The Return of Blackalicious – Imani Vol. 1

Old school hip hop duo Chief Excel and Gift of Gab are back in fine form with their first new Blackalicious album since 2005.

Imani Vol. 1 is the first of three new Blackalicious album instalments they say are coming.

Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1 (2015)

Blackalicious – Imani: Vol 1 (2015)

Anything I have to say about the nitty gritty of its 20 tracks matters not really. Sufficed to say Imani Vol. 1 is a refreshing throwback to glory days of hip hop gone.

Instrumentally producer Chief Xcel and a handful of live players on drums, bass, guitar, keys, horns and strings have created a diversity of sounds crossing funk, blues, jazz, soul, R&B, rock and dub.

Lyrically, Gift of Gab (with his killer, high speed flow) and another handful of guest vocalists and MCs bring positive messages of hope, faith, perseverance and love – in spite of and despite the struggles life deals us.

All in all the Blackalicious crew has created sounds of music that will command your attention again and again; and, all things being equal, give you the experience of feeling better, feeling good, feeling inspired, feeling hopeful and, feeling that your body must move.

What more do you need from your hip hop?

Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1 (2015)

Check out two sample tracks from Imani Vol. 1 here – remembering as always, they are compressed mp3 versions only. For the full sound goodness, buy the album on vinyl or cd here.

Blackalicious - Imani Vol. 1 (2015)

Blackalicious – “Blacka”

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Blackalicious (feat. Lateef, Lyrics Born, Monophonics & DJ D Sharp)- “Alpha And Omega”


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‘F’ Must Be For Funk

‘F’ in the A to Z of Fusion must go to Funk.

Why? Because put simply and personally, funk on the downbeat (like reggae’s offbeat) moves my body into action and takes me to a higher, happier place than any other breed of music in this world. More generally, because funk music in its original and many evolving forms of fusion since, makes up a huge chunk of the timelessly-sublime music available in the world to listen to, love and most definitely cherish, forever-after.

George Clinton live concert - Electric Ballroom, London 2015

George Clinton live at Electric Ballroom, London 2015

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The Birth of Funk

A fusion of R&B, soul and jazz, funk music was brewing in the 50’s before being characterised as a genre in the mid-60’s with James Brown and his signature “on the one” groove.

James Brown - The Godfather of Funk

James Brown - I Got You (I Feel Good)

 

James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (1965)

 

 

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Funk Fusion

Since the 60’s funk music has evolved into countless other musical forms through its fusion with pop, jazz, rock, metal, electro, highlife, gangsta rap and more – including Fela Kuti’s development of Afrobeat in the 70’s – and hip hop since the 80’s via its heavy sampling of funk tunes.

The Funk Collection

These names here are just some of the world’s many artists who’ve contributed to the evolution of funk music: anywhere from dabbling in it, to living and breathing the funk. If their music is not already known and loved by you, it can be from now and forever hereafter…

Horace Silver. Cannonball Adderley. Little Richard. James Brown. Sly Stone. George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. The Meters. Earth, Wind & Fire. Fred Wesley. Cameo. Brides of Funkenstein. War. Maceo Parker. Larry Graham. Parlet. Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Dyke and the Blazers. Marva Whitney. Bernadette Cooper. Klymaxx. Ohio Players. Chaka Khan. The Commodores. Steve Arrington. Lyn Collins. Cymande. Zapp. Madame X. The Isley Brothers. Stevie Wonder. Mother’s Finest. Vicki Anderson. Slave. Labelle. Platypus. Sheila E. Lakeside. Betty Davis. The Bar-Kays. Buddy Miles. Con Funk Shon. The Horny Horns. Lynn Mabry.  Kool & The Gang. Mallia Franklin. Sun. Starleana Young. Heatwave. Miles Davis. Roy Ayers. Millie Jackson. Herbie Hancock. Patrice Rushen. Fela Kuti. Femi Kuti. Seun Kuti. Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Living Colour. Brooklyn Funk Essentials. Afrika BambaataaFishbone. Dam Funk. Prince. Rick James. The Dazz Band. Jesse Johnson. Brand New Heavies. JamiroquaiMe’shell Ndegeocello. D’Angelo. Erykah Badu. The Soul RebelsSharon Jones. The Bamboos. The Cactus Channel. The Putbacks.

Sly & The Family Stone - Fresh (1973)x

Sly & The Family Stone – “Thankful N’ Thoughtful” – Fresh (1973)

 

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The collective of visionary funk artists and the music they’ve created throughout its history remind us always that universal possibilities, musical and otherwise, are limitless.

