The story begins with a man on high. He is an old man, a warrior, and the guardian to the gates of a city. Two miles below his mountainous perch, he observes a dojo, where a group of young men train night and day. Eventually, the old man expects a challenger to emerge. He hopes for the day of his destruction, for this is the cycle of life.
Finally the doors fly open and three young men burst forth to challenge the old master. The first man is quick, but not strong enough. The second is quick, and strong, but not wise enough. The third stands tall, and overtakes the master. The Changing of the Guard has at long last been achieved.
But then the old man wakes up. He looks down at the dojo and realizes he's been daydreaming. The dojo below exists, but everyone in training is yet a child. By the time they grow old enough to challenge the old man, he has disappeared.
This is, in essence, both a true story and a carefully constructed musical daydream, one that will further unfold in a brazen release from young Los Angeles jazz giant, composer, and bandleader Kamasi Washington. ‘The Epic’ is unlike anything jazz has seen, and not just because it emanates from the boundary-defying Brainfeeder, which isn't so much a label in the traditional sense as it is an unfurling experiment conducted by the underground producer Flying Lotus.
The Epic is a 172-minute, three-volume set that includes a 32-piece orchestra, a 20-person choir, and 17 songs overlaid with a compositional score written by Washington. Pulsing underneath is an otherworldly ten-piece band, each member of which is individually regarded as among the best young musicians on the planet – including bassist Thundercat and his brother, drummer Ronald Bruner Jr., bassist (yes, there are two) Miles Mosley, drummer Tony Austin (of course there are two), keyboard player Brandon Coleman, pianist Cameron Graves, and trombonist Ryan Porter. Patrice Quinn's ethereal vocals round out the ensemble.