Heaven And Earth
(Young Turks/XL) ★★★☆✩
THROUGH his links with Kendrick Lamar and other hip hop and R&B artists, tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington has moved from niche LA jazz musician into proper star: gracing magazine covers, headlining festivals, and filling 2,000-capacity venues.
On this themed double album, with each track averaging nine minutes, he mixes portentous civil rights anthems with funky fusion and intense spiritual jazz.
While his attempts at orthodox soul songs (like Fists Of Fury and Testify) often sound like third-rate Stevie Wonder rip-offs, he’s at his best making a tremendous noise with his band, while his weird, wordless choir drift over propulsive Afro-Cuban beats.
His version of Freddie Hubbard’s Hub-Tones sounds like feverish techno played on acoustic instruments; Connections recalls Herbie Hancock’s early-1970s fusion work; and the gospel-infused Journey and Latin soul of Vi Lua Vi Sol, from the ‘Heaven’ side of this album, sound genuinely heavenly.