Listen: Kamasi Washington's 'Street Fighter Mas'

Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington (Nate Ryan | MPR)
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Kamasi Washington - Street Fighter Mas
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Kamasi Washington's new album Heaven and Earth drops on June 22nd and we're honored to premiere track 11 from the album — Street Fighter Mas — here on The Current.

It's always a good sign when a jazz artist opens up a tune with a simple, funky hypnotic drum part. Although I'm a jazz fan, I'm still comforted by a funk drum part cause I know it will give me the anchor I need to appreciate the harmonic and melodic explorations the soloists will offer. It's definite, Kamasi-style icing on the cake that he brings in another drummer matching the first groove panned to the left before the melody drops in. And let's talk about this melody: this simple choral walk up captures what seems to be at the core of Kamasi's thesis: epic energy. So much jazz is weighed down by being referential, virtuosic, sentimental and everything but epic. I love how large and strident Kamasi's moves are. Even after listening to half the song I'm singing along as the melody jumps in between solos.

With only minor variations, the bass player is locked into a short burpy, pattern (there's the nod to the track's video game namesake) so it is truly appreciated to hear all the extra textures these two drummers are bouncing between. When my guy on the left channel opens up the hi-hat, the drummer on the right brings in the ride. These variations make each solo intriguing. Each player seems to be exploring the groove, grabbing a short climax and bowing out. But forget everything else I've called icing on the cake, the real icing on the cake is in the final repeat of the melody when the drummers have earned the opportunity to show their chops, and they both bounce tastefully around their kits. They have room to shine since the melody is so simple and well-established by this point and there's few things better to hear in this world than two tasteful drummers aiming to impress each other without pissing off the bandleader.

I give this funky tune from Kamasi the coveted four saxophone rating I just invented. How many saxophones do you give it? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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  • Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth
    Kamasi Washington's album 'Heaven and Earth' will be available June 22, 2018. (Courtesy Young Turks Recordings)

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