Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Pharoah Sanders - 1972 - Live At The East

Pharoah Sanders 
Live At The East

01. Healing Song 21:43
02. Memories Of J. W. Coltrane 12:51
03. Lumkili 8:33

Bass – Cecil McBee, Stanley Clarke
Congas, Balafon [Bailophone] – Lawrence Killian
Drums – William Hart, Norman Connors
Flute, Voice – Carlos Garnett
Piano, Harmonium – Joseph Bonner
Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders
Tenor Saxophone, Voice – Harold Vic
Trumpet – Marvin Peterson

The Creator my Father, the Devine
Principle which flows thru me is All,
All that the Creator is I am...We are, We are We are.
I thank the Creator for undivided
Faith, for to have undivided Faith in
the Creator is to have undivided Faith in your self.
Self Love, Self Love, Self Love, is
Love for the Creator, love for the Creator
is Love for all, all your Brothers, and
Sisters. It is so easy to love your
Brothers and Sisters when you have love
for self, for you are, we are all One.
Look within, there is no need to
look back, or forward. Look within
you contain the knowledge of all Times
I thank The Creator for Universal
intelligent and Divine Wisdom. I ask
I give thanks and I receive, for I am.....

We are, We are.
I will Direct only Positive Vibrations
toward all my Brothers, and Sisters.
I will not accept Negative Vibrations,
I will not send out Negative Vibrations,
for to do so would dim the light
within me, which is the light of the
Creator I am, We are.
I have no energy to give to Negativism.
To give energy to Negative thought, and actions
is to receive Negative thoughts, and actions.
To give to receive, to give is to receive.
We Are All One.
Stop, Stop stepping back. Step in and
Be still and know God.
The Creator is All Love and Harmony.
There is no fear or Doubt in the Creator.
All we do is before the Creator.
For We Are, the Creator is All one.
-Pharoah Sanders

Yet another faultless recording Pharoah Sanders made in the early 70s. Live At The East is everything you want from a Pharoah Sanders record, it's very deep, incredibly spiritual, quite free and totally hypnotic. Stanley Clarke features on bass here, and because of that there is a certain amount of groove/funk that isn't normally present on his other Impulse recordings. Live At The East is most definitely a real high point in Pharoah Saunders already incredible early 70s catalogue. 

Bit of trivia - this album wasn't actually live at the East; Impulse literally relocated the regular crowd from the East to a recording studio to make this album. I can't be certain, but I'm pretty sure the only album out there that captures the true atmosphere of East is Alkebu-Lan (live at the East) by the Mtume Umoja Ensemble. Gary Bartz did play a lot at the East though, so he might have an album that was recorded there, but I can't be certain.

The creator has a master plan, and that is for Pharoah to kick it.

Pharoah Sanders - 1972 - Black Unity

Pharoah Sanders
Black Unity

01. Black Unity

Bass – Cecil McBee, Stanley Clarke
Congas, Talking Drum, Balafon – Lawrence Killian
Drums – William Hart, Norman Connors
Piano – Joe Bonner
Tenor Saxophone – Carlos Garnett
Tenor Saxophone, Balafon [Balophone] – Pharoah Sanders
Trumpet – Marvin Peterson

Biased opinion #1: Pharoah Sanders was the preeminent tenor saxophonist of the ’70s. In an America still reeling from political assassinations, human rights struggles, campus unrest, Vietnam, his gut-wrenching, cathartic wails and warrior fury were cauterizing balms to the collective psyche. 
Biased opinion #2: Sanders’ alchemic formula of Coltrane modals, African percussion, multi-tonics, blues mutations, yodels/tongues/spirits, focused chaos and mojo hands presaged the world music of the next decade. 
Biased opinion #3: 47 years after it was released, Black Unity is still the most prescient statement of cultural affirmation and solidarity that any musician (before or after) has ever transmuted to tape. 

Comprising of just the one title ttack, the album is a rollercoaster of a ride which has to be played loud, very loud.

