This week’s CJ featured a remarkable new release – the appropriately titled The Epic from saxophonist Kamasi Washington. This is a triple CD set with almost three hours of music featuring a 20 strong choir, a 32 piece orchestra and Washington’s own 10 piece group. We started the show the opening track on CD1 (Change of the Guard) and ended the show with the closing track on CD3 (The Message).
Washington has most recently played with Kendrick Lamar on his excellent hip hop release To Pimp a Butterfly and Flying Lotus on his You’re Dead! album from last year – but you wouldn’t know it from The Epic. There’s no hip-hop or out-there electronics here. This triple album set references soul jazz, John Coltrane (various periods), and 1970s fusion leaders like Miles Davis and Weather Report. The Epic’s Disc 1 opener Change of the Guard begins with piano chords that sound almost entirely lifted from the playbook of McCoy Tyner and the opening theme is pure post-Impressions Coltrane. The string section element reminds us of Alice Coltrane and Washington’s tenor sax solo at the end of the track has more than a little Pharoah Sanders in its screeches and wails. As you might guess, this new release comes highly recommended.
After his widely-praised Trio Libero project with Michel Benita and Seb Rochford, Andy Sheppard has now added Eivind Aarset to his group. He made significant contributions to Sheppard’s 2008 Movements in Colour release – an album I come back to frequently. With Aarset’s ambient drones and electronic textures as a backdrop, Sheppard seems to have even more space to explore. We played the opening track Tipping Point.
I enjoyed the Jon Favreau feel good film The Chef recently and loved the soundtrack. It features a hand picked selection of latin, rare groove, tex-mex and New Orleans brass bands – all chosen expertly by music consultant Mathieu Schreyer. We featured one of my favourites from Brit Will Holland (aka Quantic) before a long excursion into one of the many classic jazz releases from that iconic jazz year of 1959. This is an essential release in any comprehensive jazz collection – drummer Shelly Manne’s group live at the Blackhawk Club in San Francisco . This 5CD set features trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonist Richie Kamuca, pianist Victor Feldman and bassist Monty Budwig and we focused on a lengthy version of Poinciana.
We followed this with two contemporary vocalists – Lalah Hathaway (guesting on Robert Glasper’s album) and Gregory Porter (also guesting here with the soul-jazz group Ebonics). Finally – and before returning to Kamasi Washington – we featured the new releases from two giants of the contemporary jazz piano scene. The first was
Keith Jarrett, here playing a solo track from his new release Creation. I’m disappointed by this release, despite all the praise it has gathered in the popular press. The tracks have nowhere near the lyrical improvisation of the classic Bremen/Lausanne or the dark depths of the Carnegie Hall concert. Thankfully, we moved quickly on to another outstanding new piano trio collection from New York pianist Vijay Iyer. CJ featured Iyer’s tribute to Detroit house pioneer Robert Hood.
We ended with another blast from Kamasi Washington – the closing track from his mammoth debut The Epic. You can see more of Washington’s longtime group in performance in this extract from an NPR Jazz Night in America concert.
- Kamasi Washington – Change of the Guard from The Epic
- Andy Sheppard – Tipping Point from Surrounded by Sea
- Quantic and Nicodemus – Mi Swing es Tropical from The Best of Quantic
- Shelly Manne and his Men – Poinciana from The Complete Live at the Blackhawk
- Robert Glasper – Jesus Children from Black Radio 2
- Gregory Porter – Issues of Life from Issues of LIfe
- Keith Jarrett – Part 1, Toronto from Creation
- Vijay Iyer Trio – Hood from Break Stuff
- Kamasi Washington – The Message from The Epic