Next Sunday, postmodernist architect Charles Jencks’ Garden of Cosmic Speculation will be open to the public for one day only.
Space, time, and all the complexities of the universe are celebrated and reflected in nature across the 30 curious acres in Jencks' South-West Scotland home.
Kamasi Washington, who began his Heaven and Earth tour in London on Wednesday night, arrives a few days too early to enjoy it. However, his performance embodied a cosmic contemplation all of its own.
“The only person who looks up at the stars more than me is this guy”, Washington admits as he introduces keyboardist Brandon Coleman, the first of many endearing introductions to his band. Trombonist Ryan Porter is a childhood friend who could, at the age of twelve, “find blues in running out of peanut butter”, whilst upright bassist Miles Mosely is downright fierce. “We are going to go on a journey tonight”, grins Washington in paced and assured tone.
Continuing in the late-Twentieth Century Afro-futurist tradition, the Californian is a stalwart in the cosmic style of jazz, celebrating the utopian potential of an infinite universe. In the past few years, he's helped lead a new wave of voyagers into the limelight through his innovation and numerous collaborations. There is a sense of reverence that accompanies watching a man like Washington, bold in attitude and appearance, command a venue like The Roundhouse, with its vast dome echoing back the epic scores of “The Space Travelers Lullaby” and “Fists of Fury” from the upcoming full-length record, Heaven and Earth.
“Fists of Fury” is breathtaking, as Coleman works unfathomably rapidly on the keys. Its Latin beats become hypnotising, as two drummers take turns switching between the main rhythm and off-beat solos for a section that lasts at least 5 minutes. It's not the only virtuosic call-and-response of the night. For “Truth” (from 2017's Harmony of Difference EP) Washington invites Mercury-nominated, London-based saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings to join him, the two digging each other’s style as the latter adopts a jerky, hysterical rhythm to counter the former’s sweeter tenor tone.
Vocalist Patricia Quinn seems to be of a different psychic plane, with a voice as powerful and theatrical as her physical performance. Her frantic Gestus communicates a potent range of emotions, delivering an almost physical impact when she promises “When I’m faced with unjust injury / Then I change my hands to fists of fury”, and a sense of enlightenment when she declares “We will no longer ask for justice / Instead we will take our retribution”.
This music is frantic and hypnotic by nature, but this outfit's mastery is such that, in spite of this, it never feels overdone. Each song builds and rests just where it needs to, as if of its own accord. It's rare to leave a show feeling both exhausted and galvanised, but Washington carries his audience on a wave of unstoppable potential.