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ghost of miles

Kamasi Washington: THE EPIC

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A lot of buzz for this one... anybody heard it yet? I

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Yep. Posted these thoughts on the 'listening' thread after my first run through the 3 discs a couple of days ago

Not a lot of it is very original but they mine the 'spiritual' Jazz/Strata East seam with great aplomb. Vocals, choirs, strings and big production provide a convincing backdrop to some solid playing. Three hours was always going to be too long though.

Interesting that it seems to be being marketed as much to non-jazz fans with its Brainfeeder kudos and FL connections. It'll bring some new ears to Sanders, Coltrane etc etc I suspect. A good thing

and....not enough Dwight Trible. If you've got him, use him

and now I'll add.....

I think the 'buzz' is clever. It certainly seems to be being marketed at a wider audience than just the Jazz crowd. Good luck to them. I predict it will receive a backlash from the 'keepers of the Jazz flame' for the way it's presented as much as for the music. I hope I'm wrong.

The music is certainly not above criticism. It's not shy with its influences and in many cases those influences did it better. That said it's a fun listen (if a bit long)

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I ordered it a few days ago. Amazon was temporarily out, a good sign for these cats.

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As hard for me to find fault as it is enthusiasm. This is music for young people who really need this kind of music in the flesh in their own time, and somewhere when I wasn't looking, that kinda got to not so much be me, in any way. I mean, I had mine, and still do.

I do understand the need, though, and if it was me needing it, I would be digging the shit out of it.

There are so many more other things that are being done so much more wrongly...and so many of them called/calling upon "jazz"...let the kids get theirs now. Better now like this than not at all like those other things.

At some point, the omnivorous fires of inevitabilty will fall from the suffocating skies of perpetual eternality and destroy everything, true and untrue alike in equal total measure, after which, survival of the fittest takes back over as a creative force rather than a destructive one.

Until then, peace, love, and bright moments, y'all. Bright moments.

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I ordered it awhile back but just today finally received notice of shipment.

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honestly, I think it's a big nothing. The guy can play, but a lot of it is just overdubbed synth music, pseudo-cinematic synth strings, Jazz Crusaders leftovers and tired funk.

I find the hype on these kind of things a bit offensive.

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honestly, I think it's a big nothing. The guy can play, but a lot of it is just overdubbed synth music, pseudo-cinematic synth strings, Jazz Crusaders leftovers and tired funk.

I find the hype on these kind of things a bit offensive.

No synth strings that I can hear on my copy of the album. Full string section credited and I've no reason to believe it isn't playing. Maybe your copy is different?

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Ethan Iverson made an interesting post about the lack of attribution surrounding this release (not on the liners themselves, apparently--I haven't purchased a hard copy of the album)--apparently the personnel have been largely absent from the promotional discussion. There are reasons for this, of course--not least being a supposed desire to emphasize the "jazz auteur" iconology. If you look at the music within the framework of a heavily orchestrated Milestone album or even a Creed Taylor production, it makes slightly more sense.

Two things that pop out to me in terms of this topic:

(1) Although at times more subliminal than overt, there is some connective tissue between this music and the extended UGMAA community.

(2) If you want to hear something from this cast that is harder and more ostensibly creative (but also waaay more stoned), check out Flying Lotus's album You're Dead. That's the sort of meaty, inventive-but-earthy "jazz" that might qualify as innovation in and among the mainstream. The press will treat Flying Lotus, Washington, and Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly as sort of a continuum, but it's with FlyLo and Kendrick that I hear the spiritual afterimage of the classic Strata Easts, vocal choir Max Roach, etc.

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Tend to agree with Allen. Only gave it one listen so far though.

There are some good things on it, the trombone player namely, while otherwise much of it falls short in face of its own ambition, I think. The strings and choir arrangements aren't really taking place I found, the rhythm players are okay but not more ... and Washington, he sure can play, but I think he tries too many bags of tricks (and fails miserably in the funky one - more smooth jazz than Maceo ... and his attempts at Coltrane are pretty vain, too). Guess that might be some kind of imagination of the plight of the leader at play there.

Anyway, props for trying.


And yeah, enjoying the Lamar album very much (though haven't yet spun it often either, just got it).

And there are no liners ar all wihh the Washington album. But full line-ups are provided, track by track.

Also, since I'm editing already: most of the vocal tracks (those with actual "lead" vocals) are bad. And whoever thought the world needed a vocal version of "Cherokee" ... really?

