Thursday, January 31, 2019

Chicago Gangsters - 1976 - Gangster Love

Chicago Gangsters
Gangster Love

01. Gangster Love 2:59
02. On The Way 4:00
03. I'm At Your Mercy 4:10
04. Feel Like Making Love 4:50
05. Michigan Avenue 5:15
06. Music For The People (Pt. 1) 3:27
07. Music For The People (Pt. 2) 2:03
08. Got A Little Picture 5:27

Bass – Anthony Amos
Congas – R. Evans
Drums – Chris McCants
Guitar – Dave Yushasz, Sam McCants
Piano, Organ – Sam McCants
Saxophone – Sammy Bryant
Trumpet – Ralph Flemm
Vocals – James McCants, Paul Ware, R. Evans, Sam McCants

The second album by The Chicago Gangsters – and a tasty bit of funk that's every bit as great as the first one! The group's got a tight ensemble feel – with plenty of keyboard/organ riffing underneath tight horns produced with a nice jazzy flourish. Highlights include the rough funk number "Music for the People" (parts 1 & 2), the jazzed-up instrumental "Michigan Avenue", which has a solid dancefloor jam, the mellow harmony cut "On the Way", and a great cover "Feel Like Makin' Love", done with a vamp that gives it a tight funky sound!

Chicago Gangsters - 1975 - Blind Over You

Chicago Gangsters 
Blind Over You

01. Blind Over You 3:10
02. I Choose You 9:20
03. Your Self Concious Mind 2:58
04. Don't Be Gone 3:09
05. Gangster Boogie 5:27
06. Why Did You Do It 3:58
07. We've Been Together 3:37
08. Let Me Go 2:48
09. My Ship 3:14

Bass – Richard Evans
Drums – Brian Grice
Guitar – Philip Upchurch
Keyboards – Tennyson Stephens
Saxophone – Clifford Davis
Trumpet – John Howell

Released under 2 different front covers and titles - However this is the most recognised one)

Yet another album that never left the shores of its native land on release, save for those fortunate few who could afford to trade with their local imports dealer.  It’s albums like this that are now a dream come true for those of us outside the USA - maybe a colleague can inform me as to how difficult these LPs were to grab back in the day in the States - I’d be very interested - as I imagine it wasn’t that much easier.  Getting to see the cover of such an album is almost as much a revelation as listening to the grooves.  There is almost something to be said about the relative unavailability and lack of information of these albums that gave them a mystical quality that is slightly lost in today’s more immediate world.

Alternate cover and name

Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers - 1968 - Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers

Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers
Bobby Taylor And The Vancouvers

01. Does Your Mama Know About Me 2:52
02. So This Is Love 2:55
03. I Am Your Man 2:58
04. I Heard It Through The Grapevine 2:43
05. Malinda 2:52
06. Fading Away 2:50
07. You Gave Me Something (And Everything's Alright) 3:05
08. It's Growing 2:56
09. One Girl 2:25
10. Try A Little Tenderness 2:52
11. Day By Day Or Never 2:40
12. If You Love Her 2:35

Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals – Eddie Patterson
Drums – Ted Lewis
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Tommy Chong
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Wes Henderson
Organ – Robbie King
Vocals – Bobby Taylor

Taylor was a Washington, D.C. native and childhood friend of Marvin Gaye who relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, for his music career. At the behest of Supremes Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, Taylor and his group were signed to Motown, where, assigned to the Gordy imprint—and produced by Berry Gordy himself—they had a hit out of the box. Taylor was a talent scout himself: at Motown he discovered the Jackson 5 and produced most of their first album.

Although the Jacksons and Motown credited Diana Ross with discovering The Jackson 5, Taylor was the person who found the band.

Taylor fronted the band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. At a 1968 concert in Chicago, a family group called The Jackson 5 were their opening act. Impressed by the group, Taylor arranged for The Jackson 5 to audition for Berry Gordy and other executives at Motown. The group was signed to Motown, and Taylor would become their first producer.

In a 2011 interview for the documentary "Michael Jackson: The Life of an Icon," Taylor talked about first seeing The Jackson 5. "I saw this little kid spinning and stuff and said, ‘Dang, send him upstairs. When he finishes, I want to talk to this kid.'"

He produced The Jackson 5's early Motown songs including a version of Smokey Robinson's "Who's Lovin' You." Gordy felt the songs produced by Taylor were old-fashioned, and he would assign a new producer for the young group.

Taylor was born Feb. 18, 1934, in Washington, D.C. He sang in doo-wop groups in New York City. He moved out west and was in a band called Little Daddy and the Bachelors. One of the band members was Tommy Chong, who would go on to greater fame as a comedian and one-half of the duo Cheech and Chong.

The group's members ended up changing the band's name to Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers. The band was signed to Motown in 1965 on the recommendation of Supremes members Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. The band had a top-five R&B song, "Does Your Mama Know About Me," in 1968.

"Bobby had a range that exceeded even Patti LaBelle," Chong told Rolling Stone.

Taylor went on to have a solo career for Motown. He later moved to China and then to Hong Kong, performing in clubs there. His last-known recording was on a tribute song for the late, legendary rock guitarist Dick Wagner.

Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, had their best years with the Motown subsidiary Gordy in the late 1960s, scoring three hit singles in 1968. The first turned out to be their best with Does Your Mama Know About Me? reaching # 4 R&B/# 29 Billboard Pop Hot 100 in May b/w Fading Away. Later that fall I Am Your Man struggled to a # 40 R&B/# 85 Hot 100 b/w If You Love Her, and in December Malinda peaked at # 16 R&B/# 48 Hot 100 b/w It's Growing.

The sextet - consisting of Taylor on vocals, Robbie King on keyboard, Wes Henderson on bass, Ted Lewis on drums, and Edward Patterson and Tommy Chong [who would later team up with Richard Marin to form the comedy due Cheech & Chong] on guitar - was a racially mixed group whose fame, unlike most Motown congregations, was short-lived.

In 1975 Taylor, who would also be credited with discovering The Jackson 5, had a minor solo hit with Why Play Games [# 83 R&B b/w Don't Wonder Why] for the Playboy label. but neither is included here. What is nice about this CD is that it gives you all six sides of their three Gordy hits, although I doubt if too many will be ordering one at the used price indicated.

Why not re-release with a couple of added tracks, i.e., the Taylor solo sides. That way, those having copies of the original release can continue to regard it as a collector's item.

A San Francisco nightclub launched one of the most exciting bands to come out the Northwest. Tommy Chong and Bobby Taylor formed Four N*ggers & a Ch*nk from Little Daddy & the Bachelors, who originated from the Shades, a Calgary/Edmonton-based group. Little Daddy & the Bachelors recorded a couple singles, including "Too Much Monkey Business" out of Vancouver, British Columbia.

The offensive name killed the fan base that Little Daddy & the Bachelors had built. It's unclear whether Bobby Taylor was a member of the Bachelors -- Tommy Milton, Donald Mallory, Chong, and Wes Henderson -- but he was with the latter group who changed their name weekly around the same theme: Four Coloured Fellas and a Chinese Lad...Four N's and a C, before settling on Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. The original Vancouvers, in addition to Chong and Taylor, were Wes Henderson (guitar), Robbie King (keyboards), Ted Lewis (drums), and Eddie Patterson (bass).

They rebuilt their fan base by doing spirited, rockish versions of Motown hits. Jimi Hendrix played with them at one point for a year (prior to his stint with the Isley Brothers), mainly at Seattle's Black and Tan Club, but was fired because his solos were too long and loud. Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard heard the band when they played at Chong and Taylor's after-hours joint, the Elegant Parlor in Vancouver; Berry Gordy was contacted and the group signed with the hot recording company. It turned out to be a horrible mistake, but if they hadn't, would they have ever emerged from the Northwest?

