Kamasi Washington, “Harmony of Difference” [EP]

Kamasi Washington
Harmony of Difference EP

Is there any way Kamasi Washington’s follow-up to 2015’s The Epic couldn’t be something of a disappointment? That album changed the face of jazz music with its inversion of traditional structures and ideas. It’s three hours long and doesn’t feel a moment over-extended. To build off of this performance, Washington has decided to release...a six-song EP?

At first glance, Harmony of Difference is skeletal compared to The Epic. Five of the six tracks hover around the three- or four-minute mark; only closer “Truth” rises above ten. But length and duration wasn’t what made The Epic a monumental hit. Rather, it was how Washington packed these mammoth songs with ideas new and invigorating. In that sense, the EP is a worthy stepping stone from his debut.

On Harmony of Difference, the jazz starts smooth. “Desire” opens with a buttery slick horn line. It moves slow and melodious, drifting toward nowhere in particular. It’s nice, if not particularly exciting. From there, however, the record grows to enormous heights, beginning with the ecstatic horn interplay of “Humility,” which is packed to the brim with subtle piano stabs that eventually mutate into a world-class solo. “Knowledge” is gorgeous in its downtempo contemplation, while “Integrity” embraces South American modal themes to great effect.

All of these ideas come together on the slow-building finale, “Truth,” which serves as a reflection of the five previous compositions. But Washington doesn’t merely allude to the other songs. “Truth” serves as a synthesis of the first five tracks, blending these original ideas into an entirely new concoction. He pushes together the old and the new to create something wholly original. In that way, “Truth”—and all of Harmony of Difference—isn’t a far cry from The Epic after all.


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