‘Harmony of Difference’ EP review
By Josua Toevs, Contributor
Kamasi Washington’s EP Harmony of Difference is a perfect appetizer for what the man who made jazz cool again is all about. The record comes in at 6 tracks and just over 30 minutes, which is a far cry from his 3-disc, 3-hour magnum opus, The Epic, which he released in 2015. Washington is still every bit as fascinating and musically challenging in this EP, but he exhibits this in bite-sized portions.
Each song is composed by Washington and features a backing band to his unmatched saxophone work. His perfection of that instrument is the standout for the entire record but it doesn’t overpower the plucky baselines, the glistening piano keys, or the beautifully restrained drum work. These tracks are presented with an abundance of love and happiness, each song more alive and extravagant than the last. The opening song, “Desire,” sounds like the soundtrack to a beautiful stroll in the park with a low-key composition that really helps set the overall tone of the EP. The following track, “Humility,” ramps it up tenfold. This composition takes you to a ‘60s nightclub with Washington playing the saxophone at a breakneck speed that helps accentuate the abrasive piano composition. It is three minutes of danceable swing jazz.
The tone of “Knowledge” feels like it captures a sad understanding of the world. Each instrument is performed at a lower octave, producing a more somber and introspective sound than the previous two tracks. “Perspective” contributes a lot of the same things as its predecessor to the record, but that track is followed by “Integrity,” which feels like the precursor to the last scene of a film. There is a lot of realization and understanding in the composition and arrangement. It is presented at a higher tempo and features a more rambunctious piano melody throughout.
The crescendo and the standout track is easily “Truth.” This 13-minute song plucks bits and pieces from each of the previous tracks, amalgamating them into one perfect piece of music. Washington tacks on a funkier underlying base and a more aggressive saxophone solo, as well as a choir which situates itself as a piece of the puzzle rather than overpowering the record. It is this kind of sophistication and attention to detail that has led to the high praise of Washington’s ability to craft jazz music that is timeless.
My only gripe with this record, and I feel bad saying this, is that the project isn’t long enough. The short runtimes of each track leave Washington with little room to breathe as he is at his best when he is performing on Monet-size canvases. The longer a song is the more sounds, ideas, and personality Washington is able to showcase throughout. That being said, this record is beautiful, high-class, and worth multiple listens if you are a jazz fan or someone looking to discover more about the genre. Harmony of Difference is a great presentation of what a great jazz record can sound like.