The 50 best albums of 2018, No 7: Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth


For the saxophonist and bandleader Kamasi Washington, jazz music isn’t a technical exercise, it is a necessity. “My music is an extension of who I am, so I’m constantly searching within myself for my identity and beliefs,” he told Dazed this year. “Once you get past all the scales, the chords and technique, all you really have is your thoughts, and that will determine what your music really is.”

These beliefs are empowerment and inclusivity, which translate into a maximal sound filled with choral harmonies, sweeping orchestration and the raging intensity of Washington’s tenor saxophone on his second studio album, Heaven and Earth. He lays them out on the first track, Fists of Fury: “Our time as victims is over,” vocalist Patrice Quinn declares. “We will no longer ask for justice / Instead, we will take our retribution.” It is a call to arms as much as an opening salvo.

Kamasi honed his rallying cry as a session musician for the likes of Snoop Dogg, George Duke and Herbie Hancock. But it wasn’t until he appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, in 2015, that listeners witnessed Washington as he is now: charging through melodic lines like someone grappling with a mighty external force, his breath pushing into reed-breaking ferocity, the sweaty slap from his fingers on the keys almost audible.

Read the rest of the review in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 13/12/18]