Taylor was a veteran when he inked with Motown in 1967, he was born February 18, 1934, making him 33 at the time of the signing. In Washington, D.C., he grew up in a public housing project and sang doo wops with friends on the street corners, sometimes joined by a tall, skinny kid named Marvin Gaye. Taylor's father was a full-blooded Native American and his grandfather, who had a singing group, was Puerto Rican. The Taylors knew all the musicians and their home was used as a resting place and motel for many artists who came through the district.

Taylor and friends traveled to Brooklyn, New York -- the Fort Green Projects -- to doo wop with locals who became Little Anthony & the Imperials and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, but nothing happened until he migrated west and connected with Chong.

Motown got Bobby & the Vancouvers' name out there, but things were never right. They suffered the same indignation as the Isley Brothers and were viewed as carpetbagging, newcomers, and were ignored, by Taylor's account, by "90 percent of the artists." And to add salt to an open wound: Johnny Bristol didn't like Tommy Chong, who was married with a kid and a die-hard pot smoker. Taylor left the group sometime after the first album, which contained their hit "Does Your Mama Know About Me" (number 29, 1968), and two lesser smoothies: "Malinda" and "I Am Your Man." The Vancouvers were reduced to backing blue-eye soul singer Chris Clark on gigs. A Canadian, Chong needed green cards for himself and the bass player and was fired by Clark (actually Bristol) when he left in the middle of a gig for a green card interview.

Taylor "discovered" the Jackson 5, who were billed with him for a ten-day stint at Chicago's Regal Theater. He took them back to Detroit and put them up in his apartment while he prepped them for an audition with Motown. He was living in a mostly lily-white apartment building at the time, and when management saw all the little black kids running around, they kicked Taylor and the Jacksons out.

Motown released his solo album, Taylor Made Soul, on Gordy; a good album that met with disinterest. Some of its titles, however ("I've Been Blessed," "Don't Be Afraid," "Out in the Country," and "Eleanor Rigby"), were bona fide. A second album was reportedly recorded but never issued.

The Jacksons passed their audition with distinction and Taylor was busy flying to Los Angeles to record them. His productions with the J5, except for some tracks that appeared on their debut album, were shelved for years. Taylor cut mostly old soul tunes with them to demonstrate their singing skills. But Berry Gordy wanted a contemporary sound that would cross over to all segments, so he created the Corporation with Deke Richards, Fonce Mizelle, Freddie Perren, Taylor, and himself. Taylor worked on the first three Jackson 5 hits, but got no credit. He was out by 1970; according to many, Taylor was a bear to get along with. The Jackson 5 situation caused IRS problems for Taylor and he subsequently sued Motown for unpaid royalties, won the suit, but supposedly never got paid.

Tommy Chong hooked up with Cheech Marin and the two became comedians and actors who glorified marijuana use. The rest of the Vancouvers continued in bands and worked day jobs. After Motown, Taylor recorded for Epic, Playboy, and Philadelphia International Records (never issued); none were as successful as his Motown releases.

He developed throat cancer and relocated to Columbus, Ohio, where he lived with his mother for years before returning west and settling in the San Jose, California area. He was part of Ian Levine's near 900-track Motorcity project, cutting one of the Britisher's best songs and tracks -- "Cloudy Day," a stupendous ballad. He formed Bobby Taylor & the New Vancouvers and reportedly performed occasional gigs in the San Jose area. Later, Taylor moved to Hong Kong, where he set up a production company and also performed. He died in Hong Kong in July of 2017.

Little Daddy & the Bachelors tracks -- featuring Tommy Chong's rock guitar licks -- can be heard on Northwest Killers, Vol. 2: Shout (1964-1965), which includes "Come on Home," and Real Gone Aragon, Vol. 1, which features "Junior's Jerk" and "Too Much Monkey Business." Another track, "Valley of Tears," has been compiled elsewhere.

A marvelous but underrated collection by Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers, one of the few mixed groups to record for Motown. Tommy Chong, later of Cheech & Chong fame, was a member and co-wrote their biggest record, "Does Your Mama Know About Me," a song about an interracial relationship. Though their biggest hit was a ballad, they built their reputation by singing spirited live versions of Motown and soul classics. Bobby's tenor dripped with soul, as his crooning on Ashford & Simpson's "I Am Your Man" attests. "Malinda," one of Smokey Robinson's catchiest songs, will have you singing along with the chorus. A good version of the Temptations' "Fading Away" and the Fantastic Four's "You Gave Me Something" will have you finger-snapping and hand-clapping.

Ballin' Jack - 1973 - Special Pride

Ballin' Jack
Special Pride

01. This Song 2:38
02. Come Up Front 2:48
03. Good Feeling 3:35
04. Sunday Morning 3:34
05. Big Dealer 3:30
06. Thunder 3:22
07. Try To Relax 5:03
08. Two Years 5:59
09. Carry Me Back 3:00
10. Special Pride 6:50

Bass, Lead Vocals – Luther Rabb
Congas – King Errisson
Drums, Percussion, Vibraphone, Vocals – Ronnie Hammon
Guitar, Mandolin – Glenn Thomas
Harmonica – Tommy Morgan
Keyboards – Mike Lang
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Vocals – Jim Coile
Synthesizer, Horns – Jimmie Haskell
Trombone, Vocals – Tim McFarland
Vibraphone – Victor Feldman

The opener "This Song" comes in a casual pop-rock garb, but already the second number works right. Popping bass, brass sections, fuzzy organ, pounding rhythm, screaming lead guitar - what more could you want. "Good Feeling" with its tricky rhythm and transparent production clings into the ear canal, "Sunday Morning" captivates with bongos (naturally play a bigger role here) and saxophones, you feel transported back to the good old days of "Detective Rockford" and "The Streets of San Francisco". One must not forget that the really great times of the fuzzy radio should come yet. Accordingly, some songs on this album still seem strangely awkward and unpolished. Also missing now and then the one or other igniting beat or even a catchy melody. Does not do anything. Ballin'jack delivers a solid album without spectacular highlights. If one can still hear good today, but whether a purchase is still worthwhile, the individual case should decide.

Even closer to WAR in style. Luther has finally become the leader of the band, after Jim Walter's departure. Tim McFarland's input is minimal, in fact he's on his way out of the band. Musically, Special Pride is something new for Ballin 'Jack. For the first time, we hear harmonica on some tracks, like "This Song" and "Try To Relax". Not to mention some female (?) Backing vocals on things like "Sunday Morning" and "Special Pride". But there are plenty of good moments here, like the powerful opening jam on "Try To Relax", the acoustic thing on "Two Years", the proto-Dixieland style on "Carry Me Back", and the classic title track itself.

The biggest problem here is that the opener is flat-out awful. But my god ... do you know how close "Come Up Front" is to hip hop? I mean, seriously, the first fifteen seconds of that track could conceivably be the beginning of a showbiz and AG track. 

And there are more guitars here and less flute. And the fonk is harder here, but not diminished. And that title track! Hoo man.

Find this!

Ballin' Jack - 1972 - Buzzard Luck

Ballin' Jack 
Buzzard Luck

01. So Do I 5:05
02. Good Man 2:38
03. (Come 'Round Here) I'm The One You Need 3:36
04. Stay Awhile 3:08
05. Trouble 3:29
06. Telling Lies 3:45
07. Country Pine 3:33
08. Playin' The Game 2:26
09. You And Me 3:10
10. Bye,Bye,Bye 7:03

Bass, Lead Vocals – Luther Rabb
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Ronnie Hammon
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Glenn Thomas
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Backing Vocals – Jim Coile
Trombone, Piano, Backing Vocals – Tim McFarland
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Lead Vocals – Jim Walters
Really good jazzy rock stuff.  The stand out tracks for me are "Contry Pine" and "Stay Awhile". 

I love these bands that have both black and white players, lots of members, facial hair, horn sections, a flute and somewhere maybe some bongos.  This combination can normally only lead to excellent soulful jazzy rock.  See also "Stuff" for this combination.

