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.

Pharoah Sanders - 1978 - Love Will Find A Way

Pharoah Sanders 
Love Will Find A Way

01. Love Will Find A Way 5:12
02. Pharomba 4:32
03. Love Is Here 4:43
04. Got To Give It Up 6:29
05. As You Are 5:08
06. Answer Me My Love 6:42
07. Everything I Have Is Good 6:00

Backing Vocals – The Water Family
Bass – Alex Blake (tracks: A1, A3), Donny Beck (tracks: A1, A4, B1, B3)
Congas, Bongos, Cymbal, Gong, Percussion – Kenneth Nash
Drums – James Gadson (tracks: A1, A4, B3), Lenny White (tracks: A2, A3), Raymond Pounds (tracks: B1, B2)
Electric Guitar – David T. Walker, Wah Wah Watson
French Horn – Sidney Muldrow, Vincent De Rosa
Keyboards – Hubert Eave, Khalid Moss
Keyboards – Bobby Lyle
Reeds – Ernest Watts
Saxophone – Terry Harrington, William Green
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Percussion – Pharoah Sanders
Timpani, Drums, Percussion, Gong [Gongs] – Norman Connors
Trombone – George Bohanon, Lew McCreary
Trumpet – Charles Findley, Oscar Brashear
Vocals – Phyllis Hyman

The title track to this album, for me anyway, is one of Pharoah Sanders finest recorded moments. It's like the most mellow, soulful, heart warming and beautiful pieces of music you could ask for. This track is the musical equivalent of the big fat hug, and will not fail in lifting your spirits. Unfortunately the rest of the album is quite forgettable and quite an obvious sign of Pharoah Sanders floundering around looking for musical direction. As "Love Will Find A Way" is the only track worth having from here, don't bother with this album, just treat yourself to the magnificent Soul Brother Records compilation Anthology: You've Got to Have Freedom . That album is a faultless collection of Pharoah Sanders tunes, and along with tons of other great stuff, "Love Will Find A Way" is on there in full un-edited glory, and my personal high-point on the album.

A beautiful little record by Pharoah Sanders – quite different than most of his other recordings of the 70s, and done in a smoothly jazzy mode that also features plenty of soul! Sanders did the set in collaboration with Norman Connors – and the style is in that same great mix of mellow soul and deeper jazz that Connors used on his own brilliant records from the time. Instrumentation includes some keyboards and guitar mixed in with Sanders' always-soulful work on sax – and a number of cuts have vocals, either by a chorus shading in the tunes, or by Phyllis Hyman in the lead. The whole thing's great – warmly soulful, and almost a tighter extension of the modes that Sanders was exploring on his last album or two for Impulse.

Pharoah Sanders - 1977 - Pharoah

Pharoah Sanders

01. Harvest Time
02. Love Will Find A Way
03. Memories Of Edith Johnson

Bass – Steve Neil
Drums – Greg Bandy
Guitar – Munoz
Organ – Jiggs Chase
Percussion – Lawrence Killian
Tenor Saxophone, Percussion, Vocals – Pharoah Sanders

This is a real hidden gem from Pharoah Sanders’ back catalogue. This album was his first outing post Impulse, and it kind of seems to have become a bit neglected between all the majesty of his earlier Impulse recordings, and the latter return to form of his Theresa recordings. 

Musically: tracks one and three are long, mellow, haunting and incredibly vast and spacious; track two is a joyous uplifting tune with some vocals done by the man himself. There's not too much in the line of big bold statements, or out-there playing, the whole thing is evenly chilled and soulful across the entire recording. All the tunes are really great, and it is difficult to chose a high point, but the opening track "Harvest Time" has some of the most incredible floaty rhythm running through the first half and has a wonderful spacey quality to it. In all honesty though, the whole album is great, so high points are pretty redundant really. 

There's some negativity about this album on certain review sites which I really do not get, it is a soulful, joyous and atmospheric album that any Pharoah Sanders fan would be crazy to ignore.