Never mind the noise patrol, crank up the volume. Then enjoy the journey Sanders and his band takes you on. It’s a journey which  ‘sanders’ through the material and metaphysical worlds. Using instruments from around the globe – from Cuban drums to the Japanese Kato; the Sitar to the African drums; jazz to classical – Sanders creates a sound which is both exhilarating and profound. This is which shows black unity; shows the universal relationship of the black peoples of the world. His linking of the different cultures is a statement of the adherence to the Pan-Africanism politics which were emerging in the 1970’s following civil rights campaigns of the previous decade. This is world music before world music became the hobby of the whole middle classes.

Throughout the track, the sound manages to stay both precise for the individual instruments and yet is solid enough to allow them at times to merge and become one being: creating a new sound. Fuelled throughout by Stanley Clarke’s funky baselines the album starts slowly as if the fuse has been lit, then starts to flame with some Eastern percussion; a dance groove kicks in, which is a foretaste of the club jazz Sanders would get considerable success in the 90’s; then it’s a glorious cacophony. To quite Oscar Wilde – who it has to be said was not talking about 1970’s free jazz, but with AQ you get hifi and literature for your three quid – this is “chaos, illuminated with flashes of lighting”.

Side Two starts with some spirited piano from Joe Bonner, hurling shafts of energy from the clouds and then Sanders kicks up a storm (we might as well flog the weather metaphor as Mr Wilde has learnt it to us). The album closes as it has started, with Clarke’s booming out our speakers.

I cannot recommend this album enough, in my humble view, this is one of the finest free jazz records you can buy. Make sure you have one of these.

Biased opinion #4: Black Unity is essential.

Pharoah Sanders - 1971 - Thembi

Pharoah Sanders

01. Astral Traveling 5:43
02. Red, Black & Green 8:56
03. Thembi 6:55
04. Love 5:13
05. Morning Prayer 9:11
06. Bailophone Dance 5:43

Saxophone, Bells, Percussion – Pharoah Sander
Bass, Percussion  – Cecil McBee
Drums, Bells, Maracas, Percussion – Clifford Jarvis
Electric Piano, Claves, Percussion – Lonnie Liston Smith
Violin, Percussion – Michael White

Recorded at:
The Record Plant, Los Angeles, CA, November 25, 1970 (Tracks A1 to A3)
The Record Plant, NYC, January 12, 1971 (Tracks B1 to B3)

It is strange that two of the most striking albums made by saxophonist Pharoah Sanders during the first flush of late 1960s/early 1970s astral jazz have been so often overlooked in reissue series. Tauhid (Impulse!, 1967)—the recording which launched astral jazz, the style Sanders fashioned alongside harpist/pianist Alice Coltrane—and Thembi have been available only intermittently during the last 20 years. 

Tauhid is unalloyed bliss from start to finish, a sweet and lyrical evocation of Eastern mysticism which established astral's template: prominent African and Asian percussion instruments; velvet-sandpaper saxophone vocalizations and multiphonics; hummable tunes and melody-centric improvisations; rock steady bass ostinatos; piano vamps; chanted vocals; rich collective grooves. 

Thembi inhabits this territory over four of its six tracks, but steps out of it on the other two. The album was recorded during two sessions—in Los Angeles in November 1970 (tracks 1-3), and in New York City in January 1971 (tracks 4-6)—with some changes in personnel. Sanders, pianist Lonnie Liston Smith and bassist Cecil McBee were present at both sessions; violinist Michael White was in Los Angeles, though was featured little; traps drummer Roy Haynes and four percussionists replace Los Angeles' drummer Clifford Jarvis and percussionist James Jordan in New York. 

The album opens with Smith's "Astral Traveling," a lush, sweeping group workout foursquare in the astral paradigm; in 1973, Smith, too, used it as an opening track, on his solo debut Astral Traveling, on ex-Impulse! producer Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label. The tune is given an exquisite performance on both albums, with Sanders' presence giving his Thembi version the edge. 

But on Thembi, "Astral Traveling" proves to be the calm before the perfect storm. "Red, Black & Green," which follows, is as ferocious as is suggested by its title, a reference to the colors made emblematic by black liberation movements in the US and Africa. At 8:56 minutes, it is the second longest track on the album, and Sanders' overdubbed saxophones are foregrounded practically throughout, played in a style closer to the tumultuous one adopted by Sanders when he was a member of saxophonist John Coltrane's groups in 1966-67. Here, Sanders' sole concession is to play within a marginally more lyrical harmonic framework. 