Ballin' Jack - 1970 - Ballin' Jack

Ballin' Jack 
Ballin' Jack

01. Found A Child 2:44
02. Super Highway 2:42
03. Festival 4:31
04. Telephone 2:09
05. Only A Tear 2:18
06. Never Let 'Em Say 2:46
07. Street People 2:03
08. Carnival 6:14
09. Ballin' The Jack 1:52
10. Hold On 6:38

Bass, Lead Vocals – Luther Rabb
Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals – Ronnie Hammon
Guitar, Backing Vocals – Glenn Thomas
Saxophone, Flute, Clarinet, Backing Vocals – Jim Coile
Trombone, Piano, Backing Vocals – Tim McFarland
Trumpet, Flugelhorn, Lead Vocals – Jim Walters

Ballin’ Jack was formed in Seattle by former childhood friends Luther Rabb and Ronnie Hammon. Both of them had gone to school with and been friends with Jimi Hendrix at the city’s Garfield High School.  In the early 60s Luther Rabb played around the NW with several moderately successful outfits on the teen and R&B circuits.   He had even played saxophonist alongside Jimi Hendrix’s in The Velvetones, the first band Hendrix had been involved in.  Ronnie Hammon was a drummer who’d also backed a few Seattle bands-none of them particularly notable.  

In 1967 Rabb and Hammon decided to form their own band.  Rabb, a multi-accomplished musician would leave the saxophone behind and switch to bass guitar.  Hammon continued drumming, thus forming a strong rhythm section.  Almost immeadiately they added Jim Coile on flute and Tim McFarland on trombone. A bit later Jim Walters would come onboard as their saxophonist and Glen Thomas providing the lead guitar.  The name Ballin’ Jack has obscure origins.  It could be based on “Ballin’ the Jack” a 1913 song written by Jim Burris and  Chris Smith.  It could refer to the and the ensuing dance that became popularized by the song.  The expression “Ballin’ the Jack” also has ties to railroad workers who used the expression “to go full speed”.  But the band’s use of the shortened expression probably was chosen for one of two other reasons.  Sometimes the term “ballin’ the jack” implied having a great time.  There’s certainly enough examples of the expression being used in film, on Broadway and popular music….but sometime he meaning was (literally) deep, full-on sex.  Blues great Big Bill Broonzy sang in “Feel So Good”

There’s several ways to interpret the term, but “ballin the jack” was an expression often used in jazz and blues circles to mean deep, full and fast sex.  It may be this veiled, slang reference is the meaning the band intended their name to represent.

Ballin’ Jack found themselves moving to Los Angeles, living in a large house cum-home studio near the Sunset Strip.  Although all of the members had put plenty of time paying dues, their signing to Columbia Records and tour success came almost immediately, partly due to the encouragement of their old friend Jimi Hendrix.  One key to their success is that Ballin’ Jack had been formed not only as a soulful funk unit, but also as one of the “horn bands” that were popular on the fringe of pop music in the late 60s and early 70s.  They found themselves treading the waters of both James Brown and Sylvester Stone along with bands like WAR, Pacific Gas and Electric, Cold Blood, Tower of Power and other rock bands featuring horns that were arising from on the West Coast.  Obviously the most successful of these bands was the more commercial Chicago Transit Authority-later shortened to Chicago-from the Windy City

Many of these bands had begun creating a new hybrid of soul, jazz, funk with strong horn sections. They also followed the current (at the time) move to integrate multi-ethinic players into their line-up. Ballin’ Jack could be counted among this new genre, and their rise had been quick, but Ballin’ Jack they only found modest success outside the Northwest and Bay Area of being an incredibly tight and incredibly well-loved live act.  They played the college circuit, auditoriums  like the Fillmore West and the Fillmore East and a myriad of rock festivals.  In 1970 Billboard Magazine proclaimed

“Ballin Jack’s’ reputation was that live their shows were so good that fans were known to have left afterwards, and that some headliners had actually refused to have them again as an opening act”.

Unfortunatly none of this translated into the kind of album sales and radio play they deserved. The band only lasted five years, but not before becoming a reliable touring draw and Jimi Hendrix insisting they be included as openers for several of his 1970 Cry of Love tour. After .Hendrix’s death that year they would continue to share bills with the likes of B.B. King, Spirit, Elton John, Sly and The Family Stone, The Kinks, and more of the most famous artists of their day.  They even found themselves playing two of America’s most venerated small clubs, The Bottom Line in New York City, and The Troubador in Los Angeles.  The band also played two separate sold-out dates in their hometown, at Seattle’s Paramount Theater in 1973 and 1974 respectively.  In 1973 Ballin’ Jack were featured on Burt Sugarman’s prestigious late-night show The Midnight Special.  One thing that distinguished the show was that bands played live in the TV studio.  No lip-synching.  No backing tracks.  Of course, Ballin’ Jack tore the place up.

In 1974 Ballin’ Jack called it quits due to poor album and single sales, and the band’s running it’s natural course. Co-founder Luther Rabb went on to tour as vocalist with Santana in 1976.  He then began working with Lola Falana and in 1977 released his own solo album Street Angel. Throughout the early to mid 1980’s Rabb was the bass player for

In 1986 Rabb was involved in a serious automobile accident that left him with nerve damage-consequently ending his career as a bassist.  At that point Rabb moved on to management and production until, sadly, he was left paralyzed by a stroke in 2002.  Eventually Rabb died in 2006, but he’s still recognized for his incredible talents in Ballin’ Jack,  Santana, and WAR.  He had kept close contacts with friends and musicians in the Seattle area, where his passing also had a great effect.

Although Ballin’ Jack never found the audience they should have in the 70s it’s ironic that since the band’s demise their music has been used in TV and Radio ads for the ESPN X Games and Found A Child was re-recorded in 2005, by Kon & Amir” and released as 12? vinyl for sale to hip-hoppin’ live DJ’s.    The Beastie Boys also sampled Ballin’ Jack’s  “Never Let ‘Em Say” on their album Paul’s Boutique.  Their music has also been sampled by Ozamatli, Gang Starr and DoubleXX Posse Cheetah Girls .  Their most famous and most heavily sampled Found A Child was used liberally on Young MC’s international hit, Bust A Move.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wilton Gaynair - 1960 - Africa Calling

Wilton Gaynair 
Africa Calling

01. Kingston By Pass 6:01
02. Blue Ghana 5:51
03. The Way You Look Tonight 9:36
04. Just For Jan 5:20
05. Rianyag 8:48
06. Africa Calling 8:32

Bass – Jeff Clyne
Drums – Bill Eyden
Piano – Terry Shannon
Tenor Saxophone – Wilton "Bogey" Gaynair
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ellsworth "Shake" Keane (tracks: 2, 4, 6)

Unreleased album that follow up to the "Blue Bogey" album on Tempo.
Recorded at IBC Studios, London, June 1960.

Jamaican tenor saxophonist Wilton "Bogey" Gaynair, whose passionate double-barrelled playing (and take no prisoners technical facility) illuminated the British hard bop scene in the late '50s, is today more or less forgotten. He made one headlong charge of an album, Blue Bogey, in '59, before disappearing into obscurity (or to be precise, into Germany, which at the time amounted to the same thing). He resurfaced for a short while in the early '80s with Kenny Wheeler and Alan Skidmore in Third Eye, before returning to steady, but internationally uncelebrated work in Germany.
Yet if either Blue Bogey or its followup, Africa Calling—the latter now released for the first time ever, since the original commissioning label Tempo went bust shortly after the sessions—had been recorded for Blue Note, they'd be sitting alongside the Dexter Gordon and Jazz Messengers classics in your collection today, Rudy Van Gelder would have made a remaster, and Mosaic would have put together The Complete Blue Note Sessions Of Wilton Gaynair. They really are that good.

