Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

Kamasi Washington – Fists of Fury

We venture once more into the land of jazz…


Cédric Le Merrer: There is a lot to love here. Unfortunately, after feeling like I stumbled right in the middle of the song, I got several minutes of a double timed piano solo, which may have made for a worthy climax if there was any structure to all this. These musicians have no sense of building dramatics — everyone’s at 11 almost right from the start, and then it’s one thing thrown on top of the other at random.

Edward Okulicz: There’s so much of this to love. Well, there’s so much of this. Your favourite four minutes of it might be a [7] or better and your second favourite four minutes of it might be at least a [5]. Maybe there’s too much of this, so much so that a philistine such as I can only go “It’s good, but I don’t like it.” But for a song this long, it goes for broke, and it’s limber and thrilling in parts. I think I actually like it, while wanting to like it more than I do.

Jonathan Bogart: Statistically, I have to like jazz: I’m a white guy in my forties. But my actual tastes in jazz (I love it best from the years when it was pop) would, purely demographically, put me in my eighties or even my hundred-and-twenties. Which isn’t to say that I don’t get and wholeheartedly approve of what Kamasi Washington is doing — the 2010s need all hands on deck in the revolutionary struggle against *gestures despairingly*. And jazz in the Sun Ra tradition can be as powerful a tool as hip-hop, R&B, or uh, thrash metal (I am old) in forecasting and incarnating a better world. I’m just not sure that this nine-minute suite, gorgeous and righteous as it is, is a single I’ll ever return to on its own, rather than as part of its parent album.

Iain Mew: I like this best if I imagine the soft focus intro sequence and lengthy tinkling to be a gambit to lure listeners to half-sleep before hitting them with the polemic. I definitely enjoy it more as tactical than on its own merits. 

Will Adams: The opening bombast has a lush, cinematic quality to it, such that it lulls you into a false sense of security. It’s only after Washington’s frantic solo that those fists come into view. In the final minutes, the stanza is repeated, now given context: this is power that’s not to be taken lightly.

Nortey Dowuona: The strings wrap like gossamer over the warm bass and rising drums, followed by soaring croons from Patrice & Dwight preparing the listener for the match. A sprinting piano flies up as the drums and percussion duel and spar, the bass watches the spectacle with a wry smirk, then steps in as the hulking sax makes its way to the mat. Then every element joins in, whirling, spinning and twirling around, landing blow after blow but not backing down. Then Patrice & Dwight spread the fight out as more strings and a distant choir scatter petals and daggers around the mat. The duel continues, slowly closing around Patrice & Dwight, until they knock back the dueling elements, twirling around each other and binding them tightly, until you see the true intent of the duel – to prepare. To recharge. To train for the war that is to come.

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