"Thembi" returns to the melodic, ostinato-driven palette of "Astral Traveling," before the album once more switches out of the astral comfort zone. 

"Love," is an unaccompanied, 5:12 minute bass solo. If you are already reaching for the "skip track" button, don't do it. McBee turns in a corker, starting conventionally enough, albeit with frequent use of percussive, "Africanized" string-on-wood effects, before focusing on cleanly articulated high-harmonics (well recorded by producer Ed Michel and engineer Bill Szymczyk). Given all the tirelessly iterated ostinatos McBee contributed to Sanders' music—here and on Izipho Zam (Strata East, 1969) and Impulse!'s Jewels Of Thought (1970), Summun, Bukmun, Umyun (1970), Black Unity (1972), Wisdom Through Music (1972) and Village Of The Pharoahs (1973)—he was owed this five minutes alone, and he seizes them; "Love" is the sort of track that gives bass solos a good name. 

The closing "Morning Prayer" and "Bailophone Dance" return to more familiar, collective astral territory. "Morning Prayer," at 9:11 minutes the longest track, revisits the fierce tenor heard on "Red, Black & Green," but in an amiable, ostinato-driven groove. "Bailophone Dance," built around a traditional West African cross-rhythm, makes good use of hand drummers Chief Bey, Majid Shabass, Anthony Wiles and Nat Bettis. 

Thembi is both East and West Coast jazz — Side A and Side B were recorded by two different ensembles in LA and New York, yet it isn’t a disjointed compilatory album. Instead, the love and light of Thembi creates a complete feeling, from the percolating ‘Astral Travelling’ to the clattering ‘Bailophone Dance.’ For jazz fans looking for a little more of a rough ride than polite dinner music, Thembi is a must-have.

Delicious, essential listening. 

Pharoah Sanders - 1970 - Summun, Bukmun, Umyun

Pharoah Sanders
Summun, Bukmun, Umyun

01. Summun Bukmun Umyun (Deaf Dumb Blind)
02. Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord

Alto Saxophone, Bells, Cowbell, Shaker, Percussion – Gary Bartz
Bass – Cecil McBee
Congas, Percussion – Anthony Wiles
Drums – Clifford Jarvis
Piano, Cowbell, Idiophone, Percussion – Lonnie Liston Smith
Saxophone, Horns, Bells, Whistle, Cowbell, Flute, Idiophone, Percussion – Pharoah Sanders
Trumpet, Maracas, Yodeling, Percussion – Woody Shaw
Xylophone, Yodeling, Percussion – Nathaniel Bettis

Recorded at A&R Studios, New York City, July 1, 1970

On June 28, 1965, four months after the assassination of Malcolm X and just a few weeks before the Voting Rights Act became law, John Coltrane assembled his largest-ever ensemble to record Ascension. A beautiful and harrowing listen, the album’s sole piece extends across 40 minutes of thundering, screaming, and meandering free jazz, radically breaking from the formal elegance and tight group interplay he had epitomized with his “classic quartet” on A Love Supreme, released earlier that year. The album also marked a changing of the guard, with Coltrane welcoming into the spotlight a scrappy, untested generation of iconoclastic players, many of whom were beginning to embrace emergent strains of black-power philosophy in their music. Among them were such soon-to-be luminaries as Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, John Tchicai, and a young, unknown tenor saxophonist named Pharoah Sanders.

Sanders had arrived in New York a few years prior, struggling to get work and often living on the streets. Early collaborations with Sun Ra and Don Cherry helped him find his footing in the burgeoning free-jazz community; it was Sun Ra that suggested changing his name from Farrell to Pharoah. But it was his work alongside Coltrane that set him on the course he would follow for the rest of his career. Starting with Ascension, Sanders became an invaluable foil for Coltrane’s virtuosic, divisive deconstructions. “Sometimes I didn’t know whether Pharoah was doing the growling or John,” said Frank Lowe, a contemporary of Sanders who played alongside Alice Coltrane. “You know, you don’t stand next to a man and copy him—so Pharoah was pushed into other areas.”