Like its predecessor, Africa Calling is a cannon blast of uncompromising hard bop, out of Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas via R&B and the blues. The closest thing to a ballad is the merely mid-tempo "Rianyag"; every other track is a rush of big-boned bravura tenor. Even "The Way You Look Tonight," a ten-minute joust between Gaynair and a spectral Illinois Jacquet, and the only non-original on the album, is taken at a pace. The rhythm section is deeply and astonishingly soulful; pianist Terry Shannon was in '60 the local contemporary equivalent to Horace Silver and Sonny Clark, and his playing is as exuberant and alive as Gaynair's. But it's Gaynair who is centre stage most of the time, and he roars and soars from start to finish.

Gaynair, who died in '95, was an alumnus of Kingston's famed Alpha Boys School, along with Joe Harriott and Dizzy Reece and ska stylists Don Drummond, Rico Rodriguez and Cedric "Im" Brooks. On leaving Alpha, he started his career solidly on the good foot, working with Ossie Williams in a forerunner to Count Ossie & The Mystic Revelation Of Rastafari, before moving to Europe in '55.

There isn't a trace of reggae on Africa Calling, but there is a heap of blues, roots and passion. A masterpiece, restored to us at last.

Wilton Gaynair - 1959 - Blue Bogey

Wilton Gaynair 
Blue Bogey

01. Wilton's Mood 6:07
02. Deborah 4:04
03. Joy Spring 9:14
04. Rhythm 5:17
05. Blues For Tony 7:25
06. The Way You Look Tonight 7:12

Bass – Kenny Napper
Drums – Bill Eyden
Piano – Terry Shannon
Tenor Saxophone – Wilton Gaynair

Recorded London, August 26, 1959

Jamaica in the 1950s and '60s produced many great jazz musicians. The list includes Monty Alexander, Don Shirley, Harold McNair, Montego Joe, Dizzy Reece and Ralph McDonald. But the list is long, and there were many others with whom you may be less familiar. One of them is Wilton “Bogey" Gaynair, a mighty tenor saxophonist with a slippery-smokey feel reminiscent of Gene Ammons and Lucky Thompson. When you hear Gaynair, you'll find you're immediately taken by the size of his sound and how easily and lyrically he moved around on the instrument. There are no wasted notes, and all of his improvised lines tell a story.

Surprisingly, Gaynair recorded only three leadership albums. His first was Blue Bogey for the British Tempo label in August 1959, with Terry Shannon (p) Kenny Napper (b) and Bill Eyden (d). Like many Jamaican jazz musicians of the period, Gaynair learned his trade in Kingston backing touring Americna musicians such as George Shearing and Carmen McRae.

Gaynair was a student at Jamaica's Alpha Boys School, where Harold McNair and a number of other jazz arists were students. Like many Jamaican jazz musician looking for greater work opportunities, Gaynair left Kingston for Europe in 1955, bypassing the U.S. My guess is that his decision had much to do with the sizable pool of jazz greats, the daunting task of finding work in a crowded market, and fears of American segregation and civil rights strife.

Gaynair settled in Germany to be centrally located for gigs. Two of his three albums were recorded in London during visits there—Blue Bogey in 1959 and Africa Calling in 1960. His third album, Alpharian, was recorded in Cologne, German, in 1982.

While in Germany, Gaynair played with Gil Evans, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Parlan, Bob Brookmeyer, Mel Lewis and others passing through Europe on tour. In 1983, Gaynair suffered a stroke that kept him from playing the saxophone. He died in 1995.

This is a lost gem by an obscure tenor sax player from Jamaica. Gaynaire moved to Germany in 50s and played in local clubs there regularly, and also played with some american jazz player who visited Germany. But Gaynaire recorded sporadically, only ever led 2~3 recording sessions. This one has been out of print for many years, never CD reissued out of Japan. 

Gaynair's warm tone lit slowly in the air like the smoke, the obscure but swinging piano trio fits in with perfectly. This record would be finest spinned in an lonesome midnight, memory bag opens as the music started only for the good times, fresh and dynamic. 

Be sure to grab it as one day it comes out again.

Pharoah Sanders - 1990 - Moon Child

Pharoah Sanders 
Moon Child

01. Moon Child 8:07
02. Moon Rays 6:10
03. The Night Has A Thousand Eyes 12:17
04. All Or Nothing At All 9:23
05. Soon 5:29
06. Moniebah 10:43

Bass – Stafford James
Drums – Eddie Moore
Percussion – Cheikh Tidiane Fale
Piano – William Henderson
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Vocals – Pharoah Sanders

Recording: October 12 and 13, 1989
Recording studio: Studio Davout, Paris, France

Pharoah Sanders: Moonchild
Published 10/01/2000 
By Tom Terrell

To all of us nappy-headed water babies of the ’70s-college-types, freaks, militants, Afroculturalists-Pharoah Sanders was the greatest tenor saxophone player in the world. Sure we checked for Sonny, ‘Trane and Wayne, but they weren’t being played on the WHUR-FMs of the inner cities-Pharoah was. Folk today will never experience the rush of hearing “The Creator Has a Master Plan” segued between Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You” and the O’Jays’ “Ship Ahoy.” The fact that an avant-garde sax cat, prone to wailing, screaming and trilling, and Leon Thomas, a blues singer with a wicked pygmy yodel, could take that and other spirit-cosmic-rhythm-divine-out jammies to the morning/noon drive rotation was beyond cool. Tenor sax-wielding, dashiki-sporting, black-pop revolutionary-Pharoah was The Man.

Pharoah flashback: Fall 1969. One of my Howard professors, Acklyn Lynch, invited me over to his crib. He started talking about the “New Thing”-Archie Shepp, Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman-cats I had never heard of. He said they were playing the same things that Amiri Baraka and the Panthers were saying: It’s Nation Time. “Ummm, yeah, can I have some more of this wine?” I asked (it wasn’t nothin’ like Boones Farm). Acklyn smiled, flipped on a record and said, “Listen to this and you’ll begin to understand.” The record opened up with some of that patented ‘Trane-African shamanism: celestial piano, bells, shakers. I was blasé at first, then some kinda emotional déjà vu catharsis happened. I was shaken. I picked up the album cover and said, “Pharoah Sanders, Tauhid. Who is this guy?” Acklyn said, “He used to play with Coltrane.”

“Can we talk?” I ask Pharoah Sanders.

“OK, long as we don’t get into the John Coltrane thing,” laughs Master P. “I don’t know what I can say, that’s all over with.”

For the few who don’t have a clue: Pharoah played with ‘Trane in his final years, 1965-67. He catches mad wreck on Live in Japan. Everybody expected Pharoah to become the new Coltrane; he wasn’t and still isn’t interested. How about some stuff ya don’t know?

“I wanted to be a painter. When I was in high school, I was the school artist and all that stuff. I got into music late, around about 15 to start, y’know, playing in the school marching band,” says the former Farrell Sanders.

Historians take note: The most inspirational/influential person in Sanders’ jazz life was not J.C. but the cat who made him put down the brush. “Jimmy Cannon, a great trumpet player and teacher, started me out on the flute-a-phone.” Remember the flute-a-phone? It was a white plastic piccolo thingie that smelled/tasted like dog poop; most kids lost the desire to play an instrument after blowing a flute-a-phone. What got young Farrell hooked on music was the measure of the man teaching it. “You know how some people just come in the room and everybody can feel that person being really very kind and positive? He’s that kind of person. Everybody in the school, whether they were into music or not, they respected him. He had that kind of love. He wasn’t the uppity-uppity type of teacher-a very down-to-earth kind of person. Very like a religious person. He was a very intelligent man trying to do the right thing.”

Today, the term role model is a hollow social construct, but back in the day, a straight-up, educated black man like Jimmy Cannon was a griot/mentor/father figure to the community yout’. Cannon musta been like a very hip Shaolin priest, ’cause young grasshopper got busy.

“I was playing the cymbals in the marching band and I went from that to a look at the drums and from there to the clarinet, the alto saxophone and the baritone saxophone. I began playing blues gigs around in my hometown in Arkansas; most times the jobs would ask for tenor. So that’s what I did-I played the tenor saxophone a lot in the earlier days.”

