Year of Release: 2015
Thirty-four-year-old saxophonist and composer Kamasi Washington truly owns and approximates the title of his monolithic burst of jazz music with The Epic; a record featuring a 10-piece jazz band, 32-piece orchestra and 20-member choir. There's a conceptual framework involving a martial arts master, but thematic through-lines aren't really necessary since the actual music; ranging from swing, funk, bebop, soul, orchestrated free-jazz and everything in between, is beyond ambitious. Washington has worked with everyone from jazz stalwarts Gerald Wilson and Stanley Clarke to West Coast hip-hop pioneers Flying Lotus and Kendrick Lamar, and his breath of experience clearly shows. Meanwhile, his sax playing is absolutely thrilling; a hybrid of John Coltrane and Pharaoh Sanders virtuoso soloing, with a more unhinged, less polished, bout of squealing digressions. The Epic may be overwhelming, immersive, and even exhausting, but there's no question that it's a tour de force in this age of lazy hyperbole. Will anyone actually sit down and listen to an entire 172 minute album? Washington might just have more faith in the human race than most, and he fully deserves nearly three-hours of your time.