The extraordinarily ambitious tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington already used the title The Epic for his debut album; a nearly three hour opus that instantly earned him accolades as one of the most vital voices in contemporary jazz. If he hadn’t, the name would certainly work for his latest single, entitled “Prologue.” The 8 and a half minute sonic experience begins with a mere moment of quiet, spacey synths then takes off, propelled by a driving drum n’ bass-esque backbeat and plenty of percussion. A virtuosic trumpet solo dominates the first half – until Washington announces his return with an explosive solo of his own.

On “Prologue,” he plays his saxophone with a life-or-death intensity, creating an escalating outburst of emotion that grows almost impossibly explosive until it reaches a screaming peak. It’s an incredible track that only deepens in power with its accompanying music video. Directed by former collaborator AG Rojas, it begins with a majestic shot of Washington and longtime drummer Ronald Bruner Jr. (brother of Thundercat), surrounded by others. The rest of the video cuts together a series of stunning dance sequences, choreographed by Samantha Blake Goodman and gorgeously shot in both color and black and white – a perfect accompaniment to the improvisatory freedom of the music.

Following “The Garden Path,” which Washington previously released and performed on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, “Prologue” offers one of the first tastes of Washington’s just-announced new album, Fearless Movements, set to drop on May 3rd. The record will be inspired by dance, which he says is “movement and expression, and in a way it’s the same thing as music—expressing your spirit through your body. That’s what this album is pushing.” Washington became a father just a few years ago and has said his broadened horizons and deepening sense of mortality inform the new music. His daughter is not just an inspiration but a direct collaborator; she wrote the piano melody for one of the tracks.

The album boasts a fascinating roster of featured collaborators: Andre 3000 playing flute, the foundational funk forefather George Clinton, rising rapper D-Smoke, gospel-tinged R&B singer BJ the Chicago Kid, and Taj and Ras Austin, twin brothers from the retro hip-hop duo Coast Contra. Washington’s first three albums were tour-de-forces of modern jazz and avoided vocal contributions from stars. It will be fascinating to hear Washington work with this crew of collaborators, continuing to fusing more rap and R&B into his work. He’s already immersed himself in those genres, notably performing on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and the Dinner Party super-group of Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, and 9th Wonder. Washington’s upcoming tour will include a return to Philly for a performance at Union Transfer on May 5th. Check out the “Prologue” video below and get tickets and more information on the show at WXPN’s Concert Calendar.

Kamasi Washington - Prologue