Pharoah flashback: Howard University, Cramton Auditorium, Nov. 1971. Joe Bonner, Cecil McBee, Norman Connors, Lawrence Killian (piano, bass, drums, congas, respectively) are whipping up a maelstrom, Pharoah-Afro, black dashiki-steps to the mike. He exhales a rising torrent of banshee wails, unsettling screams, guttural cries. Saliva dripping from the mouthpiece, Pharoah busts, “I got the blues!”

Post-high school, Pharoah went to college for a minute to study art, then split to Oakland, Calif., in 1960 and formed a straightahead band.

“We was called the Oakland Raiders,” laughs Pharoah. “We come in a joint and they said, ‘Uh-oh, here comes these guys, they play very free.’ But we played all other things too. Tunes like ‘Confirmation,’ all the ballads along with that. People were kind of surprised ’cause we did everything; it was no one kind of thing that we just try to do.”

In ’61, Pharoah was introduced to John Coltrane in a San Francisco pawnshop-they were both looking for mouthpieces. In 1962, Sanders hit New York City. It didn’t take him long to understand that there ain’t no pity in the naked city.

“I was homeless for about two-and-a-half years. I walked around here in New York City for a long time just survivin’. I gave blood, I stayed at the Y, I went down to the Village and hung out. Somebody gave me a job playing in a club for $10 a night. I didn’t have any clothes, but they had a lot of tuxedos backstage [laughs]! Then I got this job working at a cafeteria-the Playhouse there on MacDougal-downstairs in the basement cooking. I didn’t get no salary, but I just ate free anyway. I played mostly in Brooklyn, the majority of gigs paying $10 a night, some of ’em $15, never did get to $20. At that time my rent where I was staying was about $46 a month. I had to pay the rent, it seems like I was pawning things to pay the rent mostly ’cause I wasn’t workin’ or nothin’.”

But like Yogi Berra sez, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over”: ESP Disk released Pharoah’s First album in ’64. A year later, he was rolling with ‘Trane-but we ain’t going there, remember?

Pharoah flashback: Oct. ’77, midnight booty call. Says she’s got a jazz record she wants me to hear. Cool. Candles lit, incense burning, she walks over to the box, tosses me the cover (Pharoah Sanders, Love Will Find a Way, produced by Norman Connors…hmmm), drops the needle on the record. It’s Pharoah’s horn, but it’s kinda…Grover-y. Then Phyllis Hyman comes in…ree-dick-a-lus. “I love this album,” she says. Ah, me too.

“At the time, that was back in the late ’70s, I wasn’t signed with a big company,” explains Sanders. “Norman Connors, another drummer who used to work with me occasionally, he asked me was I on contract, did I want to do something. He liked most of my tunes he heard me play, but I told him for me to really get back out there, I need me a very sexy singer. I didn’t like using that term, but I had to tell him that way. A very sexy singer, somebody who could really put it all in it. That’s when he called Phyllis Hyman.” Love Will Find a Way became a quiet storm classic, sold pretty well, revived Hyman’s career and positioned Pharoah as heir-apparent to Grover Washington Jr.’s throne. He wasn’t having it. “I told ’em, ‘No, I ain’t gonna be that way, it’s either me or else.’ You know, you have somebody be trying to get you to sound like, look like, what somebody else is doing. I refused that. Another company, Capitol, asked me the same thing about doing something like Grover Washington, but I wasn’t ready to go that far commercial. I haven’t made an album like that in a long, long time or since [laughs]. I wouldn’t mind doing something like that again, but like I said, record companies they don’t want to pay, then I’m not going to play. I’d be ready for that, but they got to be ready, too.”

In the early ’80s, Sanders released a series of underrated albums (Journey to the One, Rejoice, Heart Is a Melody) on Theresa, a small Oakland-based jazz label. Self-produced, wildly eclectic-R&B pop tunes, Eastern motifs, free blowouts, tender ballads side-by-side-the Theresa recordings reveal a looser, more resourceful, emotionally nuanced, open-eared player. Inexplicably, the albums went cutout stateside, satisfying neither the Karma crew nor the Love junkies. Overseas was another story. Pharoah was rocking festivals, concert halls and opera houses, from Paris to Tokyo, the Theresa sides influencing the soon-come generation of acid jazz DJs, bands and clubbers. His iconic status was certified.

Looking around for a major label deal, Sanders signed with Bill Laswell’s Island-distributed Axiom label. Perhaps the only label owner in America as musically outré as the saxophonist, Laswell let him record whatever/wherever he wanted. In ’94, Sanders journeyed to Morocco to record with Gnawa master Maleem Mahmoud Ghania. The Trance of Seven Colors is an extraordinary album: spiritual, sensual, otherworldly, elemental. It gets you way open. The experience profoundly affected Pharoah as well.

“It really helped me to mold my voice a whole lot better on my saxophone sound. It’s almost like when you play a note on the saxophone and you’re thinking that note [doesn’t sound] like a saxophone. You’re thinking of it more as a string instrument; either a string or either a fluted type of sound, more like an Indian type of sound. What I’ve been trying to do is make my horn sound like a sitar. So you don’t think about notes at all. It’s kind of an inner thing that I do.”

Pharoah flashback: S.O.B.’s club in NYC, one night in ’95. Pharoah and the band are kicking some mean Afro-calypso ballistics. It’s only the second tune and the New York Times critic (enemy of “free” players everywhere) is already giving the gas face. A Verve publicist walks over, grabs his notepad and pen. She tells him, “Look, you don’t have to review the show. Just take the night off.”

“Well, you know, I always love to have some kind of basic something-a melody or something to feed off-as the skeleton. You have to play a little bit longer than what most guys play, the time that they play. You play just a little short time you just might repeat yourself a lot, y’know? I make a note just play and keep playing-it’s all about the spirit. My playing was still sort of like inside but my thing was trying to find other ways to express myself. I’m searching this way, that way, but it’s like organized.”

In the ’90s, a whole new generation was cramming to understand Pharoah’s point of view: college radio fave, groove underground icon, hip-hop sample source. He recorded two of the decade’s greatest jazz albums (Crescent With Love, Message From Home) and clocked more tour miles and skrilla than the good ol’ days. Hard to believe that Pharoah got dropped by Verve as a casualty of the MCA acquisition of Polygram a year before the millennium. He’s got a brilliant new band-Spirit, with Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake on drums and percussion-with a new record [see sidebar].

Pharoah Sanders is featured on another album, Africa N’da Blues (Delmark), with percussionist Kahil El’Zabar’s Ritual Trio, including bassist Malachi Favors and pianist Ari Brown.

“I mean, who doesn’t want to do anything with Pharoah?” says a still-buzzing El’Zabar. “In terms of the spirituality associated with this music that I think Pharoah has emulated, and he has been a very good example in terms of the progressions of ‘Trane, and the idea that we as musicians are in service to that spirit. If I couldn’t play with ‘Trane in my life, I hope I’ve had the honor to at least do a thing with Pharoah.”

The Ritual Trio’s unconditional love is rewarded with some of the most fervent solos brotha’ man has ever put to tape (check him shredding hard chromatics on “Miles’ Mode”). Genuinely humbled by the praise, Pharoah simply replies, “Really, you think so, huh? It was all [El’Zabar’s] tunes. He allowed me to look at it just like it was my tunes. So I did the best that I could on it.”

On Oct. 14, Pharoah Sanders will be 60. With all that he has accomplished, no one would blame him if he opted to coast out on the legend tip. Fuhgeddaboutit.

“I don’t know what other musicians feel. My thing is trying to convey the most highest purification of music, sound and whatever there is. I’m not a person that’s gonna be on the bandstand and just be blowin’ [laughs]. I get very into it myself; it’s like a spiritual experience to me. I’m just gonna go on and play. It’s music from the heart. I have no other solution than to look at it that way.”