Edited by king ubu

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I like "You're Dead." Looking forward to "Epic."

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Sort of random, but one of the things with the Kendrick Lamar with the jazzier bits that is quite cool was Robert Glasper was saying in a YT interview the vibe they wanted was an 80's young lions thing, and that was cool the producer got where that was coming from. I don't always dig what Lamar is saying lyrically on that (checked it on Rhapsody a while back) but his ability to play different characters is astonishing.

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Mentioning Flying Lotus or Kendrick Lamar here has always gone nowhere in the past. Mother can be traced back to Dave Schildkraut or Speedy West.

Truthfully, there has been a little bit of discussion on these guys, Thundercat, D'Angelo, Badu, Dilla, Madlib, Soulquarians etc etc, but it just doesn't fit into the idea of how jazz is here at org.org.

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I heard samples and decided not to purchase. In my opinion, a lot of hype, but not much substance compared to so many other things that are out there. It is not terrible by any means.

Ethan Iverson's post about the album is an accurate assessment in my opinion. I'd rather listen to Africa Brass.

It seems to be selling well though, so I hope Mr. Washington is enjoying his success.

I've listened to his first album, but I really don't see the what all the hype around Kendrick Lamar is about.

I like You're Dead and the other Flying Lotus albums. Those are worth checking out if you haven't.

Edited by sonnyhill

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And whoever thought the world needed a vocal version of "Cherokee" ... really?

Kuna High School, for one:

Which ok, that points to the necessitudes of the other, but...where have all the factory jobs gone, those weren't necessarily a bad thing as far as all possible outcomes go...fine line between survival dreams and happy-ending fantasies, perhaps?

Knife? What knife?

sarah-vaughan1-300x247.jpg

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Mentioning Flying Lotus or Kendrick Lamar here has always gone nowhere in the past. Mother can be traced back to Dave Schildkraut or Speedy West.

Truthfully, there has been a little bit of discussion on these guys, Thundercat, D'Angelo, Badu, Dilla, Madlib, Soulquarians etc etc, but it just doesn't fit into the idea of how jazz is here at org.org.

Didn't we have an iteration of this exchange the last time FlyLo came up? It's one of those discussions that can feel like playing Pong--the participation is there, but it's also dark and kind of lonely.

This is a huge topic. I've been reading Charles Shaar Murray's truly remarkable Crosstown Traffic recently, and one of the points it makes is that critical, popular, and creative reception to Jimi Hendrix was a confluence of a multitude of attitudes, biases, and ideologies. I mean, Hendrix was one of the first real post jazz artists in that he engaged with critical parts of the jazz mythology (centrifuging race and improvised music) even while he was in the process of creating an entirely new set of musical categories. Are You Experienced is nearly 50 years old--why then is there so little critical discourse regarding "the jazz" of Hendrix?

I think it's pretty plain that our shared categories are pretty limited. This says nothing about taste or the biases (imagined or real) of the listening audience, O board people included--by "our," I'm referring to the collective cultural consciousness (insofar as it exists). We don't talk about FlyLo (a relative of Alice and John Coltrane), Madlib (who is really just making "jazz albums" half of the time), D'Angelo, etc. etc. because, well, none of this stuff is "effectively" jazz--it may smell, feel, and for all intents and purposes be jazz, but none of this music has to deal with the parochial cultural geography of Jazz Music. Hip-hop is cut off from the lineage by virtue of the fact that it never succumbed to the question of its own validity.

You can take or leave Kendrick, but To Pimp a Butterfly *should* be a big deal for "us." I cannot think of the last mainstream hip-hop album that waved the freak flag for jazz this emphatically and overtly. Madlib's Shades of Blue is cheating, since it's more of a boutique effort, and there are mostly "just" shades in MF Doom, Common, and so on. I feel really lame saying that A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory is the clearest point of comparison.

In a time when jazz is starved for megastars, Kendrick making what is essentially a jazz/hip-hop hybrid is almost the equivalent of what would have happened had Hendrix lived to collaborate with Gil Evans. As sort of the heir apparent to Tupac Shakur, Kendrick taps into both the ethos of accessible, sensitive, alternative hip-hop and the WC gangsta rap lineage of the 80's and 90's--Kendrick's music is relevant precisely because it sits at the intersection of so many different methodologies. To Pimp a Butterfly is not just socially conscious--it's musically conscious, and that album's very existence and mainstream acceptance can be read as validation of the continuing importance of jazz as America's cultural totem. It's not a huge leap to see what this extraordinarily hyped music has in common with Hendrix's overtures to jazz (or, in a recursive way, Miles's creative resurgence after his godfathering of jazz-rock).

