Long-time So Much Great Music readers may recall Kamasi Washington, the modern jazz maestro whose dazzling and ultimately heroic late-night club performance reanimated and rescued an entire New Orleans Jazzfest weekend for me and my son Max. Eight years later Washington’s return will commence with the release of his forthcoming studio album Fearless Movement, to be issued on May 3rd during the second weekend of the 2024 festival.

Washington has referred to Fearless Movement as his “dance album,” though not in the typical sense. He views dance as “expressing your spirit through your body,” and being equivalent to music itself.

This bold proposition is presented forcefully, exotically, at times even bizarrely, on the video debuted this week which accompanies the record’s first pre-release song; leave it to the avant-garde Washington to name the epic 8-minute closing track of the album as ‘Prologue.’

Jon Pareles in the NY Times cites ‘Prologue’ as “Dense and bustling. Double time drumming, frenetic percussion and hyperactive keyboard counterpoints roil around a melody that rises resolutely over descending chords, while breakneck solos from Dontae Winslow on trumpet and Washington on tenor saxophone exult in sheer agility and emotional peaks.”

Even “emotional peaks” here feels like a vast understatement. Not that I’ve ever done it (duh), but what Washington’s prolonged, manic surges straining toward ecstatic resolution seems more like is giving birth.

With a major coast-to-coast tour starting at New York’s Beacon Theater on May 4th, Kamasi Washington will not be appearing to liberate anyone from their moment of desperation at this year’s Jazzfest in New Orleans. But with this dynamic initial release he’s surely provided a ringing indication that his audacious acts of musical heroism will soon be vividly spread to new cities around the country. What’s past, after all, is surely prologue.