By this point in his career, Sanders had largely withdrawn from the kind of screeching avant-gardism on which he at first staked his reputation. The opening "Moon Child," with its attractively spacy vocals, is reminiscent of the days of "The Creator Has a Master Plan," but this version sounds too contrived to rival the classic earlier recording. The mood is subdued throughout and the choice of tunes definitely on the conservative side ("All or Nothing at All" and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes," among the six tracks). William Henderson is lovely on piano, while the drummer (Eddie Moore) and percussionist (Cheikh Tidiane Fale) keep to the quiet side. The results may have originally disappointed some of Sanders' fans, but with time the saxophonist clearly reinvented himself as a more traditional improviser capable of thoughtful and pensive deliberations.

Very smooth stuff indeed, but not so smooth it's bland, just a little soporific in places. Great percussion work form Cheikh Tidiane Fale, particularly on "Moon Rays", and as always Sander's sax work is rich, full and throaty. I really only got this album for the title track "Moon Child" which is very reminiscent of Leon Thomas' recordings, from his Flying Dutchmen years. I love that tune, and would have been happy to not give a toss for the rest of the album, but wasn't too displeased at all with it.

Pharoah Sanders - 1987 - Africa

Pharoah Sanders 

01. You've Got To Have Freedom 10:01
02. Naima 5:26
03. Origin 6:50
04. Speak Low 8:04
05. After The Morning 6:29
06. Africa 8:20

Bass – Curtis Lundy
Drums – Idris Muhammed
Piano – John Hicks
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders

Recorded 11th March 1987 at Studio 44, Monster, Holland.
LP released in late 1987 in The Netherlands and the CD in May 1988 in the rest of the world.

This is just another late-80s jazz album: clean sound, renewed appreciation for technical hard bop, and well-known standards included. "Africa" is a lot like "The Creator Has a Master Plan" and "Thembi", but with that clean 80s production. It's pretty accessible, also: you get the loudest part of the album out of the way in the first two seconds, as the overblown intro is more intense than any of the soloing on any tracks. Tracks 2-5 are pretty much hard bop, and particularly on "Speak Low" he sounds exactly like Coltrane. Wikipedia says this a tribute to John Coltrane, so that makes sense. Anyway, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone as an introduction to Sanders but if you're working your way through his albums this one's pretty enjoyable.

Pharoah Sanders delivers some of his usual avant-garde sound on saxophone, coaxing everything he can out of it, especially on the opening track 'You've Got To Have Freedom'. Africa is a mix of post bop and avant-garde jazz. It's a tribute to Sanders mentor John Coltrane, and Sanders sounds a bit like Coltrane sometimes, Sanders playing mostly his own compositions though, others are Coltrane compositions. If you like drummer Idris Muhammad he's on Africa as well, I seem to be drawn to lots of his stuff, including a few solo albums. Pianist John Hicks is good, not McCoy Tyner good, but you notice him a lot. Some of the tracks on this album suit a late night cocktail lounge, with only you drinking at the bar, you and your memories. Don't get confused by the album title Africa, it's the title of a Pharoah Sanders written piece, very typical avant-garde Sanders with chanting as an intro, then some smooth groove in the middle, a pretty cool over 8 minute track. A real smoky slower number 'Heart To Heart' shows Sanders can be subdued and romantic and John Hicks plays some beautiful jazz piano. The last track 'Duo' has one of my favourite drummers Idris Muhammad and Sanders jamming hot and heavy, just them, guess that's why this avant-garde track is called duo. So there you have it, a real split sound on this album but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Pharoah Sanders is a great explorer and his creative powers are quite apparent on Africa.

Pharoah Sanders & William Henderson - 1989 - A Prayer Before Dawn

Pharoah Sanders & William Henderson 
A Prayer Before Dawn

01. The Light At The Edge Of The World 5:00
02. Dedication To James W. Clark 5:05
03. Softy For Shyla 5:17
04. After The Rain 6:37
05. The Greatest Love Of All 8:16
06. Midnight At Yoshi's 5:52
07. Living Space 4:25

Drums – Alvin Queen \
Piano – John Hicks
Piano, Synthesizer – William Henderson
Sarod, Sarangi – Lyn Taussig
Tabla – Brian McLaughlin
Tenor Saxophone, Instruments – Pharoah Sanders

Recorded in 1987, A Prayer Before Dawn is one of Pharoah Sanders' gentle, reflective dates. Some jazz fans may cringe at his versions of "Christmas Song" and Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All," but the music displays a heartfelt spirituality as opposed to financial slickness. It is the opposite of Sanders' characteristic fire-breathing tenor of his Impulse days, but there is nobility in taking this tranquil direction; Sanders refuses to repeat himself. He demands you listen with open ears, dropping preconceived notions. For instance, unlike the adult contemporary direction taken by one-time free jazz tenor titan Gato Barbieri, this date doesn't sound like a polished commercial venture as much as a quiet, meditative one. The use of tabla, sarod, and chandrasarang adds to the session's spiritual nature.

There's a couple of high points on here, a beautiful melt in the mouth version of Coltrane's "Equinox", where Sanders hints at his wilder former sax style, but otherwise keeps it as hypnotically haunting as the original; and "Clear Out of This World" which is a lovely long drawn out piece with some fantastic piano work by William S. Henderson III. Otherwise this album didn't do too much for me, particularly the reggae tinged title track. Still the version of "Equinox" is so sublime its well worth investing in for that alone.

Pharoah Sanders - 1987 - Oh Lord Let Me Do No Wrong

Pharoah Sanders
Oh Lord Let Me Do No Wrong

01. Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong 5:35
02. Equinox 9:25
03. Polka Dots And Moonbeams 6:11
04. If It Wasn't For A Woman 4:39
05. Clear Out Of This World 13:45
06. Next Time You See Me 3:54

Bass – Tarik Shah
Drums – Greg Banoy
Electric Piano – Donald Smith
Piano [Acoustic] – William S. Henderson III
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders
Vocals – Leon Thomas

Recorded NYC - July 13, 1987

Pharoah Sanders is no doubt a musician who has had a rough time escaping his own legacy. Known for pushing John Coltrane to his most "out" heights and for free/spiritual jazz blowouts of stunning power and ferociousness ("Karma"), Sanders settled down a bit as he got older. Not in terms of his playing, he maintained a fire and energy to that, but in his music. His forms settled down and he began exploring ballads, standards, and the like. The result of this has been a mixture of brilliance and frustration. It seems at times as though Sanders isn't really feeling what he's playing.

Thankfully, his late '80s reunion with vocalist Leon Thomas, who sung on so many of Sanders' early great records, "Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong", is not one of these albums. Sanders is in a sympathetic light, with his backing band supportive and expressive (particularly pianist William S. Henderson III). And Sanders is totally on fire, particularly on the cuts Thomas joins the band-- the reggae-ish title track (where the vocalist and the saxophonist push each other), goofy blues "If It Wasn't For a Woman", and blues standard "Next Time You See". Sanders comes roaring in ways he hadn't in decades upon Thomas' declaration-- "tell 'em about it, Pharoah!". Fierce and explosive, full of fire and nearly unhinged, its something to behold.

Likewise, Sanders seems to find both COltranes "Equinox" and the two standards he picked up ("Polka Dots and Moonbeans" and "Clear Out of This World") particularly inspiring, whether he's full of fire or balladry. He certainly is on a tear on Trane's theme.

Admittedly it's not quite "Karma" or any of those records, but it's certainly a good record. Highly recommended.

Pharoah Sanders - 1985 - Shukuru

Pharoah Sanders

01. Shukuru (Pharoah Sanders) 5:50
02. Body And Soul (Frank Eyton/Johnny Green/Edward Heyman/Robert Sour) 7:35
03. Mas In Brooklyn (Highlife) (Francisco Linger) 3:43
04. Sun Song (Leon Thomas) 6:07
05. Too Young To Go Steady (Harold Adamson/Jimmy McHugh) 5:25
06. Jitu (Pharoah Sanders) 5:47
07. For Big George (Pharoah Sanders/Leon Thomas) 8:01

Pharoah Sanders (Tenor Saxophone an Voice)
Leon Thomas (Vocals)
William Henderson (Piano and Voices)
Ray Drummond (Double Bass)
Idris Muhammad (Drums)

One of those albums you'd like to love more than you actually do, Pharoah Sanders' "Shukuru" is noteworthy as being the album that reunited Sanders with vocalist Leon Thomas, who sang on some of Sanders' most indearing and powerful compositions-- among them the legendary "The Creator Has a Masterplan".