What's fascinating about this discussion to me is that the dialogues about To Pimp a Butterfly's "hands across the aisle" genre conceits seem to be limited to pop, hip-hop, and more mainstream media outlets. It's like everyone is talking about this stuff except for jazz enthusiasts. One conclusion I've come to is that, even for jazz (which has been caught up in reports of its own death over the course of the past few decades), the time for seeking "validity" and "relevance" is just over. Maybe we can just get back to making music?

As a musician and listener, I'm 100% in favor of just going back to making music--I only see a "problem" insofar as the "powers that be" take this as a tacit agreement that the jazz community is a country with closed borders. The moment that artistic independence becomes myopia--and when myopia becomes stagnancy, and when stagnancy becomes necrosis--that's when the cats start jumping ship on jazz as an entity.

So dig, Kamasi Washington's music may not be good or even worthwhile jazz, and it definitely won't have a stitch on Coltrane in the same way that Mike Stern isn't a stone's throw next to Hendrix, but it just goes to show that even the mediocre guys (keep in mind I'm not even trying to level a value judgment against Mr. Washington here--this is purely rhetorical) find it more fruitful to play, eat, and smell like jazz--but not be "jazz artists"--than to go down with a sinking ship. Jazz will never die, but the jazz industry is already unviable.

I don't doubt for a second that a lot of the people who dislike Kamasi are listening with their ears, that there's no real "but" there. Maybe Kamasi (and maybe Kendrick) just aren't very good music. At the same time, the next time someone invariably posts the "Jazz is the least popular genre in the U.S." thing, it's worthwhile to consider that it isn't a question of whether people are still making "good" or "bad" music--it's a matter of whether "being popular" and "being jazz" even exist in the same continuum anymore.

Sooner or later we'll be sadly out of Braxtons and Braxton proteges, and then who will we listen to? And what are we going to play?

Edited by ep1str0phy

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I like the idea that artists such as Flying Lotus (although I'm unsure that his family connections are really relevant) and Kendrick Lamarr are being discussed here. I've struggled to connect with their music but that doesn't, for me, automatically deny the potential of a lineage or connection with Jazz (I heard that in other earlier hip hop with Gang Star, Digables etc) and I remain open to discovering that connection with more exposure to their work.

It seems to me that some of the response to Washington is based on a fear of populism as much as anything else. Here's someone playing Jazz and getting a degree of attention and 'buzz' but I think I detect discomfort as much with that buzz as there is with his music. So much of the wailing and gnashing of teeth with regards to the unpopularity of Jazz and its future seems so often predicated on a very limited definition of what Jazz is and the despair is often coded with criticism of more popular 'sub genres' of the music (i.e. fusion, soul jazz, jazz influenced hip hop etc). To the 'keepers of the flame' it would seem that the very step away from the 'tradition' that can attract more ears is the one step beyond. The wagons are being circled in a decreasingly tight circumference whilst the rest of the world gets on making music and not worrying about the existential threat that the defenders are so concerned about.

JSngry in post #4 nailed it for me. He seemingly hears Washington's music for what it is and understands that it's not really aimed at those of us on this esteemed board and that it has potential to reach a different, and possibly wider audience. Something I think we should celebrate

There's something oddly applicable that I'm posting this listening to Synovial Joints by Steve Coleman. An artist who for me has always opened his ears beyond Jazz (and definitely to hip hop amongst other genres and traditions) and created a music that's highly original and is both Jazz and not-Jazz.

To paraphrase ep1str0phy sooner or later we'll be sadly out of Steve Colemans and Coleman proteges, and then who will we listen to? And what are we going to play?

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Perhaps we have! Apologies.

The jazz musicians that I know personally have and do talk about all of the above quite a bit. It is music made by jazz musicians, and sounds to me very much an extension of jazz as we remember it and expect it to sound. Hip Hop from the early nineties sounds like jazz because it was using classic jazz/hard bop samples from the sixties and seventies. How could it not? That was now twenty to twenty five years ago. Those aesthetics have synthesized back into the music. At least twice. It's coming out differently.

I haven't heard the album that started the thread, but recognized his name because of the FlyLo reference. I'm willing to check it out, but it sounds to me from everyone's description to be a throwback record.

