Kamasi Washington
Fearless Movement


4.0
excellent

Review

by YoYoMancuso STAFF
May 6th, 2024 | 37 replies


Release Date: 05/03/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: We out here experiencing the divinity of the saxamaphone

I’m not sure an album title has ever described an artist better than Fearless Movement expresses the essence of Kamasi Washington. Since his explosion into the public eye with 2015’s triple album The Epic, Washington’s keen instrumental instincts, formidable saxophone performances, and undeniable ear for composition have catapulted him to the forefront of modern jazz, both due to the strength of his own releases and his eagerness to collaborate with giants from other musical arenas. In working as a sideman for Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Run The Jewels among others, Washington has amassed a diverse listener base who all flock to his creations clamoring for the spiritual odyssey of a lifetime. More than any of his previous releases, Fearless Movement aims to satiate this hunger, while also incorporating more influence from Washington’s collaborators than ever before, culminating in a mystical and lyrical journey that is certainly fearless, but not quite as steady in its execution as the bandleader’s previous two mammoth records.

The hushed prayers and incantations of otherworldly opener “Lesanu” give way to a number that is the most in line with Washington’s previous work on the tracklist, but don’t misconstrue this as the song being unimaginative or doing little with the time it is given. Its earworm of a melody, bombastic dual drum kit setup, vertiginous piano courtesy of Cameron Graves, and Washington’s thematically daring solo all converge on the listener’s eardrums in a punchy nine-minute package to plunge them into the collective’s creative world, an accomplishment that is readily achieved despite the song not “breaking new ground” in terms of Washington’s sound. When conceptualizing “Lesanu” as a means of easing the listener into uncharted territory in spite of its instrumental chaos, Fearless Movement begins to make a lot more sense. Perhaps its most noteworthy departure in comparison to Washington’s discography is its increased inclusion of vocalists, ranging from jazz singer Patrice Quinn to MCs Taj and Ras Austin to the legend himself, George Clinton. Make no mistake, his usual instrumental collaborators are here to stay, with low-end deity Thundercat contributing unforgettable bass lines to “Asha the First” and “Get Lit”, and his brother Ronald Bruner Jr. absolutely slaying the drums on every session he joins. However, even this corner of Washington’s musical world is receiving some touch-ups, with André 3000 releasing his inner Ron Burgundy and contributing some yazz flute to the astral “Dream State”, and BJ the Chicago Kid sitting down for a co-write with Kamasi on “Together”. Washington’s songwriting identity, musicality, and virtuosity on the saxophone are undoubtedly intact throughout the album’s runtime, but he truly does move fearlessly and commendably on this record in terms of experimenting with his formula. The question is, does it pay off?

Well, yes and no. Washington’s issue on Fearless Movement has little to do with the strength of his ideas (or those of his collaborators) and more to do with quality control and execution, a puzzling problem to suddenly be having on a record that is half the length of its predecessors. The aforementioned “Together” is a dynamically impactful, emotionally stunning track that is lifted into transcendent territory by the solid pulse of its rhythm section, Washington’s breathtaking solo, and tasteful vocal layering. More than anything, though, its execution is focused and powerful, with nothing about its arrangement feeling scatterbrained or out of place. Almost nothing I lauded “Together” for could be said of “Asha the First”, an initially gripping midtempo jam session that inexplicably morphs into a half-baked rap song at the 3.5-minute mark. The decision to incorporate hip hop into the record is by no means the problem, but to do it this haphazardly made me wonder if I had accidentally skipped to another song. It doesn’t help that the instrumental of this section is its least engaging aspect by far, and maybe the most boring section of music that the band plays on the entirety of the record, reinforced by its unnecessary and obnoxious record scratching.