Pharoah Sanders - 1974 - Love In Us All

Pharoah Sanders 
Love In Us All

01. Love Is Everywhere 20:03
02. To John 20:45

Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Norman Connors
Flute – James Branch
Percussion – Badal Roy, James Mtume, Lawrence Killian
Piano – Joe Bonner
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Pharoah Sanders

Recorded near the end of Pharoah Sanders' tenure at Impulse, Love in Us All consists of two extended compositions. Together, they serve as an aural representation of the way Sanders' music polarized the jazz world at the time. Like many of his "New Thing" peers, the saxophonist sought the sound world beyond the constraints of conventional harmony. This often translated into music played at the grating, far reaches of his instrument. "To John" finds Sanders in this territory. His solo begins with Coltrane-isms of short motive development before stretching out into a more personal sound. Finding himself engulfed by a rising musical tide, he plays like he's fighting desperately to stay above it. Soon his saxophone takes on a sorrowful tone as if admitting inevitable defeat. With little optimism apparent, it ultimately communicates a sense of emptiness. However, the often one-dimensional criticism of Sanders as an angry, confrontational musician fails to take in the ragged beauty of a work like "Love Is Everywhere." The song offers little explanation as to what the furor was all about. It begins with an exquisite bass vamp that the song builds from. "Love is everywhere" is repeatedly and passionately shouted as the music escalates into a disorienting swirl of sound. Sanders enters midway through with a surprisingly restrained and lyrical solo on soprano. These two songs hardly seem to belong on the same album and are best approached separately. Many of the players who took musical and philosophical inspiration from John Coltrane failed to translate it into resonant works of their own. Sanders' unsuccessful attempt on "To John" falls in this category. Yet, in a way, Coltrane himself never created a work as emotionally direct as "Love Is Everywhere."

The best possible way to describe Pharoah Sanders‘ sound is “Organized Confusion”, and at times, is compositions are as abstract as jazz can get. Abstract jazz is not for the novice listener. It requires an understanding of depth that the art form can go, as well as the limits in which it can be pushed. The limits are infinite, and Sanders is constantly proving that with his work. Pharoah Sanders’ plays using sheets of sound, and in this two-song album Love in Us All, you can hear a more serene, melodic Sanders on one song, while experiencing the wild, abstract, Sun Ra influenced Sanders on the other.

As you listen to the song Love is Everywhere, and as the rhythm starts out with a driving tambourine, you can hear how this song can be a precursor to a soulful house style, and as the rhythm of the song falls in and out, the song takes on a new life at the 5:43 mark, as if it was reborn.

The second song, To John can only be a dedication to one person. The one, the only, John Coltrane. For a certain type of listening ear, this is vintage Sanders, as the free form jazz let’s loose in this 20 minutes session, with 15 of those minutes being a multitude of sounds coming from every direction. A far cry from the beat-driven sound of the soul-jazz fusion, but the free, abstract jazz is an important part of the art.

Pharoah Sanders - 1974 - Elevation

Pharoah Sanders 

01. Elevation 18:26
02. Greeting To Saud (Brother McCoy Tyner) 4:15
03. Ore-Se-Rere (Nigerian Juju HiLife) 5:44
04. The Gathering 14:09
05. Spiritual Blessing 6:20

1 Recorded in performance at The Ash Grove, Los Angeles, September 9, 1973
2 Recorded September 13, 1973 at Wally Heider Recording, San Francisco
3 Recorded in performance at The Ash Grove, Los Angeles, September 7, 1973
4 Recorded in performance at The Ash Grove, Los Angeles, September 7, 1973
5 Recorded in performance at The Ash Grove, Los Angeles, September 9, 1973

Pharoah Sanders - tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, shaker, vocals, bells, percussion
Joe Bonner - piano, harmonium, cow horn, wood flute, percussion, vocals
Calvin Hill - bass, vocals, tambura
Michael Carvin - drums, vocals
Lawrence Killian - conga, bell tree, vocals
John Blue (tracks 3 & 4), Jimmy Hopps (tracks 1, 2 & 5) - percussion, vocals
Michael White - violin (track 2)
Kenneth Nash - percussion (track 2)
Sedatrius Brown - vocals (track 2)

Pharoah Sanders' Elevation was recorded in 1973, three years after Sanders' appearance on Alice Coltrane's Journey in Satchidananda, and shares much of the ambiance and sonic palette of that classic album. The similarity stems from the instrumentation, which is heavy on percussion like shakers and bell tree and which on several tracks includes the tamboura, an Indian string instrument whose drone immediately evokes that country and perhaps suggests an "elevated consciousness. 

Elevation quickly ventures into some pretty bizarre and wild territory. The title track opens harmlessly enough with a rain-shower of cymbals and bells and a simple three-note sax figure that climbs the minor scale. But the piece soon devolves into an extended howling maelstrom of free play, a jazz representation of the inside of a Category 5 hurricane. The exuberant "Ore-Se-Rere is guided by a Caribbean-flavored piano vamp and is the first of two tracks with wordless syllables sung by the entire ensemble. The second is "The Gathering , whose celebratory piano opening, like the title track, gradually builds to a tempestuous free section with Sanders shrieking at the top of his horn. On "Spiritual Blessing , Sanders soars beautifully on soprano above a harmonium and droning tamboura, creating a placid, calming close to the record. 

