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Kamasi Washington Makes Triumphant Return with New Singles- Review

Kamasi Washington, known for his contributions to Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” and his debut “The Epic”, has announced his upcoming sophomore album “Heaven and Earth” with new singles “Fists of Fury” and “The Space Travellers Lullaby.”

According to a post on his Facebook, “Heaven and Earth” is inspired by the world of the mind and the world we interact with. “The Earth side represents the world as I see it outwardly, the world that I am a part of,” says Washington. “The Heaven side represents the world as I see it inwardly, the world that is a part of me.”

On “Heaven and Earth”, Washington reunites with his band The Next Step and The West Coast Get Down Collective. The collective includes members Thundercat, Terrace Martin, Ronald Brunner Jr., Patrice Quinn and Cameron Graves among others. “Heaven and Earth” will be available starting June 22 through Young Turks.

Kamasi Washington isn’t subtle. He composes far-reaching and cinematic jazz music that exists somewhere between the spiritual and material world. Occasionally, the tune’ll be smoky and mysterious, and other times it’ll be a full force barrage of sound. While Washington’s last album “The Epic” tended to be dense and hard to digest, “Fists of Fury” and “The Space Travellers Lullaby” condenses and fine tunes his previous sound for work that’s more accessible but still definitively poignant.

“Fists of Fury” is monumental and expansive--with each punch of the orchestra, the song lifts you higher into Washington’s orbit. Laden in African-influenced groove and dynamic melodies, the song is a strong statement of identity and protest. “I use hands to do just what I can,” croons Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible in unison, “and when I face unjust injury/Then I change my hand/To fist of fury.”

Though a startlingly militant approach compared to his previous work--his last release was titled “Harmony of Difference”--the message still contains resonance. Followed by a piano flourish full of wandering notes and melodies courtesy of Cameron Davis, “Fists of Fury” is a tour de force of a 21st century jazz monolith, and everyone better hang on for the ride.

Washington’s other release, “The Space Travellers Lullaby,” takes the focus inward. On the single, Washington returns to the cosmic jazz we know him for and creates a heavenly picture of wistful adventure. His smooth saxophone serves as the listener’s guide, leading them through a sonic stew of soft ornamentations and massive choral parts. Ascending into intergalactic mania in some parts and familiar melodies in others, Washington grabs you by the brain and takes you through a journey into his own. It’s bold, daring, personal, and full of incredible moments that leave you in a blissful stupor.

Based on Washington’s debut releases from his upcoming record “Heaven and Earth”, it’s clear that Washington has grown not just as an artist, but as a person. He’s kept an open ear and an open mind to new melodies and perspectives in the three years since his last full-length, and drives it to the center of it all with absolute precision. Washington’s been cooking up something good, now the hardest part will be waiting for the record in June.

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