The Epic (studio album) by Kamasi Washington
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Kamasi Washington bestography
The Epic is ranked as the best album by Kamasi Washington.
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This album is rated in the top 1% of all albums on BestEverAlbums.com. This album has a Bayesian average rating of 82.1/100, a mean average of 81.1/100, and a trimmed mean (excluding outliers) of 82.3/100. The standard deviation for this album is 14.5.
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When you think of jazz, what comes to mind? Is it the image of a smoky club amidst the throes of a liquor-soaked evening where men and women who have nothing left to lose congregate bombastically with sullied but exotic instruments that light their path to the night's end? Is it more akin to a visage of a smooth, sagacious individual whose jib is cut in the fashion of someone who's seen and done it all with only the sound of a perfectly crafted note proving enough to catch him off guard? Perhaps your perception of this often misunderstood and under-appreciated genre takes the shape of a dinner party, stiff upper lips or imperceptible elevator music more akin to ambient soundscapes than anything else? However, you may frame it, there's one definition that most who have lived and died, scratched and clawed, inhaled and exhaled jazz's rich, fertile terrain can come together on. Jazz, simply put, is religion. In addition to being a way of life, the genre is immaterial, fluid and ever-evolving. Kamasi Washington's approach to jazz is not exactly aligned with your grandfather's retelling of it. That's not to say one is superior to the other. It more plainly proves that this genre, more than any other, reflects the hearts, minds and temperaments of its craftsmen. In the case of Washington, his heart bleeds for a frenetic, emotionally swelling, ancestral tribute version of the eclectic genre, best synthesized on his 2015 aptly-named odyssey, 'The Epic'.
Kamasi Washington has spent his life honing his one-of-a-kind, God-given talent in preparation for a grand statement on the pageantry of jazz, the glory and tribulations of his ancestors and the beauty of music at large. He studied at UCLA, with the focus of his education centered around Ethnomusicology, which would play an integral role in crafting his first, proper label LP in 2015. Additionally, his experiences flanking artists such as Snoop Dogg, Nas, Run the Jewels and most notably, Kendrick Lamar, on his 2015 record 'To Pimp a Butterfly', have allowed the saxophonist to absorb a variety of styles and musical ideas while also contributing to an ocean of outstanding music without most listeners being particularly privy to his contributions. On the mammoth undertaking that is 'The Epic', Washington establishes an unmistakeable, idiosyncratic grandeur and deconstructs and subverts anyone's expectations on what a Jazz record should be. His saxophone glides over the entirety of the nearly three hour journey, shepherding its chapters through frantic bursts of brassy elation and breezy, idyllic, reflectionary traverses. Evidence of the album's supernatural power for vehemence can be found on its introduction. 'Change of the Guard' features a bevy of woodwind fury as Washington's tenor sax sets the stage for a cosmic, interstellar journey of incalculable potency. The record is also distinctive for its use of choral backing, a resource put to glorious effect during 'Askim', which pairs its angelic choir with breakneck but respectful drum passages from Ronald Bruner Jr. and Tony Austin. This is nothing less than hymnal music fit for a final performance at world's end or, perhaps more fittingly, during an ascension into the clouds.
One would be remiss without touting the contributions of bass maestro, Thundercat, whose patient diligence acts as the heartbeat for 'The Rhythm Changes', which comes equipped with a lavish lead vocal from Patrice Quinn. As the track swells her vocals begin to soothe as she states, "Daylight seems bright because of night;
It's shade we need so we can see." Kamasi's exploits return to center stage on the deliciously untamed, comparatively chaotic 'Miss Understanding', which quickly forms into a showcase for Washington's saxophone and Thundercat's bass to continuously dance circles around each other. It's another dizzying height for the 'The Epic' and leaves room for contemplation regarding its ability to exist in the first place. The next monolithic instillation comes in the shape of 'The Magnificent Seven', a stirring, towering work that's propelled like a jazz fireball and remains the most baronial entry on the LP. The track comes into focus on the horizon with Thundercat's swaggering bass tones only to proceed to sweep you into zero gravity on a rising tide of choir voices sent skyward by Washington's billowing sax. The keyboard-piano partnership between Cameron Graves and Brandon Coleman never ceases to lag behind the weighty punctuality of the rhythm section as they provide a healthy injection of sprightly luminescence amidst the quickly forming volcano of sonic aggression. 'The Magnificent 7' brandishes a western sheen (not just in name), as its driving momentum recalls horses galloping into town with riders hell bent on making their conclusive stand. These are the kind of harmonies that comprise the entirety of 'The Epic', notes that resonate far beyond the sheet music and into the collective consciousness of all who listen. Its pension for imagery is undefeated, its brush strokes unclouded and it carries an earthly, human spontaneity. Despite the record's modern sensibilities, Washington still finds time to tip his cap to the artisans of yesteryear. His cover of 'Claire de Lune', made famous by Claude Debussy, is just as romantic but seamlessly repackages the piece in a manner that's languid, yet expressive, like an autumn wind through leaves that are destined to change their shade. The labyrinthian LP ends with 'The Message', a final explosion of intention and a rallying cry which ensures that all that came prior is capped with suitable vigor. The track may represent Washington's finest saxophone exhibition as the pulses cascade over one another with considerably ferocity; a manic addendum on previous endeavors.
