Our Take: Kamasi Washington Asserts His Dominance in the World of Jazz on ‘Fearless Movement’

Fearless Movement - Kamasi Washington
Fearless Movement - Kamasi Washington

Josh's Take

10 Music Quality: 10
9 Sonic Diversity: 9
9 Content Originality
8 Lyricism: 8
9 Memorability
10 Arrangement
He’s had a rigorous touring schedule lately, but now that he’s made time to reenter to the studio, Kamasi Washington has again demonstrated just what an indispensable figure he is to contemporary jazz with ‘Fearless Movement.’
‘Fearless Movement’ – Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington is a giant in multiple ways.

When this hefty six-foot-three man enters the arena, he of the bulging Afro and oversized tenor saxophone immediately commands a striking physical presence.

Once those massive lungs of his fill up with air, though, and start emptying out into that saxophone he’s clutching – all while his fingers move about it at a rapid-fire rate – ‘Masi makes himself known as a giant in another critical area: that of the modern-day jazz landscape. The Los Angeles native has thoroughly established himself as such throughout his many years in the game, particularly on the strength of his first two widely admired major-label releases, The Epic and Heaven on Earth. Each of them represents a sprawling multi-hour experience packed with masterful musicianship and a vivid sense of the possibilities in the world of a 100-year-old genre that’s still generating much excitement and enthusiasm across the globe.

Fearless Movement - Kamasi Washington
Fearless Movement – Kamasi Washington

Fearless Movement, Washington’s third mainstream release and first in six years (May 3, 2024), is considerably leaner than its two predecessors at a “mere” 86 minutes – still quite a lengthy LP by most other standards. But it’s just as full of energy and jazzy mastery all the same. Washington immediately demonstrates that much on the opening track, “Lesanu.”

It begins with a relative rarity across Kamasi’s catalog – the Main Man himself actually appearing vocally – and an even greater rarity across anybody’s catalog – dialogue being spoken in the ancient Ethiopian language of Ge’ez, which Washington pronounces before offering an English translation.

Kamasi Washington © Vincent Haycock
Kamasi Washington © Vincent Haycock

After that spoken-word introduction comes eight minutes of unbridled instrumentals – mainly ‘Masi letting his saxophone rage mightily, but also some piano and drumming passages laced in for good measure, courtesy of his bandmates in the West Coast Get Down jazz collective. All told, “Lesanu” makes 562 seconds pass by in a flash and should leave listeners assured that they are in the company of an expert musician at work.


That early impression proves to be a sound one, as Washington continues to deliver dazzling results on the sax over the tracks that ensue, all while bringing aboard some notable guests to help him out along the way. It’s a little surprising that Washington hasn’t hitherto featured a ton of rapping on his own albums – one, he’s a lifelong hip-hop fan, and two, one of the ways he first got his foot in the mainstream door was by contributing to Kendrick Lamar’s landmark 2015 LP, To Pimp a Butterfly. But Taj and Ras Austin of hip-hop group Contra help him reestablish his hip-hop ties in grand style.

I can breathe the air, but the air breeds pollution, mind’s getting snared by institutions, and if not, then they get impaired by fusion,” one brother furiously raps on “Asha the First,” a song named for Washington’s three-year-old daughter. And the other brother: “Ain’t no need to hurry. Our family trees plant money trees, the flow seeds are buried. Enemies and adversaries follow greed to cemeteries but won’t receive a cherry.”

It’s one of many exciting collaborations to emerge across Fearless Movement. Many of Washington’s fellow Angelinos are invited to stop by, including prominent West Coast Get Down members Thundercat, Terrace Martin, and Miles Mosely.

This album also finds Washington branching out geographically more than ever before, pulling in the likes of George Clinton from New Jersey and BJ the Chicago Kid from you-can-see-where. Plus, legendary Atlanta MC Andre 3000, fresh off an experimental flute album last fall, demonstrates that he’s not done tinkering just yet, as he can be heard piping away on “Dream State.” Three-Stacks’ performance winds up effectively complementing Washington, who does some experimentation of his own on this song– it’s the only time on the album where he pulls out the alto saxophone in addition to the tenor one. The effects are golden.

Kamasi Washington © Vincent Haycock
Kamasi Washington © Vincent Haycock

Wonderful though all of these collaborators are, in the end there’s no doubt who the main star of the show is.

Washington especially emphasizes this by reserving the last five tracks for himself, after having piled on all those high-profile guest appearances. This closing stretch of solo songs allows the frontman to dominate the spotlight with some more incredible saxophone playing, with “The Garden Path” possibly representing the peak highlight. He wraps it up with the beautiful “Prologue,” which also serves as Fearless Movement’s lead single.

OK yes, it’s a bit jarring to have the final song on the album be called “Prologue,” but Washington has proven to be fabulously innovative in so many ways just now– what’s wrong with letting him make one final gesture to that effect?

With Fearless Movement, Kamasi Washington has capped off an outstanding trilogy of mainstream albums, and this latest one may well be the sharpest and most focused of the lot. Jazz music has a proud and intelligent leading living ambassador in this man.

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:: stream/purchase Fearless Movement here ::
:: connect with Kamasi Washington here ::
Stream: “Prologue” – Kamasi Washington

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Fearless Movement - Kamasi Washington

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? © Vincent Haycock

Fearless Movement

an album by Kamasi Washington


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