On a composition like “Asha the First”, the record tries to juggle too many sounds at once, while its follow-up “Computer Love” made me beg for anything else to happen. This is Patrice Quinn’s big moment on Fearless Movement, and she gives it her all, but she can’t quite hold the weight of this nine-minute meandering mess on her shoulders. It’s telling that the fiery saxophone runs of follow-up track “The Visionary” say more in seventy seconds than “Computer Love” can in almost six hundred. Of course, everything George Clinton touches turns to gold, and his contributions to “Get Lit” are only the first of many complimentary things I could say about the track. Its bassline and forceful drums are unbelievably addictive, as are its more understandable hip-hop influence and flute melodies, which seamlessly transition into the home run of “Dream State”.

It’s fathomable, and perhaps even expected, for an artist to occasionally stumble while taking as many creative departures as Washington is on Fearless Movement. Some choices, like a foray into funk, succeed with flying colors, while others are either too unrealized or disorganized to make a true impression. I want to be clear in saying that no song on the record is bad; “Computer Love” comes close, but it’s still performed with such fervor, and by such accomplished musicians, that it ends up being far more memorable than it would be in lesser hands. While the tracklist’s sequencing is vexing, its true crown jewels begin to surface in its final third with the gargantuan “Road to Self (KO)”. as its posse cuts and creative detours begin to fade back behind the curtain. Fearless Movement’s final four tracks showcase a group of musicians in a state of complete spiritual synergy, with moments like “Prologue”’s energetic explosion or the magnificent crescendo of “Interstellar Peace (The Last Stance)” reminding the listener that Washington has been known for fearless movement all along, and his decision to tap into his most brilliant qualities as a songwriter will always result in some of the most memorable and impactful music of the year. It’s far from perfect, but Fearless Movement is another worthy statement from one of the most important musicians of our time, and a convincing announcement that there is still a terrifying amount of creativity to be discovered within the bandleader’s extravagant afro.



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user ratings (65)
3.8
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2024


18908 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

big jazz bois line up

FearThyEvil
May 6th 2024


18656 Comments


definitely need to give this a listen.

CrisStyles
May 6th 2024


810 Comments


Saw him on the first night of his tour on Saturday night, the new album sounded great live.

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2024


10270 Comments


Ooooooo

Pikazilla
May 6th 2024


30042 Comments


ghandis' fave jazz artist

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
May 6th 2024


18908 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

seeing him live would probably be unreal

bloc
May 6th 2024


70370 Comments


Hyped to hear this

trickert
May 7th 2024


200 Comments


Yeah, gotta check out this new one. Not sure about the integration of rap though.

MetalMarcJK
May 7th 2024


1051 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Another strong showing from Kamasi.

Transient
May 7th 2024


1520 Comments


seeing him live would probably be unreal


saw him play at the sydney opera house a few years ago and it was fucking mesmerizing

Asura14
May 7th 2024


532 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Never heard of this guy, got to half of the album and Dream State is fantastic, everything else was not to my liking though, but will give it a few more goes

bighubbabuddha
May 7th 2024


754 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great features, good vibes

bloc
May 7th 2024


70370 Comments


Yeah this is god mode

someone
Contributing Reviewer
May 7th 2024


6716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This fucks in all the ways I wish Heaven and Earth did

Butkuiss
May 8th 2024


7222 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Loved The Epic (and the associated tour), but it also came at a point where I was beginning to dive into jazz beyond Coltrane and Miles, so I wonder how much was context. Heaven and Earth didn’t do as much for me. I might throw this on rotation at some point.

ShadowOfTheCitadel
May 8th 2024


446 Comments


I always treat Kamasi albums like watching a miniseries. I have binged The Epic and have the capacity to binge, but I feel like I enjoy them more when I listen to the whole thing spread out over a few days. What I've heard of this one so far is fucking great.

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
May 8th 2024


18908 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@Asura14 the second half of the album is much more in line with what his music traditionally sounds like

someone
Contributing Reviewer
May 8th 2024


6716 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

"Prologue" is like among the most exciting Kamasi tracks ever ever

Zakusz
May 8th 2024


1611 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

At first I found Get Lit to be a little annoying but after several listens it is the catchiest thing that exists.

nash1311
May 8th 2024


8208 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

“big jazz bois line up” [2]



So glad you reviewed this! Haven’t had a chance to listen front to back yet but I adore Dream State



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