New music: Jazz round-up – June
New releases from Kamasi Washington, Keith Jarret, Stan Tracey
Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder, out now) ●●●●
Keith Jarrett – Creation (ECM, out now) ●●
Stan Tracey – Alone & Together with Mike Osborne (Cadillac) ●●●●
Kamasi Washington’s triple album The Epic arrives on the back of collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus, but there is no hip hop here. Washington’s own style is rooted in 60s jazz, with a touch of cosmic funk courtesy of electric bassist Thundercat. ‘Changing of the Guard’ acts as an overture, a flourish of McCoy Tyner-esque piano announcing the soulful theme. The players tear through solo verses, easing back for funky organ interludes and an electronic coda. Billowing strings and celestial choirs buffet the musicians, their kitsch colours offset by Washington’s passionate squall of a solo. Like the gargantuan album it leads, not everything works, but there’s no doubting Washington’s talent or ambition.
Keith Jarrett’s melodic improvisation, with one foot in jazz and the other in the European classical tradition, can be affecting, but the piano solos of Creation, recorded on a 2014 concert tour, are rhythmically inert and light on harmonic invention. Promising moments, such as the chromatic voicings of ‘VIII’ and the Moorish flourishes of ‘IV’, soon descend into banal Romantic gestures. Without his crack rhythm section of Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette to rouse him, Jarrett maintains the same moderate pace throughout, building to pompous crescendos of lush nothingness.
The late British pianist Stan Tracey’s 1974 album Alone, reissued alongside a previously unreleased duo with alto saxophonist Mike Osborne, is far more compelling. Tracey’s Under Milk Wood, released in 1965, was an instant classic, but by the 1970s he was considering packing it all in. Meeting Osborne revitalized him. The 42 minutes of Alone crackle with invention, as bright melodies, stumbling Monk-ish tone clusters and avant-garde abstractions fly from Tracey’s graceful fingers. The duo set sees chemistry turn to magic, with Osborne weaving freewheeling lines and pinpoint phrases around Tracey’s oblique modal forms.