epic or suddenly realize jazz isn’t just for elevators or your grandparents’ enjoyment, The Epic is rightfully dubbed, to say the least). On this go around with Harmony of Difference, you get a bite-sized morsel that spans from the islands of the Caribbean with “Integrity” to the dark, smoke-filled jazz clubs with “Knowledge”. “Desire” kicks off the album with a mellowness that blurs the dividing lines between jazz and funk, while “Humility” sits as the swing and big band raucous reminder that this music still exists in a modern suit and tie. Putting smooth, hip-shaking jazz and soprano saxes back on the market, “Perspective” reinvents societies fading infatuation with a sub-genre all but lost. And as if he didn’t already rewrite the definition of epic before, “Truth” brings a whole new meaning to a word and genre that he had already conquered, putting the cherry on top of a 30-minute jazz microcosm.