Despite the prestigious alliance, with Coltrane publically praising him as a man of “tremendous spiritual reservoir,” many critics balked at the viscera of Sanders’ solos. Whitney Balliett, writing for The New Yorker, decried his playing as “elephant shrieks... [which] appeared to have little in common with music,” while the San Francisco Chronicle dismissed him as “primitive.” As the 1960s wore on, with the Vietnam War entering its second decade, the Black Panther Party forming in 1966, and the rise of a “turn on, tune in, drop out” youth culture, the beloved post-bop of only a few years prior seemed trampled underfoot by a disorderly new generation of squawking, honking interlopers.

What’s astonishing is how rapidly Sanders developed from a wildcard sideman into a confident bandleader after his mentor’s untimely passing, in 1967. Albert Ayler famously declared, “‘Trane was the father. Pharoah was the son. I was the holy ghost”; Sanders’ seven-year, 11-album run for Impulse! Records directly builds on the core premise of Ascension, stretching Coltrane’s templates across a string of masterpieces. This invaluable release showcases the young Sanders confidently guiding a steadily growing panoply of “fire music” MVPs, uniting their disparate voices and egos to create a powerfully cohesive group sound: elegant, adventurous, warm, and ferocious all at once.

His fourth release for Impulse!, Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) may be Sanders’ finest work from this era. The album is split into two side-long sessions, and the group, now an octet, breathes as one like never before. Coming off of a busy touring schedule, the players were locked in, often building songs out of loose ideas or hints of an arrangement. If the title track finds the players in a joyous, near-telepathic groove, “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord” is simply spiritual jazz of the highest order. Aching with emotion, it stands alongside Alice Coltrane’s “Prema” and Albert Ayler’s “Our Prayer” as a devotional masterpiece and a fulfillment of free jazz’s promise. Many of the same musicians from Jewels of Thought remain, and you can hear how subsumed they are in the music. They play on top of, around, and in between each other without ever making a wrong move. The song’s title couldn’t be more apt; the music exudes so much sorrow, hope, compassion, joy, and humanity it seems to truly reach for a home beyond our world.

In 1969 Sanders released Karma, a highly accesible album that brought him widespread praise and commercial success. This was in no small part helped along by the presence of vocalist Leon Thomas, who certainly helped the recording find an audience with the hippie culture of the late 1960's who were accustomed to lyrical content in their music. Summun Bukmun Umyun (Deaf Dumb Blind) was not nearly as accessible to non-jazz fans - even many jazz fans must have been puzzled by it - and as such it is not nearly as well known. Just check out the difference in the number of reviews on Amazon, only 8 for Summun Bukmun Umyun versus 38 for Karma. This must be partly due to the fact that the long title track is essentially an exploration of what rhythm can bring to a jazz track, especially in the context of the spirituality that Sanders was seeking through his music at this time.

The two other brass players present at the session, Woody Shaw and Gary Bartz, are both personal favorites of mine - especially their early 1970's output, which was also very spiritual in nature. Their playing is rather subdues on most of this record, especially compared with what we would come to expect from them, but they are still an important part of the proceedings. The rhythm section is also particularly strong, with the great Lonnie Liston Smith joined by Cecil McBee and Clifford Jarvis, all of whom are up to the task of this open-ended music,

The album only has two tracks, both of which take up an entire side (clocking in at over 21 minutes and 18 minutes, respectively), but neither drag on or become tedious as could have easily been the case. The title track is, to borrow a phrase, an orgy of rhythm with layer upon layer of all sorts of percussion permeating the tune. Six of the eight players find themselves simultaneously playing all manner of percussion (cowbells, shakers, maracas, and so on) and as the recording begins to open up Lonnie Liston Smith comes in to add some gorgeous melody lines on the piano. Smith had been Sanders' cohort on his previous few records, and there is little doubt that their influence on each other helped shape those LPs. Smith's playing on Summun Bukmun Umyun is nothing short of amazing, as he helps both tracks rise above simply coming off as noisy percussion experiments and adds the spiritual presence we can only assume Sanders was seeking. As Smith's piano vamps continue, the horns come up slowly in the mix and soon begin a beautifully improvised dance with each other. Nothing too avant-garde or free here, just some great late 1960's post-bop jazz playing.

"Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord" is the mellower of the two tunes, with some very light percussion (mostly bells, maracas and shakers) pushed to the front of the mix while the keys and horns are buried deeper adding to the mystical feel of the composition. Notable is McBee's bass solo where he bows his bass nearly unaccompanied by the other players. It is spacey, heavenly and beautiful. Maybe, this is why I like this record more than similar ones from this time - this is not an in-your-face record, the improvisational playing is generally subdued and gentle.  

As Jameelah Ali says in the liner notes:

"Summun, Bukmun, Umyun, which means deaf, dumb and blind, was taken from the Surah Bakara from The Holy Quran. (A surah is similar to a chapter, as compared to the Bible.) Deaf, dumb and blind as used here does not refer to the physical state, but, instead, to the spiritually handicapped. In other words, Listen but do not hear, Around but not aware, Look but do not see."

There is little doubt in my mind that all involved in the making of Summun Bukmun Umyun took these words to heart, and - this being the late 1960's - truly felt they were on a quest to pass on their spiritual views to the lost souls of the world. Whatever your personal beliefs may be, the music contained within is not just a wonderful example of communicating a message through music, but very simply a great jazz recording to be enjoyed without any pretense or preconception.

The decades that followed saw Sanders’ career take different turns, never quite reaching the ecstatic highs of this era, and much of his early work fell out of print. What’s remarkable about the first four albums on Impulse! is not only how timeless the music is, but how relevant it feels today. Many of his contemporaries seemed to be pushing forward to see how far out they could go and who could get there fastest. Sanders went straight for the source. By pursuing a spiritual approach, he created a body of work that responded to its own historical moment without being time-stamped by it. Shortly after Coltrane and his group recorded Ascension, LA was engulfed in the flames of the Watts riots; by the time Jewels was released, Martin Luther King, Jr., had been murdered. This turmoil and anguish is clearly audible in Sanders’ playing, and today, as the nation once again feels like it’s splitting at the seams, Sanders’ agonized cries resonate, as expressive and important as ever.

Pharoah Sanders - 1969 - Jewels of Thought

Pharoah Sanders
Jewels of Thought

01. Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah
02. Sun In Aquarius

Bass, Percussion – Cecil McBee
Drums, Percussion – Idris Muhammad
Piano, Flute, Percussion – Lonnie Liston Smith
Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Piano, Chimes, Percussion – Pharoah Sanders
Vocals, Percussion – Leon Thomas

Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City, October 20, 1969.

Jewels of Thought develops the dichotomy of Karma a bit further, with a benevolent love-in on the A-side and a somber, dissonant astral voyage worthy of Sun Ra’s Arkestra on the flip. Leon Thomas’ vocal contributions are, for many, an acquired taste. With his earnest monologue on “Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah”—about a “universal prayer for peace” where “all you have to do is clap your hands, 1-2-3”—and his propensity to yodel, he has about as much gravitas as a summer-camp counselor. If you liked what you heard on Tauhid and were hoping for more, this addition may blindside you—it’s no surprise jazz yodeling failed to catch on. Yet despite the lingering dweebiness of Thomas’ performance, the piece soars. By allowing soulful prettiness alongside more vicious passages, Sanders opens the album up, connecting the dots between joyful communion and unflinching catharsis. A squalling solo toward the end of the side sounds like a cry from the deepest, most tortured part of his soul, but it’s supported by an unerringly mellow piano accompaniment (and answered by still more yodeling, now comfortably chilled out in the back of the mix). It’s a moment of deep vulnerability in a genre can often devolve into macho blowing contests.

If “Hum-Allah” is the sugar, then “Sun in Aquarius” is the medicine it helps get down. After an intro of reedy, North African-cribbing winds, thumb piano, and gongs, it yawns out like a terrifying chasm before letting Lonnie Liston Smith’s piano boil over for the better part of five minutes. Sanders is in devastating form, screaming through his tenor. Even after a mid-side comedown and a breathtaking bass duet from Cecil McBee and Richard Davis, he leaps back in undeterred, firing out one of his heaviest solos like a machine gun.