Longevity in Funk

From that collective there’s one whose name we can link to almost every funk variety in its history. One who has contributed to keeping the funk, glorious funk alive in countless reinvented forms according to changing times and musical landscapes since its beginnings until today. That artist is George Clinton – working alongside the many revolving artists within the Parliament Funkadelic / P-Funk collective.

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Late last year George Clinton released the 3-disc masterpiece First Ya Gotta Shake The Gateand has been delivering the funk live on worldwide stages since alongside a multi-generational group of artists. His grandkiddies and Garrett Shider (son of dearly departed Parliament Funkadelic guitarist Garry Shider) are amongst them. So too is the legendary Blackbyrd McKnight.

Funkadelic - First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (2014)

 

George Clinton & Funkadelic -“Yesterdejavu” –  First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate (2014)

 

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Blackbyrd McKnight + George Clinton - Parliament Funkadelic concert 2015

George Clinton (l) + Blackbyrd McKnight (c) + Garrett Shider (r)

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The Survival of Funk

Hopefully George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic were right when they sang “the funk will survive just like it always has”.  Certainly it will in some form at least. But an artist promising “the whole funk, nothin’ but the funk” is a rare find in the world these days. For my ears that’s a shame, for sure.

So it gives me hope when I hear that artists like Brooklyn Funk Essentials are helping the funk survive with the recent release of their album Funk Aint’ Ova – the first in seven years.

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It’s reason to feel excited about hearing the new sounds created by funk legends Cymande on their first album in decades – A Simple Act of Faith – just released and available to buy here, with the vinyl coming in January.

Cymande - A Simple Act Of Faith (2015)

A Simple Act of Faith

And reason to count our blessings for contemporary artists like D’Angelo And The Vanguard and Australia’s Hiatus Kaiyote for incorporating the funk sounds of old into new musical blends of a totally fresh and innovative kind.

D'Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo live at Melbourne Soulfest 2014

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D'Angelo - Black Messiah (2014)

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D’Angelo And The Vanguard- “Sugah Daddy”- Black Messiah

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No matter what the future holds for the creation of new funk music, we’ll always have reason to count our blessings for all the timelessly-sublime music created through funk history so far. It’s in our world to listen to, love and cherish forever-after. And for that, the world and us mere humans who live within it, are a whole lot richer. Amen.

More of the Funky Kind

Indulge in more sounds of funk here. Click on a photo to check out video footage of live performances and/or sample tracks by that artist.

Erykah Badu live at Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Erykah Badu

Prince

Prince

Larry Graham live concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014

Larry Graham

Femi Kuti & The Positive Force live @ WOMADelaide 2014

Femi Kuti

Fred Wesley

Fred Wesley

D'Angelo & The Vanguard live concert at London Roundhouse

D’Angelo

Hiatus Kaiyote live at WOMADelaide 2014

Hiatus Kaiyote

Herbie Hancock concert - Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2015

Herbie Hancock

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George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic concert - Byron Bay Bluesfest 2015

Parliament Funkadelic

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Got other beloved Funkateers in your music collection whose names are missing from the list above? Do tell.

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The Putbacks – “Kung Fu Pyramids” Sweet Vinyl-Style

HopeStreet Recordings unfailingly gives its music releases a description that stimulates the imagination; that invites you to press play and enter into a kooky adventure. I’d usually call copying and pasting the exact contents of a press release to be a lazy Beaver’s game. But what the label says about “Kung Fu Pyramids” and it’s B-side “Snake Eyes” by Melbourne’s funk outfit The Putbacks just shouldn’t be messed with. Not by this Beaver anyway.

For the fighters, Kung Fu Pyramids is a slice of dark, guitar-driven, psychedelic, martial arts funk. For the gamblers, the brooding downtempo minimalism of Snake Eyes is an ode to the joys of Mia, dice game of champions.

Pressing play to enter this instrumental funk adventure with The Putbacks will bring wonderful rewards you won’t find elsewhere.

Putting the needle down on your super-limited edition 7-inch vinyl copy you can buy through HopeStreet from 9.00 a.m. tomorrow (as part of Independent Label Week), will bring even greater rewards.

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Fat Freddys Drop – Beyond Easy Skanking

Every album so far delivered by Fat Freddys Drop has brilliantly captured and showcased the unique blends of soul, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae and dub that New Zealand music is known and loved for. Those albums have also captured the spirit and sounds of the epic live Fat Freddys Drop journeys – from which the group built their grass-roots following and ultimate success, way back since their beginnings in the late 90s.

