Los Angeles saxophone savant Kamasi Washington has released his new EP Harmony of Difference, via The Young Turks. Bookended by sprawling compositions and unified by a cohesive thematic structure, the release is a gorgeous exercise in artistic craft.
Originally inaugurated as part of a collaborative art installation for the 2017 Whitney Biennial in New York, which paired the saxophonist's towering musical concept with a short film by A.G. Rojas and a series of paintings by Washington's sister Amani, the EP is not only a profound aesthetic achievement, but also an expressive metaphor for Washington's social critique. According to a statement on the Sacks and Co. website, the six song record "explores the philosophical possibilities of the musical technique known as 'counterpoint,' which Washington defines as 'the art of balancing similarity and difference to create harmony between separate melodies.'"
In effect, this creative blueprint facilitated a connective motif within the suite, with the first five songs individually conceived, while the sixth song is an amalgamation of its antecedents. Washington explained that his "hope is that witnessing the beautiful harmony created by merging different musical melodies will help people realize the beauty in our own differences."
Despite the abbreviated track listing, the EP still covers around 32 minutes, concluding with the 13 minute extravagant marathon "Truth." The suite's first track, "Desire," sets the groundwork for the finale's reminiscent piano vamp, instituting the rhythmic posture in a resonant introductory bass line. While "Desire" retains a sweeping serenity, only suspended briefly for Washington's wailing sax solo, "Humility" is soaringly chaotic with a celebratory tenor, and "Knowledge" is swift and melodic, marked by a magnetic central riff. Both "Perspective" and "Integrity" are slight sonic outliers, respectively employing funk and latin percussive elements. "Truth," the epic climax, proves to be worth the sum of its parts, revealing a grand assemblage of the EP's various strengths. At points both dense and organizationally nuanced, the tune exhibits Washington's proclivity for balanced arrangement and his virtuosic musicianship.
Our favorite songs are "Desire," "Knowledge," "Perspective," and "Truth."
Harmony of Difference is available for purchase on Amazon, or you can stream the EP above via Spotify. Kamasi will head out on a North America tour next month. For concert tickets and more, check out Kamasi Washington's Zumic artist page.