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July 05, 2018 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily

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Thursday, July 5, 2018
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

Heaven and

Kamasi Washington

Young Turks


Jazz can be a little confusing.
Since its roots in the early 1920s,
listeners’s definitions of jazz have
since changed drastically. Known as
one of the only true original Ameri-
can artforms, its ever expanding
of subgenres are truly daunting.
This might contribute to why many
older generations believe the genre
is on the way out. However, millen-
nial favorite Sebastian from “La La
Land” might have been overreact-
ing a bit when he said that jazz is
dying. Kamasi Washington’s newest
album, Heaven and Earth, is a pris-
tine example of how jazz is thriving.
The album itself is huge: Span-
ning just over two and a half hours, a
full listen is certainly a commitment.
However, even after my first full lis-
ten, I never found myself dozing off.
Although there are a few tracks that
don’t hit as hard as others, they all
hold their own unique characteris-
There are three sections to the
album. The first section, “Earth,”
represents “the world as I see it
outwardly, the world that I am part
of,” Washington explained prior to
the release of the album. The sec-
ond half, “Heaven,” represents “the
world as I see it inwardly. Who I am
and the choices I make.” However, a
week after the release of the album,
Washington released an EP titled
The Choice, with a similar cover to
Between Heaven and Earth. Appar-
ently, this release was included with
physical copies of the album, but was
recently released digitally. It fits well
in the overall context of the album,
but brings about new musical con-
cepts (as well as a Carol King and a
Five Stairsteps cover).
The tracks are at once dense and
transparent. Heaven and Earth is so
different, much like Washington’s
previous full-length album, The Epic,

from any other jazz album I’ve ever
heard, and this is largely thanks to
the wide range of tonalities achieved
through varying instrumentation.
From the very get-go, a full
orchestra and choir accompany a
full rhythm section to create an
overwhelming sheet of sound that
is harmonically rich and full within
the first 30 seconds of the opening
track, “Fists of Fury.”
Without getting into the ongoing
debate over what constitutes as jazz,
I will say that this album does take
a lot of notes from jazz albums of a
varying character. Not only does he
directly reference the likes of Fred-
die Hubbard or Ron Porter (who’s
also featured on the album), but
in his compositions and solos, it’s
easy to see how artists like Wayne
Shorter, Thundercat, Chris Potter
and even Max Roach influenced his
This choir and orchestra are so
unique and characteristic of Wash-
ington’s music, but even when

they’re not used, tracks like “Hub-
Tones” and “The Invincible Youth”
feel full by taking on different styles
and bringing other instrument
groups to shine. On “The Invin-
cible Youth,” for example, Cameron
Graves and Thundercat’s playing
truly shines and fills a space that
feels appropriate and rich.
The “Heaven” section of the
album was where this album really
differed from some for Kamasi’s
previous work. Tracks like “The
Space Travelers Lullaby” and “Song
for the Fallen” truly went in direc-
tions I was not anticipating, and they
fit the inward direction Washing-
ton strived for. “Show Us the Way”

is an interesting callback to The
Epic’s opening track, “Change of the
Guard,” and the closing track, “Will
You Sing,” is a fantastic closer that
sums up the album’s themes nicely.
However, sometimes these grand
instrumentations presented in the
album feel undeserved. These epic
moments seem to pop up in every
other track, and they seem to con-
sume the track. Don’t get me wrong,
the choir and orchestra sound abso-
lutely breathtaking, but because
they hit hard right in the beginning,
middle and end, the album reaches
several climaxes without subjecting
the listener to any other experience.
Along with this, Washington’s
solos sometimes feel similarly struc-
tured. They’re technically and artis-
tically amazing. As a saxophonist
myself, I’m blown away by his sound
and technique. However, they often
take the same direction throughout
songs and utilize the same extended
techniques every time. They’re mind
blowing solos, but it feels like my
mind is being blown in the same way
every song.
These complaints may seem real-
ly petty, and that’s because they are.
This album as a whole feels like a
complete sonic stroke of genius. The
fact that Washington can yet again
create an album lasting over two and
a half hours while keeping the mate-
rial fresh and consistent is certainly
an accomplishment.
While many see Washington’s
music as the resurgence of jazz
in American popular culture, I
wouldn’t quite say that myself. Jazz
has been growing and advancing
since its conception and continues
to do so today, even before Kamasi
rushed onto the scene. However,
because of Washington’s forward
thinking and collaboration through-
out generes, Heaven and Earth is an
album that sets new standards for
modern jazz musicians (and every
other musician, for that matter) for
years to come.

Kamasi Washington rises
on new ‘Heaven and Earth’



Daily Arts Writer

Daily Arts Writer

chronicles the development of
a tragic love triangle between
three European writers through
the first half of the 20 century.
Best friends, the German Jules
(Oskar Werner, “Fahrenheit 451”)
and the French Jim (Henri Serre,
“The Fire Within”), each stumble
helplessly in love with the beautiful
Catherine (Jeanne Moreau, “The
Lovers”) and all her dangerous
eccentricities. Told in three acts
that each take place years apart,
Truffaut uses benchmarks like
the first World War and Jim’s
disappearing French mustache to
indicate that time has passed.
Telling the story spread out over
time is a step away from the fast-
paced, almost real-time standard
of the New Wave, becoming
reminiscent — ironically, due to the
whole pretense of the movement
— of a book. Instead of explaining
the thoughts and desires of its
characters through the limited
scope of one or two insulated
incidents, “Jules and Jim” shades
toward showing the development
of the characters over the course
of their lives, more like “Les
And the presence of history even
gives the film the same feeling
of weight as something like “Les
Mis,” turning it into a story about
much more than just love turned
sour. “Jules and Jim” has the
atmosphere of a big film.
Despite all the great set-up,
the love triangle that drives the
narrative doesn’t satisfy. Jules and
Catherine marry initially, but she
doesn’t stay loyal to him for very
long. By the time he has returned
from the war, they have their first
child and she has turned cold.
Catherine’s infidelities are declared
with the same lack of gusto with
which someone might announce
they have buttered a piece of toast.
It’s hard to do justice to how passé

the characters respond. It really
just feels like Jules and Jim don’t
care that the woman they are so
dedicated to doesn’t seem to give a
damn about them.
The frustrating part is how
near-perfectly the love triangle is
laid out. When Catherine begins
to slide out of love with Jules, there
should be tension. Instead, Jules
resigns himself to living across
the hall with his entomology
work, asking Jim to love her so
he can continue to see her in his
life. But I have to stress: There’s
an absence of emotion in any of
these interactions. Jules has no
resentment for either his best
friend or his wife, who his best
friend is trying to conceive a child
with. It’s an absolute whiff.
And even as Catherine continues
outside of the two friends, neither
rise to question her, as though
they’re so captivated, so in love,
that they can’t say a word. I don’t
buy it. The film lacks the passion it
needs to pull off the circumstances
it sets up.
It’s not all loss. “Jules and
Jim,” though unable to resonate
unquestionably a beautiful film.
Truffaut seemed to have developed
as a photographer in the two
years since his debut feature “400
Blows,” his eye for composition
almost unmatched here. And if
in its narrative approach, “Jules
and Jim” can sit comfortably as a
revolutionary picture by its drive to
experiment. At times shrinking to a
pinhole or expanding from a point,
Truffaut’s frame takes the viewers’
eyes on a carefully manicured
tour of European countrysides
and tempered city vistas. The
director even goes so far as to
halt the picture altogether with a
few momentary freeze-frames on
Catherine’s face, as though burning
her image into the film-reel as it is

Riding the New
Wave: Volume 4


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