Kamasi Washington is one of the biggest contemporary Jazz stars. Perhaps that isn’t saying a lot, but he’s certainly made some serious waves even outside of the Jazz scene.
For one thing, he contributed to To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar, and I’ve already said how much I love that album…
But Washington’s own 2015 album was a stunning piece of work too. Aptly named The Epic, it spans 3 discs on CD and 6 sides of vinyl (a triple disc album). There’s 173 minutes of music on it, and “Askim”, the second track of the digital album, accounts for over 12 of that.
The album is traditional Jazz, but feels distinctly modern, with an accessible, rich sound fronted with Washington’s saxophone skills.
“Askim” is reminiscent of Alice Coltrane, with its fat bass, swaying soundscapes, and dreamy constellations of sound. There’s some excellent noodling by Thundercat, which sounds like guitar but is in fact an electric bass. The song builds in intensity, until the saxophone wails over a heavenly choir with a seriously uplifting earnestness. The latter half of the song has more of a rhythmic focus, with some excellent percussion, before winding down.
The song is worth all the 12 minutes, and has a serene spirituality that feels truly magnificent.