Fat Freddys Drop live in Brisbane - Blackbird Tour 2013

Fat Freddys Drop live at the Tivoli, Australia

In many ways the new album Bays repeats that Fat Freddys history, in others not.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays (2015)

Bays (2015)

More so than ever before, Bays captures Fat Freddys Drop creating music in the studio rather than in the live arena. Like always, studio-style includes recording equipment and techniques at their most superior (analogue of course), pressed to sweet vinyl. The gentle, soulful voice of Dallas Tamaira is the only one you’ll find on this FFD album, consistently soothing you throughout. The subtle, perfectly-placed horn lines of Toby Laing, Joe Lindsay and Scott Towers are still present. So too are the living guitar and keyboard sounds of Tehimana Kerr and Iain Gordon.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays

And yes Bays definitely delivers familiar doses of soul, funk, R&B and feel-good, easy skanking within its ten tracks. But this time around you’ll get a heavier-than-ever-before dose of techno rhythms in the mix. For some people those sounds will be welcome, for others they might bring discomfort. Either way, Fat Freddys Drop remain as true as always to the expression of their own evolution, independent of and unconstrained by the expectations of a label or others.

Love Bays or not. Take it or leave it. Whatever you do, at least try it.

I tried and took – ie. went to my local record store and bought it for my Forever-After Collection. And super-surprisingly, it was the epic techno-heavy journey of track 8 on Bays (“Cortina Motors”) that finally convinced me to do so. Producer and MPC genius Chris “Mu” Faiumu (who donated the base track) and the rest of Fat Freddys Drop have here achieved the unthinkable for me: made the experience of listening to techno rhythms an enjoyable and body-moving one.

Fat Freddys Drop concert - WOMADelaide 2014

Mu with Fat Freddys Drop live at WOMADelaide 2014

The killer groove of the album’s ninth and final track “Novak”, cemented my decision without doubt that I’d be a lot poorer if I didn’t have Bays in my music collection.

Check out these (mp3 only) samples of those two all-convincing tracks.

Fat Freddys Drop - Bays

Fat Freddys Drop – “Cortina Motors” – Bays
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Fat Freddys Drop – “Novak” – Bays
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Buy the whole of Bays direct from Fat Freddys Drop  here.

And be sure to find the live experience where you can. That’s generally where the most Fat Freddys Drop magic happens. Peeps around the world get their chance soon with upcoming tours happening in Aotearoa / New Zealand, Australia, the U.K. and Europe.

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Who Is Jill Scott?

Who is Jill Scott? Well, having never met the woman I’m not qualified to say. But the words and sounds Jill Scott has created and shared with the world in the five studio albums she’s released over the last 15 years, including the most recent Woman, give us a pretty good idea of all we need to know.

Jill Scott - Woman

Woman (2015)

Our introductory glimpses of Jill Scott came in 2000 with her magnificent debut album Who Is Jill Scott? Words And Sounds Vol. 1.

Jill Scott - Who Is Jill Scott?

 “Jilltro” – Who Is Jill Scott? 

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We know from “Jilltro”, from Woman’s closing track “Beautiful Love” and every Jill Scott song in between, that this North Philly artist is a beautiful poet, a stunning multi-dimensional singer and a prolific storyteller who has consistently delivered easy-listening, easy-dancing blends of soul, jazz, funk, R&B, hip hop and (now) country music, to the world.

Jill Scott - The Light of the Sun (2011)

The Light of The Sun (2011)

Jill Scott- The Real Thing

The Real Thing: Words And Sounds Vol. 3 (2007)

Jill Scott - Beautifully Human: Words and Sounds Vol. 2

Beautifully Human: Words And Sounds Vol. 2 (2004)

 

 

 

 

 

We know that on all those songs we have the pleasure of hearing Jill Scott’s divine voice singing and speaking words dripping with raw, honest, sensual emotion; telling stories of everyday human living we can all relate to around friendship, family, heartache, love and desire in their many healthy and unhealthy forms, food and play. That through those beautifully-human lyrical stories, Jill Scott unashamedly shows us both her vulnerabilities and overriding strengths – from which we get the distinct feeling she is a sensitive, passionate and powerful woman demonstrating the importance of love, compassion and humour by example.

Jill Scott - Woman (2015)

Finally, I know personally that on every Jill Scott album (Woman included) I find songs delivered in a way that make me feel stronger, happier and more hopeful. That’s an incredibly-special gift from Jill Scott to me – and to everyone else in this world moved by her music and her voice.

Listen here to 2 of Woman’s 16 tracks. Remember these are just mp3 versions, compressed glimpses of all the sounds recorded by Jill Scott and her musical collaborators; that there are 14 more songs on the album, all of which are fundamental parts of the whole of Woman; and to buy the real deal in its entirety is to thank Jill Scott for creating these beautiful sounds and words to enjoy, and to support her in making more.

