The Year In Review: Okayplayer's Top 15 Albums Of 2015
Album: The Epic
Artist: Kamasi Washington
You are either setting yourself up for immense success or embarrassing failure when you title your debut album. For Kamasi Washington, a venerable session player who has worked with Kendrick Lamar, Terrace Martin, Billy Higgins and Flying Lotus, it appears that his titling gamble was the former and not the latter. Described as a “21st century jazz album that is as accessible as it is virtuosic,” The Epic feels weighty, groovy and imbued with the essence of legends such as Stanley Clarke and Kenny Burrell.
The nearly three-hour album, which is anchored by a 10-piece jazz band, a 32-piece orchestra and a 20-member choir, can be called no less than epic. Washington, a grandmaster of an arranger, saxophonist and band leader, attended UCLA’s Department of Ethnomusicology and has known most of his bandmates since high school in South Central Los Angeles. It is the confluence of those experiences — participating in the Los Angeles jazz scene, making music with peers like Snoop Dogg — that adds scope and grandeur to Kamasi Washington’s three-disc effort.
Holistic, powerful, rebellious and swimming with black pride, The Epic is made tall and wide by the energy of the multiple players and voices, most notably singer Patrice Quinn. Her immersive voice captures the listener of songs like “Henrietta, Our Hero” and “Malcolm’s Theme,” and flows like an extravagant love letter to soulful jazz. Kamasi Washington’s added sense of melodrama on tracks like “Isabelle,” “Re Run Home” and “The Message” proves that he is worthy of the title and excels in making the listener feel just as epic.
— Kevin L. Clark