It has been a long and eventful road since tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington released The Epic, his aptly named triple album, in 2015. The rare jazz album to become a pop-culture touchstone, it introduced the world to his close-knit Los Angeles crew, the West Coast Get Down, as well as to his burly, beseeching sound.
Washington recorded The Epic even farther back — in 2011, during a monthlong studio residency that also yielded albums by other members of the West Coast Get Down, including Planetary Prince, by keyboardist Cameron Graves, and Uprising, by bassist Miles Mosley. (Those albums were released this spring.) So in one sense, a new body of music has been long overdue.
"Truth" is the sprawling final movement from The Harmony of Difference, a suite commissioned by the Whitney Museum of American Art for its current Biennial. The piece is a collaboration with filmmaker A.J. Rojas, who also directed the impressionistic video for the song, featuring images from South Central and East Los Angeles.
Musically, the piece inhabits a meditative sphere, with droning harmony and an openhearted wash of sound; as on The Epic, there are also orchestral strings, a celestial choir, and a melodic line arranged for tenor saxophone and trombone. The tempo shifts into a higher gear just after the five-minute mark, which is when Washington ventures a solo, starting in a light-footed staccato and gradually working up to a cry.
The Harmony of Difference will be released as an EP this summer on the Young Turks label, whose roster includes The xx and FKA Twigs.
Washington performed an album-release concert for The Epic at the Regent Theater in Downtown Los Angeles in 2015. Watch highlights from that evening in this video, produced by WBGO's The Checkout with Jazz Night in America and NPR Music.