Thomas actually only joins the band (William Henderson on keyboard, Ray Drummond on bass and Idris Muhammed on drums) on two tracks-- "Mas in Brooklyn (Highlife)" and "Sun Song". The former gets a full calyso reading complete with steel drum sounds and chanted vocals traded between Sanders and Thomas. It's a lot of fun, but by and large, throwaway. The latter is one of the true gems on the album-- a pretty ballad that serves as both a launching point for Sanders' best balladry and Thomas' vocal, with the latter soaring in his upper register wordlessly between verses intoned in his trademark baritone. It's by and large simply stunning.

The rest of the record has got its issues however, and by and large this comes in the part of Henderson's synthesizer-- while his piano tone is virtually indistinguishable from an acoustic piano, several tracks receive irritating synth vocals or strings (it's really hard to tell which, it's fairly indistinct and obnoxious), mangling otherwise fine performances of traditional tenor feature "Body and Soul", Sanders-penned "Jitu" (although admittedly the leader manages such a powerful solo it gets past it) and an absolutely breathtaking reading of "Too Young to Go Steady". In fact, were these synths absent, I suspect I'd think much higher of the album, but they're so intrusive they disturb my ability to enjoy this. At least opener "Shukuru" and closing funereal piece "For Big George" are spared this as the use of synths of them are far more tasteful (although one questions Sanders' choice to intone his wife's name over the former's smokey lines, but that's another story).

In the end, it's an album that comes from its era-- five stars if it didn't have irritating synths, Sanders is in top form and several of the pieces are superb.

An '80s session reuniting a great team from the '70s--vocalist Leon Thomas and tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. They don't take things as far outside as they did then, but still soar and glide while pianist William Henderson, bassist Ray Drummond, and drummer Idris Muhammad fill in underneath them. - by Ron Wynn, AMG

You can really tell once you start getting into the 80s that Pharaohs life has become more stable, or at very least the music. Instead of the mad-jungle'd explosions of pure emotion and sound, you get laid back chill jazz, and at the points where things get a bit more chaotic, it sounds as though you are within a mild communal festival. I would never consider this bad, but without a doubt nothing new or ground breaking. Which is OK for me, as Pharaoh has by this point already given Jazz plenty.

Pharoah Sanders - 1982 - Heart Is A Melody

Pharoah Sanders
Heart Is A Melody

01. Olé 22:13
02. On A Misty Night 7:32
03. Heart Is A Melody Of Time (Hiroko's Song) 7:32
04. Goin' To Africa (Highlife) 3:49
05. Naima 7:28
06. Rise 'N' Shine 15:07

Bass – John Heard
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Piano – William Henderson
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders

Recorded live on January 23, 1982 at Keystone Korner, San Francisco.

This 1982 session, live from Keystone Korner in San Francisco, is my personal favorite from Pharoah Sanders' sizeable discography. In the company of longtime pianist William Henderson, bassist John Heard and drummer Idris Muhammad, Sanders navigates a collection of jazz standards and original material with power and aplomb. The grand highlight is a 22-minute rendition of John Coltrane's "Ole" that peels the roof off the nightclub. Pharoah's solo exploration is the full embodiment of intensity. Every time you think he can't possibly blow any wilder, he shovels more coals onto the fire. Tadd Dameron's "On A Misty Night" and Coltrane's "Naima" receive tasteful interpretations, and a beautiful take on the old chestnut "Rise and Shine" shows that Sanders can still swing with the best. On the more exotic side is the fun-filled "Goin' To Africa", a hoot of a tune inspired by West African highlife music which features Sanders' gruff, boisterous vocals in interplay with the audience. "Heart Is A Melody Of Time" is a new look at Pharoah's classic "The Creator Has A Master Plan". Here the vocal section delivered so passionately by Leon Thomas on "The Creator..." is replaced by a new melody sung by a choir that includes Andy Bey. A nice balance of straight-ahead jazz blowing, world beats and the chaotic musical freedom that Sanders is (in)famous for. Highly recommended.

A great 1982 live album, from Keystone Korner in San Francisco. With pianist William Henderson, bassist John Heard and drummer Idris Muhammad. There's some original material by Sanders but the highlight is a 22-minute rendition of John Coltrane's "Ole" that is electrifying. Pharoah is known to go a little crazy and be a little intense and no different here, flames must be coming out of his sax. Pharoah also tackles Coltrane's "Naima" and does a fine job. There is an Afro beat feel to "Goin' To Africa", inspired by West African highlife music which features Sanders' unusual vocals, with the 'live' audience involved. There is a choir and, "The Creator Has A Master Plan" feel, to some original numbers, which makes me think of the great Sanders album 'Karma'. There is the usual wild freedom to Pharoah Sanders music as well, popping out all over the place, its never, ever boring.

Pharoah Sanders & Norman Connors - 1981 - Beyond a Dream

Pharoah Sanders & Norman Connors 
Beyond a Dream

01. Babylon 8:40
02. Beyond A Dream 10:23
03. Montreux Overture 4:35
04. The End Of The Beginning 4:55
05. Casino Latino 15:25

Congas – Lawrence Killian
Drums, Percussion – Norman Connors
Electric Bass – Alex Blake
Guitar – Greg Hill
Percussion – Petro Bass
Piano – Bobby Lyle
Piano, Keyboards – Billy McCoy
Saxophone, Flute – Buzzy Jones
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders
Trumpet – Duke Jones

Recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival July 1978

A dream of a record from this legendary spiritual jazz duo – drummer Norman Connors and reedman Pharoah Sanders – coming together in a freewheeling spiritual jazz style that's a lot more like Connors' earlier albums than the soulful fusion he was mostly recording in the late 70s! The album was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and features long-spinning tracks that step out nicely in a way that takes us back to Norman's Cobblestone Records years – no vocals at all, and instead some nicely expressive work from Pharoah Sanders on tenor, Bobby Lyle on acoustic piano, and Buzzy Jones on tenor, soprano sax, and flute. Lyle and Sanders drop out for two of the album's five tracks, but there's still a very unified, jazzy vibe to the record throughout 

Staggering jams executed with heart, precision and fiery intensity. Great music as it used to be. I'm afraid I know little about the historical facts, but the music goes way beyond speaking for itself. It manages to ignite as Pharoah, Norman, and the pianist and bassist all let it rip. Very nice and unjustly obscure. I can recommend this music very highly without the slightest reservation. It morphs through phases of intensity and mood. It is remarkable work by a brilliant ensemble of top caliber musicians. It should have a 'flammable' warning on the label!

Wow,  I waited a very long time to play this.  This has been sitting in my jazz crate queue for months and despite the players, I just never got around to slapping this one on the deck.  Mistake!  This is great,  and I'm not sure what I wuz thinking as most of Connors' jazz leaning efforts are also pretty great as well.  This puts Sanders in the same pocket and also front and center.  Befitting the legend,  he makes a lot of these his own adding enough of his trademark horn over the top of a nice spiritual groove.  Maybe it's that mainstream looking cover?   At any rate, don't let date or cover fool you, grab it if you like either of these gents.  '81 release, but this was recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in '78.