Whether honoring those who gave their life for equality on 'Malcolm's Theme' or turning in a jazz Rembrandt inspired by 1960's celluloid on 'The Magnificent 7', it's transpicuous to this listener that Kamasi Washington doesn't believe in presenting his illustrious art without carefully affixed ethos. This ethos stems from a decisive adoration for the beauty of jazz, the African American spirit and the inextinguishable fire that burns within each and every human being with hearts that beat with love. Though 'The Epic' is an undeniable championing of innumerable ideas, there are those who will look upon it with skewed gazes, no doubt viewing its cinematic presentation too far flung from the often purist genre sensitivities. No, this is not an attempt to make a commercial jazz record or appeal to a younger generation categorically. 'The Epic' is, however, an acknowledgment of the perseverance of mortal men and the actions, documents and legacy they leave behind. The instructions are to love all, even in the face of scrutiny and danger. Great men and women have chosen to express this universal truth through countless different vessels. Poems, stories, sacrifices and demonstrations dot the course throughout the history of human kindness. Kamasi Washington chooses to transmit this message from another galaxy entirely, equipped with his Saxophone at the ready, sonically willing and able to provoke change from within and vibrate the very air you breathe.
"Our love, our beauty, our genius
Our work, our triumph, our glory
Won't worry what happened before me
- The Rhythm Changes
1. The Magnificent 7
2. Change of the Guard
3. The Message
Exciting and colossal. New Jazz.
This is not the best jazz album of all time. Any Davis, Mingus, Coltrane, Fitzgerald, Ellington, or Armstrong have miles more influential albums and technically better albums. What those albums don't have are the amount of emotion that Washington puts into his composition. It's not the jazz playing, but the rest of the album that makes this my one of my favorite albums of all time. Of course, Kamasi demonstrates that he is one of the greatest saxophone players of all time in this as well.
The Epic is really epic it is so good I can hear in some tracks other good songs jazz classics though. This album is favorable and listenable. Recommend for jazz fans.
What a good trip. Kamasi is so special.
It can be said that "The Epic" by Kamasi Washington is not adapted to his time and the public. In 2015, a three-hour jazz record on Brainfeeder is a commercial suicide. Yet, with "The Epic", the bandmaster has released one of the best albums of the year 2015. An album that makes us understand all his influence on some artist of the indie scene. If you liked the latest Flying Lotus album and if you loved the jazzy influences of Kendrick Lamar's TPAB, you have to know that Kamasi Washington is the source of these albums. The emotions that come from"The Epic" are full of fascinating sincerity. Even if you did not know anything about jazz, "The Epic" is an essential project of the current music. It's a big record, in every sense of the word. It is a monster of technicality and emotion that awakens the consciences. I even want to say that it's a modern masterpiece, the best nu jazz record of all time.
Best track: "Henrietta, Our Hero"
stupidly underrated. absolute masterpiece
Many solid, some virtuoso musicians, often performing passionately. Influences of spiritualism via the Coltranes and Pharoah Sanders and afrofuturism worn on the sleeve; retrograde structures closer to bop though and the soloists' technical range seems dated to around bop too. A shame that something which sounds about fifty years old is considered by some as the savior of jazz today. On the same level as Kenny G, improvising alone over a backtrack; as conservative but less talented than Wynton Marsalis, though branded differently. Often seems a frustrating roadblock for new listeners rather than a gateway because of the contention surrounding it. Absolutely maddening.
Questo trentenne (!) all'esordio suona un jazz contaminato ( Davis, Funkadelic, Sun Ra… ) e nel 2015 già non è usuale; lo ibrida quel tanto che basta col pop giusto per allontanare i puristi dalla puzza sotto il naso, senza paura di essere scomunicato dai morti viventi del mondo del jazz; infine, nell'era del mordi e fuggi riempie con la sua ( ottima ) musica un disco di quasi tre ore…
Such a joy to listen to, though I haven't had the change to listen to it all the way through. I did it in like 5 segments. Damn its big. Swans albums are the only thing I've seen come near this length
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