Kamasi Washington: Fearless Movement review – the sax star dials up the tempos

<span>‘Political anger and transcendent joy’: Kamasi Washington.</span><span>Photograph: B+</span>
‘Political anger and transcendent joy’: Kamasi Washington.Photograph: B+

Kamasi Washington could never be accused of fearful stasis. As one of the premier jazz crossover stars of the past decade, the LA saxophonist’s fiercely exuberant output has spread far outside the genre’s confines. Virtuoso musicianship is, naturally, baked in; Washington’s modus operandi also embodies political anger and transcendent joy.

For this third studio LP, clocking in at a brisk (for him) 86 minutes, he and his ensemble dial up the tempos and funk up the rhythms, recalling a time when jazz was dance music. More featured artists appear than previously: bassist Thundercat rips off a gnarly solo on Asha the First, a track based around a piano figure written by Washington’s three-year-old daughter. André 3000 and flute sit in on the beatific Dream State. Washington’s band get squelchy, too, hosting George Clinton on Get Lit, home to the album’s best rapped verse, from D Smoke.

Bereavements and recent fatherhood have led Washington to ponder mortality. But there is little dread in these 12 rich and versatile tracks, which touch sensually on Zapp’s Computer Love and examine the Road to Self via a 13-minute workout. Fearless Movement ends with a Prologue and begins with a prayer in Ge’ez, the liturgical language of the Ethiopian Orthodox church.