Pharoah Sanders - 1981 - Rejoice

Pharoah Sanders 

01. Rejoice 12:47
02. Highlife 7:37
03. Nigerian Juju Hilife 10:12
04. Origin 5:42
05. When Lights Are Low 6:42
06. Moments Notice 5:18
07. Central Park West 5:43
08. Ntjilo Ntjilo / Bird Song (Lullaby To A Child About A Canary) 4:40
09. Farah 5:29

Bass – Art Davis
Drums – Billy Higgins
Piano - Joe Bonner (tracks: A1 to B2, D2, D3)
Piano - John Hicks (tracks: C1 to D1)
Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders
Trombone – Steve Turre
Trumpet – Danny Moore

I came late to Sanders's music, a big mistake. I tend to steer clear of music where there seems to be a manifesto nailed to the album cover, the usual guff promising brighter days and a large dollop of cosmic super-awareness. Knowing a little of his contribution to Coltrane's final phase ('phase' now there's a word oft employed on message recordings) I decided that I'd leave his music to those more committed to that 'sound'.Only in the last couple of years have I delved into the Sanders canon. I went for 'Black Unity' first and liked it, 'Tauhid' had it's moments too.This recording has more or less confirmed for me that I prejudged this guy.The opening track 'Rejoice' starts with a cascade of percussion from none other than Elvin Jones and Bobby Hutcherson.When Elvin hits the skins the skins stay hit, so we know we are in for some percussive treats.Surprisingly then, the drums give way to an altogether lighter Brazilian tinged rhythm, which carries through to a female voice intoning 'Join Us In Peace and Love' before Pharoah comes in sounding hot and urgent- a lot like Coltrane around the time of 'Meditations'. There is a warmth and humanity that really comes through on this track, and like his former employer, Sanders is nothing if not sincere in his music making. The following two tracks offer a glimpse of the music of Nigeria and Ghana known as 'Highlife'. They move along nicely but I doubt that this is what fans of Sanders are here for. The next piece up is a beauty: 'Origin' features a killer melodic line done at a pace and with the sheer exuberance that recalls something like 'Countdown' from 'Giant Steps'. Sanders gets sterling support from Hutcherson, John Hicks on piano and notably pristine timekeeping from another drum great, Billy Higgins.By the time of this recording (1981) Sanders was back to playing changes based material again though it's kind of a surprise hearing the old Benny Carter warhorse 'When Lights Are Low', the guest soloists here are Danny Moore on muted trumpet and Steve Turre on trombone. The choice of this song seems to be a nod to Miles who liked to play this live and recorded it more than once.However Sanders steals it with his no-frills solo.There then follows the two tribute pieces to John William Coltrane;'Moments Notice' starts off with a vocalized treatment of the melody with some pretty trite lyrics that I could have done without but it's soon over then it's down to business with the tenor of Sanders and then later Bobby Hutcherson's vibes workout. A pity Hutcherson was five or so years too late on the scene to play on the original Blue Note date (an intriguing proposition). 'Central Park West' was always a favourite of mine, it's beautiful stately melody is done more than justice by the sounds Sanders conjures up, the backing vocals may not be to everyone's taste but I think they add something unexpected to a tune that gets played by every tenor on a CD at least once in a career.One thing I like about this album is the range of instruments, 'Ntjilo Ntjilo' is a lovely little piece for tenor sax, piano and harp and gives yet more room for Pharoah's muscular yet tender playing. The final track has the music pared down to just Sanders accompanied by the piano of Joe Bonner, ending the album in thoughtful fashion.
So we have a great avant gardiste getting his second wind in more mainstream material. His playing is magisterial throughout and for those who want a slightly different twist on over-familiar Coltrane material then this is one worth seeking out. The liner notes puts it best...'Walk with us, dance with us, sing with us, rejoice with us, Join us in peace and love'. That's one message even a cynic like me can't argue with.

Lovers of his famed tenor screech and deep spiritual grooves will find this album a little unsatisfying. But this is a whole decade away from when he was doing that kind of stuff, and I personally think he moved into the '80s higher gloss era very successfully. On top of that I personally think that the sun shines out of this guy's arse, so I'm a little biased in his favour.

Pharoah Sanders - 1981 - Live

Pharoah Sanders

01. You Got To Have Freedom 14:17
02. Easy To Remember 6:52
03. Blues For Santa Cruz 8:39
04. Pharomba 13:26
05. Doktor Pitt 21:34

Bass – Walter Booker
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Piano – John Hicks
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders

Tracks 1 & 2 recorded at The Maiden Voyage, Los Angeles from April 16-19 1981.
Tracks 3 & 4 recorded at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz on April 20 1981.
Track 5 recorded at the Great American Music Hall,San Francisco on April 12 1981.

Live is a great uplifting performance from Pharoah Sanders from his Theresa period. There's a nice long version of "You've Got To Have Freedom" on here, and even though its over fourteen minutes long, stays inspiring throughout. There's no real screechfest stuff on here, and even though I'm a nut for it didn't think any less of the album for its absence. Overall this is a great album, like the rest of the stuff he put out on Theresa, plus you've got Idris Muhammad on drums, which is always a very, very good thing.

Pharoah Sanders - 1980 - Journey To The One

Pharoah Sanders 
Journey To The One

01. Greetings To Idris 7:25
02. Doktor Pitt 12:03
03. Kazuko (Peace Child) 8:05
04. After The Rain 5:32
05. Soledad 4:53
06. You've Got To Have Freedom 8:03
07. Yemenja 5:32
08. Easy To Remember 6:22
09. Think About The One 4:11
10. Bedria 10:23

Bass – Ray Drummond
Drums – Idris Muhammad
Flugelhorn – Eddie Henderson
Koto – Yoko Ito Gates
Piano – Joe Bonner, John Hicks
Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders

My first exposure to Sanders was from John Coltrane’s final period. It was not a very good first impression. Trane had brought in Sanders as a second saxophone in 1965, a few months after recording A Love Supreme and it’s not a stretch to imagine that Sanders fit JC’s vision for a more abstract form of jazz: unattached from timekeeping and song structures and at times more violent. But Sanders’ job mostly seemed to be to sound as screeching and abrasive as possible; I was ready to grab a 12 gauge shotgun after hearing all those duck calls. McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones seemed to agree, as they both left the band by the end of the year.

But Pharoah’s own early post-Coltrane solo work showed much more depth and purpose in his playing, and while his side-long compositions were firmly in the avant garde camp, they were also very spiritual and melodic…harma-lodic, actually, and he found the right spots to alternate between turbulent and serene. Albums like Karma, Black Unity are all worth acquiring and along with the albums of that period by Coltrane’s widow Alice, these recordings represent the best extension of the later period Coltrane legacy.

As the seventies wound down Sanders had become something of an icon himself, even if it was only with the greatly diminished number of fans of the more challenging forms of jazz. After a turn toward the mainstream with Love Will Find A Way, Pharoah returned to all of his strengths for 1980’s Journey To The One.

Featuring our drumming champ Idris Muhammed behind the kit, Pharoah also enlisted other top tier performers for these sessions, including pianist John Hicks (who sadly passed away this past May), Flugelhorn player Eddie Henderson and bassist Ray Drummond.

Some highlights include:
“Greetings To Idris,” a theme is repeated over and over; lesser soloists would run out of ideas early, but keeping long solos compelling is one of Pharoah’s strong suits. Then the late John Hicks contributes a beautiful solo himself.

“Doktor Pitt” is a superb hard bop workout with Sanders sounding like Rollins before he notches up the intensity a bit and sounds very much like himself. Idris shines on the song’s last minute.

“Soledad” harkens back to those early solo records that were heavy on eastern influences; Pharoah plays serenely over tabla, sitar and Indian percussion.

“You Got To Have Freedom” is also vintage Pharoah in that it includes a vocal chorus chanting the song’s title and PS puts his trademark tenor rasp on fine display.

“Think About The One” is the low point of the album, a forgettable r&b crossover tune featuring some pretty irritating female lead vocals, but Sanders rights himself for the free flowing spiritual mood of the closing “Bedria”.

In all, this is a pretty accessible collection of tunes despite its inclusion in the Whack Jazz series; Pharaoh belongs here more on his reputation than the actual album being discussed. But it makes a neat entry point into the music of a living legend. From here, you can work backwards to those Impulse! classics of the late 60’s/early 70’s or ahead to his generally solid later releases. A much better introduction than the one I had.