Jill Scott - Woman

“Can’t Wait” – Woman

…with Pino Palladino (The Vanguard) on bass playing what for me, are the sublimest of all instrumental sounds on the album.

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“Coming To You” – Woman

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The whole album Woman is of course available to buy from your local, independent record store.

The extra-blessed can find themselves the ultimate Jill Scott experience: hearing her sing songs of old and new, live on stage. I expected to be amongst the Blessed this weekend at Soulfest 2015 – but am instead part of a cast of thousands devastated by the festival’s last minute cancellation :( . Jill Scott’s name has to stay on my Live Music Bucket List for now.

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Georgia Anne Muldrow Accentuating The Positive

Georgia Anne Muldrow’s most recent album A Thoughtiverse Unmarred, is a fabulous and timely reminder of how very much the world (both humans and the precious environment we live in) benefits from having positive musical messengers like her within it.

During its twelve tracks of hip hop beats and rhymes soaked in funk and soul, Georgia Anne Muldrow’s conscious words unfailingly accentuate the positive over the negative. They encourage love and compassion over hate – call for equality and fairness over injustice and discrimination – promote diversity and spirituality over the monocultural and materialistic – advocate for peace over conflict – and champion self determination, hope and triumph over one’s disadvantaged social, political and economic circumstances.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

A Thoughtiverse Unmarred (2015)

The bonus is that those positive lyrical messages from Georgia Anne Muldrow and featured rappers Declaime (aka Dudley Perkins) and MP Is Free come with music wholly produced by Chris Keys, all together likely to make you feel good and want to dance with them.

Check out two sample tracks from A Thoughtiverse Unmarred here, remembering they’re just compressed mp3 versions of the real deal. You can buy the full album in all its goodness (including finding a copy on sweet vinyl) to cherish forever-after amongst the other gems of your music collection.

Georgia Anne Muldrow - A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Monoculture” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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Georgia Anne Muldrow – “Child Shot” – A Thoughtiverse Unmarred

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De La Soul – Bringing The Fresh To Hip Hop At Soulfest 2015

De La Soul has been bringing fresh and innovative beats, rhymes, skits and emerging artists to hip hop since its “Golden Age”. If you grew up in the late 80s, 90s or thereafter if you were switched on to the evolution of hip hop, there’s a good chance De La Soul’s music makes up an integral part of your life tapestry.De La Soul

Decades later in 2015 that tapestry is soon to become richer with Posdnuos, Maseo, Dave and a huge number of musical collaborators working on the final touches of the highly-anticipated new studio LP – funded by loyal fans through Kickstarter at the first opportunity they had early this year.  This time around De La Soul and their cohorts have recorded all their own samples for the album and the mixing process is well underway with Bob Power again at the controls.

Rightly so – excitement is high in De La Soul camps around the world.

So Soulfest couldn’t have picked a better time to bring the group to its stages in Australia, New Zealand and Kuala Lumpur next month to perform their beloved songs of old and here’s hoping, a good dose of the new.

Soulfest 2015 poster

Remind yourself or (if you’ve been living under a rock) get to know “da inner sound, y’all” expressed and bought to us by De La Soul since the release of their first revolutionary album in 1989, 3 Feet High And Rising.

De La Soul - 3 Feet High And Rising

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“Buddy”-De La Soul feat. Q-Tip & Jungle Brothers- 3 Feet High And Rising (1989)
De La Soul - De La Soul Is Dead
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“A Rollerskating Jam Named Saturdays”- De La Soul Is Dead (1991)

De La Soul - Buhloone Mind State

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“In The Woods”- Buhloone Mind State (1993)

De La Soul - Stakes Is High

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“Big Brother Beat” feat. Mos Def – Stakes Is High (1996)
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The inclusion of De La Soul in this year’s festival line-up means the evolution of the innovative, conscious and humorous side of hip hop between the 80s and today will be represented in true style. Not to mention Ms. Lauryn Hill and Black Star with Talib Kweli and Mos Def, the latter whose career De La Soul helped kick off, and who fans will no doubt be hoping join De La Soul on Soulfest stages.

Check out the full festival line-up and get your Soulfest 2015 tickets here.

Soulfest Australia

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The Cactus Channel and Chet Faker – Kill The Doubt

The Cactus Channel‘s unique variety of instrumental funk-soul music wouldn’t get value-add with just any ol’ artist’s singing and songwriting talents in the mix. Many contemporary vocalists (I’d say most) would probably be a misfit for the music; do it an injustice.