In 1969, Pharoah Sanders was incredibly active, recording no less than four albums and releasing three. The band on Jewels of Thought is largely the same as on Deaf Dumb Blind and Karma, with a few changes. Idris Muhammad has, with the exception of "Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah Hum Allah," replaced Roy Haynes, and Richard Davis has permanently replaced Reggie Workman and Ron Carter, though Cecil McBee is still present for the extra bottom sound. Leon Thomas and his trademark holy warble are in the house, as is Lonnie Liston Smith. Comprised of two long cuts, the aforementioned and "Sun in Aquarius," Jewels of Thought sees Sanders moving out from his signature tenor for the first time and delving deeply into reed flutes and bass clarinet. The plethora of percussion instruments utilized by everyone is, as expected, part of the mix. "Hum-Allah" begins with a two-chord piano vamp by Smith and Thomas singing and yodeling his way into the band's improvisational space. For 12 minutes, Sanders and company mix it up -- especially the drummers -- whipping it first quietly down into the most pure melodic essences of Smith's solo and then taking the tension and building to ecstatic heights with all manner of blowing and intervallic interaction between the various elements until it just explodes, before coming down in pieces and settling into a hush of melodic frames and the same two-chord vamp. On "Sun in Aquarius," African thumb pianos, reed flutes, sundry percussion, and orchestra chimes are employed to dislocate all notions of Western music. Things get very quiet (though there is constant motion); the innards of the piano are brushed and hammered quietly before Sanders comes roaring out of the tense silence with his bass clarinet, and then the tenor and bass share an intertwined solo and Smith starts kicking ass with impossibly large chords. It moves into another two-chord vamp at the end of 27 minutes, to be taken out as a closed prayer. It's more like a finished exorcism, actually, but it is one of the most astonishing pieces by Sanders ever.

Pharoah Sanders - 1969 - Karma

Pharoah Sanders

01. The Creator Has A Master Plan
02. Colors

The Creator Has A Master Plan recorded: February 14, 1969
Colors recorded: February 19, 1969

Bass – Reggie Workman
Bass – Richard Davis (tracks: 1)
Bass – Ron Carter (tracks: 2)
Drums – William Hart (tracks: 1)
Drums – Frederick Waits (tracks: 2)
Flute – James Spaulding (tracks: 1)
French Horn – Julius Watkins (tracks: 1)
Percussion – Nathaniel Bettis (tracks: 1)
Percussion, Vocals [Vocal] – Leon Thomas
Piano – Lonnie L. Smith Jr.
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders

John Coltrane left behind a legacy of experimental and extremely spiritual work whose timeless quality still reverberates today. After his untimely death many poseurs came out to stake their claim as the next Coltrane. Many tried and many failed. Then in 1969 a former sideman of Coltrane's, Pharoah Sanders, stepped out from the shadow of his mentor and recorded Karma, which bore the soul of Coltrane's musical and spiritual passion.

Karma was released four years after his first record as a leader, Pharoah's First (1965). While working with Coltrane, Sanders began to develop an aggressive tone that ripped into an anarchaotic passion owing as much to Coltrane as Albert Ayler. His records as a leader did not always reflect the raw energy that would show up on Coltrane classics such as Ascension. His 1966 Impulse! debut, Tauhid, is a great example of this. Sanders let the work take on a generalized groove that worked with the mood created in each piece. In doing so, he created not only his best pre-Karma record, but one of his finest overall. After Coltrane's death, Pharoah worked with his widow Alice before setting to work on what would become Karma.

As with many records of the mid to late-'60s/early '70s, Karma is based primarily around the first of two album tracks, "The Creator Has a Master Plan." The track is one of the finest and best-executed and edited jams ever caught on record, though many critics would and will argue with that statement. The master plan of tracks on contemporaneous Miles Davis records like In a Silent Way or Bitches Brew was created by the editing and production efforts of Teo Maceo. Recordings like Free Jazz or Ascension, in contrast, worked by virtue of the way they tore down sonic and musical boundaries. Sanders incorporates these values into "The Creator," making it more than just a loose jam; no matter where Sanders goes, he is in total control. Even as the piece peaks into volatile eruptions roughly sixteen minutes in, he saddles the passion and works the track back into the initial groove that was comprised its first movement.

