Kamasi Washington taps into the unfiltered nerve of soulful jazz music; keeping a modern twist on old love. Washington moves to a modern, purely instrumental session with his newest release, Harmony of Difference. From the beautiful Golden Ages of Jazz in the 1920’s, to the now modern age, Kamasi Washington makes his own golden era, lighting fires with his saxophone.
Harmony of Difference is gentle to beginnings, the first track, “Desire” is a harmless dance of subtle horns and slight experimentation with progressive instrumentation. Washington takes a backseat driver approach as he lets the other instruments play the foreground, including an upright bass played by Miles Mosely, the keyboards by Brandon Coleman, and the piano played by Cameron Graves takes the spotlight for the introduction. The percussion played by Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin are played much faster than the rest of the band, but it fits well as it keeps the constant style of conflicting rushes and pauses in frame. Harmony of Difference is a record of conflicting periods as Washington directs to both the full sprints of sound, but also to the grace-filled strokes of genius behind the more down-tempo sections. The sheer talent and immeasurable craftsmanship behind the compositions are overwhelming at times as Washington leads like a mighty train to the following track “Humility”, which features a much speedier and up-beat style.
The flamboyant horns that suddenly take the sound are more lively, existing well with the piano that is fiery and jams along with the percussion. The synonymous nature of Washington and his band is just simply immaculate; the way the band can perfectly dissect sections and create these flying moments where the music takes over and becomes one giant wall of sound. The action never seems to stop either, as Washington deliberately puts other members in the spotlight on Harmony of Difference. He is a team player behind his music here, and this only continues to make Harmony of Difference feel like a fresh and crisp experience every time. The shifts where each member becomes the highlight then transfers into the track “Perspective”, where the members instead become a conglomerate collective of horns, percussion, keys, and strings that create a smooth, ode to 70’s style that strikes the mobility of funk music. Kamasi Washington creates supersonic settings with his musical ability and listening to his sound alone is like taking a journey to another planet. With the entire band playing behind him, it is an experience like no other.
This moves into the final track, “Truth” is outstanding as it is the longest, running almost into the fourteen-minute mark, but also in the way that it starts to slowly rise and rise until the tension is felt through the sound. It is explorative in the way that it plays through emotional stress of the horns rising and the vocal choir behind the instrumentalists that shines brighter than a diamond. Washington’s masterpiece is both gentle in the opening approach, but also shows the signs of being able to rush without becoming sloppy. “Truth” is a prime example of how artistic vision can be reimagined through practicing, and a goal to bleed through an instrument.
The final moments of Harmony of Difference are just as beautiful as the beginning, releasing a strong sense of emotional attachment behind the raging instruments and the calm waves. Harmony of Difference is a substantial set piece from start to finish, from the moments where Washington takes the helm and dawns the director position, to the moments where he steps back and plays a supportive role, Washington creates beauty behind his finger tips. The new jazz age is set, Harmony of Difference sets the standard for craftsmanship and just how incredibly emotional jazz becomes.