But with their new single “Kill The Doubt” and it’s B-side “Sleeping Alone”, it is Chet Faker who the group’s joined musical forces with. The result of course, is two gorgeous songs oozing with heart, soul and feeling.

Get your digital dose here of “classic soul and funk seen through a uniquely Melbourne perspective”. The songs sounds damn fine even in digital format; and will undoubtedly sound a million times better on sweet vinyl.

"Kill The Doubt" - The Cactus Channel Feat. Chet Faker

“Kill The Doubt” – The Cactus Channel feat. Chet Faker
“Sleeping Alone” – The Cactus Channel feat. Chet Faker

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Sublime Sounds Of Old: Al Green

In my musical world the sublime sounds of old inspire and make me feel more than most new music does today. Here we turn back to those sounds to remind everyone (especially the youngsters of the world) that they are there to know, learn from, love, take them higher, appreciate and cherish…for forever-after.

With heart and soul this particular artist of ol’ made some of the most stunningly perfect, sublime love songs of all time.

He is of course, The Reverend Al Green.

And these are just two of the many of his songs for the cherishing…

Al Green - I'm Still In Love With You

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“Love and Happiness” – Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You (1972)

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Al Green - Let's Stay Together (1972)

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“Let’s Stay Together” – Al Green –  Let’s Stay Together (1972)

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There’s only one contemporary artist I know of whose music and vocals are of the same sublime kind and quality as Al Green’s in the 70s.

He is of course, D’Angelo.

Al Green and D’Angelo are also both messengers of Love. Thanks be to them because the world is most definitely a better place for their musical and lyrical messages. True?

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Kamasi Washington: The Jazz 2015 In Soulfest 2015

“Australia’s First Annual Neo Soul, Jazz & Hip Hop Festival” needs some jazz, right?

Soulfest Australia

The inaugural Soulfest 2014 delivered a line-up of spectacular soul and hip hop artists to Australian and New Zealand shores. Best of all it included D’Angelo & The Vanguard afresh, not long before the release of Black Messiah and they got busy playing shows around the wider world.

D'Angelo live concert - Melbourne Soulfest 2014

D’Angelo at Soulfest 2014- Melbourne

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Soulfest 2015, in by bringing saxophonist, composer and bandleader Kamasi Washington from the U.S. to Australia (and New Zealand) to play, has Jazz 2015 in its finest form sufficiently and wonderfully covered.

Kamasi Washington (photo by Mike Park)

Kamasi Washington (photo by Mike Park)

If you travel in the musical realms of contemporary jazz, soul, R&B, electronica or hip hop, chances are you’ve already got the sounds of Kamasi Washington in your music collection- and maybe just don’t know it (especially if you buy your music digitally and miss out on reading an album’s linear notes with the names of all the artists who created it). You’re Dead! or Cosmogramma by Flying Lotus? To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar? Up by Stanley Clarke? The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam by Stephen Bruner (aka Thundercat)? In My Time by Gerald Wilson? All of the above?

Maybe you’ve been blessed to hear Kamasi Washington playing live on stage alongside Chaka Khan, Snoop Dog, Gerald Wilson, Wayne Shorter, Raphael Saddiq, Stanley Clarke or Lauryn Hill?

Or maybe you’re totally onto the workings of Kamasi Washington and recently added his first solo album The Epic to your music collection? Are eagerly awaiting its forthcoming release on sweet vinyl? And/or just had the pleasure of hearing he and The Next Step/West Coast Get Down “throw it up in air” to “see where it lands” at a live show in the States?

Kamasi Washington

If not, well, right here and now is a good time to check out the sounds of Jazz 2015 by some of our time’s most innovative musicians, with the first track from The Epic journey sampled below. Listen, and keep listening, as the story keeps unfolding. Enjoy the space it leaves you in during its final moments. And like always, remember this here sample is just a compressed mp3 glimpse of the full sound.

Kamasi Washington - The Epic (2015)

The Epic (2015)

Kamasi Washington – “Change of the Guard” – The Epic (Volume 1 – The Plan)

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If you’re inspired to experience the whole of The Epic story in its uncompressed glory, buy the entire 17-track, three-volume, 172 minute-long album here.

For an extra-special experience of Kamasi Washington’s music, find your way to Soulfest 2015 and elsewhere he and his band are playing it live. Discover where the sounds land at that particular show. Just know the bonus of getting it at Soulfest is that Kamasi Washington’s jazz set will be amongst performances by some of history’s most beloved soul and hip hop artists too.

Soulfest 2015 poster

Soulfest 2015 tickets here.

Folks in Australia wanting a longer, cosier live experience of Kamasi Washington and his band can also catch their Sydney sideshow on Oct 22nd.

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