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Ok. Checking it out this morning on spotify. Sounds good to me! Probably not something that I would spend a ton of time with (Nessa AEC box, Walt Dickerson/Richard Davis duets, Interstellar Space), but thanks for the heads up.

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Not sure I was looking for apologies :smirk: I'm not sure it's not the self-identified 'real' fans as much as the musicians that circle those wagons

I've not followed hip hop's development (fear I got too old....) and I can understand what you're saying about the re-synthesis of the Jazz influence. I just listened to 'Pimp...' on Spotify since posting my earlier post and enjoyed it and will listen again

Kamasi's throwback definitely but has its own energy I think and at least some merit on its own terms. (But it doesn't compare to Davis/Dickerson, little does...I find)

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It seems to me that some of the response to Washington is based on a fear of populism as much as anything else. Here's someone playing Jazz and getting a degree of attention and 'buzz' but I think I detect discomfort as much with that buzz as there is with his music. So much of the wailing and gnashing of teeth with regards to the unpopularity of Jazz and its future seems so often predicated on a very limited definition of what Jazz is and the despair is often coded with criticism of more popular 'sub genres' of the music (i.e. fusion, soul jazz, jazz influenced hip hop etc). To the 'keepers of the flame' it would seem that the very step away from the 'tradition' that can attract more ears is the one step beyond. The wagons are being circled in a decreasingly tight circumference whilst the rest of the world gets on making music and not worrying about the existential threat that the defenders are so concerned about.

Jazz isn't dying, but its (previous) fans are.

Anyway, you guys have perked up my interest - will give it a listen.

Edited by Guy

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It seems to me that some of the response to Washington is based on a fear of populism as much as anything else. Here's someone playing Jazz and getting a degree of attention and 'buzz' but I think I detect discomfort as much with that buzz as there is with his music. So much of the wailing and gnashing of teeth with regards to the unpopularity of Jazz and its future seems so often predicated on a very limited definition of what Jazz is and the despair is often coded with criticism of more popular 'sub genres' of the music (i.e. fusion, soul jazz, jazz influenced hip hop etc). To the 'keepers of the flame' it would seem that the very step away from the 'tradition' that can attract more ears is the one step beyond. The wagons are being circled in a decreasingly tight circumference whilst the rest of the world gets on making music and not worrying about the existential threat that the defenders are so concerned about.

I disagree. When I listened to The Epic, I heard a "watered down" version of things that I had already been done. That in and of itself is not a bad thing. If serves as a "gateway" album to young people exploring jazz more, it definitely is not a bad thing. It is not a bad album, I just think that the praise that it has been receiving is overdone. If a teenager came to me who had never really listed to jazz before asked me to recommend "recent" recordings I would point that person to something like Roy Hargrove's Earfood or Aaron Park's Invisible Cinema.

I do not think the views expressed about the album are a product of suspicion of the popular; it's about the content of the album. If a Gerald Cleaver or Mary Halvorson record were afforded the same "buzz," I don't think you would see the same negative reaction. In a way it is kind of off putting that just because Washington is affiliated with a rapper, he gets to be treated like some sort of monarch of jazz.

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In a way it is kind of off putting that just because Washington is affiliated with a rapper, he gets to be treated like some sort of monarch of jazz.

and I wonder whether that there is not the key for other folk's negativity.

I'm not saying it's the key to your opinion as you've clearly heard the album and made a judgement - your 'watered down' is not dissimilar to my own 'not shy with its influences' I suspect

As for that teenager? I'd be tempted to give them a Mary Halvorson album

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In a way it is kind of off putting that just because Washington is affiliated with a rapper, he gets to be treated like some sort of monarch of jazz.

and I wonder whether that there is not the key for other folk's negativity.

I'm not saying it's the key to your opinion as you've clearly heard the album and made a judgement - your 'watered down' is not dissimilar to my own 'not shy with its influences' I suspect

As for that teenager? I'd be tempted to give them a Mary Halvorson album

Halvorson would definitely be a great choice.

I live in the NYC area and go to the Vanguard 3 to 4 times a year. Halvorson is NY based and deserves a week as a leader there.

(I have sampled, but have not really listened to those Walt Dickerson/Richard Davis Steeplechase sessions; I need to rectify that)

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Don't like the bells & whistles on the 70s stuff in the first place so this sounds like a no go for me.

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