"Creator" comes in at 32:47 and wastes not a single note. Opening with a virtual rush of sound, it then quiets down and drops a brief riff from A Love Supreme. The tune then works itself into a groove that would later be known as acid jazz, working with Eastern percussion and allowing the bass to float close to the front of the mix. This first section relies on a modal two-chord structure that keeps the tone bouncy and meditative. At eight minutes Leon Thomas begins a chant-like vocal that varies lines from the mantra "The creator has a master plan, peace and love for every man." The vocals drop and the third movement becomes an unrelenting Coltranesque blitz that tears the mellow mood apart, only to combine the angst and mellowness in the next movement and settle back into a reprise of the first fourteen minutes.

"Colors," on the other hand, is a shorter and more structured piece that features some solid and well-executed chops. Again Leon Thomas sings, and Ron Carter takes over the duties of Richard Davis and Reggie Workman.

Love or hate the music of Pharoah Sanders, you cannot deny the man's vision after hearing this record. His is an absolute genius approach to arrangement and performance. Though Sanders would release many great records and even mellow his distinctive tenor sound down, Karma is a record that deserves to be heard by any serious jazz fan.

Pharoah Sanders - 1967 - Tauhid

Pharoah Sanders

01. Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt 17:00
02. Japan 3:29
03. Aum / Venus / Capricorn Rising

Bass – Henry Grimes
Piano – Dave Burrell
Drums – Roger Blank
Guitar – Sonny Sharrock
Percussion – Nat Bettis
Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Piccolo Flute, Voice – Pharoah Sanders

Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on November 15, 1966.
Released in October 1967

Conventional wisdom has it that saxophonist Pharoah Sanders' signature, late-1960s astral jazz recording is "The Creator Has A Master Plan" from Karma (Impulse!, 1969). But conventional wisdom is rarely to be trusted. Clocking in at an unhurried and mesmerising 32:45, "Master Plan" is certainly definitive Sanders of the time; yet "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt," from Sanders' own-name Impulse! debut, Tauhid, recorded in November, 1966, is arguably the finest statement in his astral oeuvre.

At a relatively brief 16:16, "Egypt" has all the elements which characterised Sanders' astral excursions—explicit spiritual references, vocal chants, a rolling bass ostinato, "exotic" percussion, out-there but lyrical tenor saxophone, and extended vamp-based collective jamming—and crucially, was played by an edgier and more challenging band, including guitarist Sonny Sharrock and pianist Dave Burrell, than was assembled for Karma. The later album was made by a distinctly more blissed-out line-up, lacking Sharrock, in which the comfort-zone pianist Lonnie Liston Smith and vocalist Leon Thomas figured large.

With Tauhid, however, Sanders—at the time a regular member of saxophonist John Coltrane's band and revelling in his first album as leader since the sock-peeling Pharoah's First (ESP Disk, 1964)—was still stretching the envelope. Of all Sanders' Impulse! albums—he stayed with the label until late 1973, when he fell victim to cost-cutting imposed by corporate bosses ABC Records—Tauhid, produced by Bob Thiele, who also produced Karma before quitting Impulse! in the summer of 1969, also has the best sound.

"Egypt" takes a long time to get to the point, and therein lies much of its charm. Divided into two distinct sections, "Upper Egypt" and "Lower Egypt," the first part is a long, teasing introduction, always seemingly on the brink of resolving itself and giving way to the main theme, but avoiding doing so for almost 9 minutes. Henry Grimes' propulsive post-"Love Supreme" bass ostinato enters at this point, the tempo picks up and the vamp changes—but it's another 3 minutes before Sanders, previously heard only on piccolo, enters on tenor with the unfolding-sunrise main theme, which he reiterates, reconfigures and improvises around for the final 4 minutes, over a fat piano and percussion groove and Sharrock's raggedly crystalline chord work.

"Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" is so perfect that the rest of Tauhid tends to get forgotten, but the four shorter tracks which complete the album, totalling another 18:08, are also magnificent. "Japan," inspired by Sanders' tour of the country with Coltrane's band in the summer of 1966, is as pretty as pink lotus blossom. "Aum" and "Venus," the first with Sanders on alto, are tougher and further out, before the concluding "Capricorn Rising" re-establishes the album's peaceful opening vibe.

Over the next few years, Lonnie Liston Smith, already worryingly jazz-funkish on Karma, played a key role on Sanders' albums, which became increasingly codified and formulaic. In retrospect, the first cut was indeed the deepest, and for many devotees Tauhid remains Sanders' astral jazz muthalode, and "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" his finest (quarter) hour.