NO SHRINKING VIOLET the West Coast Get Down pianist from Kamasi Washington’s The Epic has a swagger and compelling mystical drive to his swooning set full of bravura optimistic improvising and a sunlit baroque dancing quality to it dazzles throughout. Full of playing confidence this is a maximalist rather than minimalist improvising method matched by the ideas and energy of his band, his busting out all over chops bubbling to the surface from the undergrowth of scintillating rhythm and beat.
The core of his own band here draws on the all conquering West Coast Get Down. Tenor sax leader of the pack Kamasi Washington, trombonist Ryan Porter, bassist Stephen Thundercat Bruner, and drummer Ronald Bruner Jr + trumpeter Philip Dizack and erstwhile Chick Corea bassist Hadrien Feraud are all on board. And yes in that Armando vein the title track has a Chick-like swagger to it circa Romantic Warrior but you know you’d have to think long and hard on a thankless quest here to fit every piece of a 1,000 piece jigsaw tight as Graves is so adept at collaging extra-dimensional washes of sheer saturated colour instead on to every piano run he takes. It is not virtuosity for its own sake and nor is it dry as dust, Graves managing to cycle up the keyboard in a mad sprint but somehow the sturdy structures of the writing holds everything in place. From the heart of jazz yet in no way dated the tradition is in transition and remains ever gratefully and so gratifyingly undead. The circling beginning of 'Adam and Eve' is the respite I suppose where you might most easily detect Graves’ softer gentle side and one thing he is not afraid of at all is to show his emotions or crunch out a groove that slides way under the rampaging horns. A rollercoaster ride of a listen. SG. Photo of Cameron Graves, above, Anna Webber