In an age where many pop and hip hop artists that are topping the charts lack real musical talent, appear to be mechanized, and need a whole team of writers, it is easy to understand the discouragement that many aspiring artists of less popular genres feel. With his aptly named, three hour long album The Epic, saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington has brought jazz back into the conversation. Highly regarded in the recording industry for collaborating with an impressive array of artists ranging from Herbie Hancock to Snoop Dogg to Chaka Khan to Kendrick Lamar, The Epic is Washington's first, and virtually guaranteed not to be last, solo album. At a whopping 8 minutes and 46 seconds, "Miss Understanding," one of the shorter tracks from the album, is a hurricane of pure, unadulterated jazz chops.
A several minute flurry of ear-piercingly high trumpet solos, carpal tunnel-inducing ride cymbal swing beats, and Flight of the Bumblebee-esque saxophone marathons gives way to the eye of the storm, a low-key but still up-tempo section featuring a variety of exceedingly intricate stringed-instrument solos backed by a quick backbeat and pulsing piano keys. "Miss Understanding" finishes off with a blast of high energy horn punches that abruptly fade into silence, leaving nothing but the echoes of musical genius resonating in the listener's head. Kamasi Washington could have easily fallen back on his hip hop roots to increase the mass appeal potential of The Epic, but instead of drawing people in by using techniques they are familiar with, he chose to expose listeners to the raw power that jazz can have, and to dispel popular opinion that jazz is simply background music. A lone ship in a vast sea of corporate pop, Kamasi Washington brings passion, composition skills, and unbridled talent back to an ailing music industry.