Elevation, Pharoah Sanders' final album for Impulse!, is a mixed bag. Four of the five cuts were recorded live at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles in September of 1973, and the lone studio track, "Greeting to Saud (Brother McCoy Tyner)," was recorded in the same month at Wally Heider's studio. The live date is fairly cohesive, with beautiful modal piano work from Joe Bonner, Pharoah playing tenor and soprano as well as a myriad of percussion instruments and vocalizing in places, and a percussion and rhythm section that included Michael Carvin on drums, bassist Calvin Hill, and hand drummers John Blue and Lawrence Killian. The standout on the set is the opener. At 18 minutes, it's the longest thing here and gives the band a chance to stretch into African and Latin terrains. Sanders' long, loping, suspended lines create a kind of melodic head that is underscored by Bonner's hypnotically repetitive piano work, playing the same chord progression over and over again as he begins his solos (one on each horn). Somewhere near the five-minute mark, Pharoah enters into a primal wail and the whole thing becomes unhinged, moving into a deep blowing session of free improv. Honks, squeals, wails, and Bonner pounding the hell out of the piano erase any trace of what came before, and this goes on for four minutes before the theme restates itself and once more the magic begins. It's utterly compelling and engaging. "Saud" finds a host of percussionists (including Sanders) along with Hill on tamboura, Bonner, and violinist Michael White. It's a subtle and droning work, full of a constant hum. The other long track, "The Gathering," clocks in at almost 14 minutes, but instead of being a somber nocturnal work it's a lively South African-inspired work that nods to Dollar Brand for inspiration. A gorgeous, nearly carnival piece, it rolls and chugs and runs along on the steam created by Bonner's beautiful chord work. The chorus of vocals chanting in the foreground and background adds to the party feel, but once again it choogles right off the track into some rather angry and then spooky free improv, with a fine solo by Hill. This may not rate as highly as some of Sanders' other recordings for the label like Thembi or Karma, but there is plenty here for fans, and it is well worth the investigation and the purchase.

Pharoah Sanders - 1973 - Izipho Zam

Pharoah Sanders
Izipho Zam

01. Prince Of Peace 8:44
02. Balance 12:15
03. Izipho Zam (My Gifts) 28:50

Alto Saxophone – Sonny Fortune
Bass – Cecil McBee, Sirone (Norris Jones)
Drums – Billy Hart, Majeed Shabazz
Drums [African] – Chief Bey
Guitar – Sonny Sherrock
Percussion – Nat Bettis, Tony Wylie
Piano – Lonnie Liston Smith
Saxophone, Percussion – Pharoah Sanders
Tuba – Howard Johnson
Vocals, Percussion – Leon Thomas

Recorded January 14, 1969 TownSound Studios, Englewood, NJ

 Pharoah Sanders's Izipho Zam (My Gifts), originally released in 1973. "Popular and increasingly in demand, Izipho Zam (My Gifts) falls into the 'rare' category among record collectors and is a gift to fans of master Pharoah Sanders. This demand is partially galvanized by the fact that 'Prince Of Peace' has become an inspirational mine to hip hop artists and is much loved by samplers. Izipho Zam is Pharoah Sander's third album, initially recorded in January 1969, it was originally released on the Strata-East label in 1973. On Izipho Zam, Sanders and his band take you on a journey into another world providing an amazing experience! Passionate, intense and free, Sanders saxophone especially, is exquisite, pouring out its soul telling a story of its own. Hailed by peers as the best tenor saxophonist in the world, Pharoah Sanders is a legend in jazz music. He is regarded as one of the pioneers of free jazz and is the mentor of jazz giant, saxophonist Robert Stewart. Born in 1940 into a musical family as Farell Sanders in Arkansas, he first played the clarinet before switching to tenor saxophone in high school. After high school, he moved to California to study music and art. In 1961, Sanders moved to New York where he often played gigs with a number of free jazz dignitaries including Billy Higgins, Sun Ra and Don Cherry. His name 'Pharoah' was given to him by Sun Ra, who was his bandleader then. It was during one of these gigs that he met John Coltrane who became his mentor. While playing with Coltrane, Sanders inevitably rose to prominence due to his very distinctive tenor saxophone sound."

The hard-to-find Pharoah Sanders LP Izipho Zam (My Gifts) was the first album he recorded as a bandleader following the death of John Coltrane in 1967 (he had recorded two previous albums: his debut, Pharaoh Sanders Quintet, in 1965, for the ESP-Disk label, and Tauhid for Impulse!). Recorded in 1969, it is possible that Impulse rejected this album because of its uncompromising nature. As a result, it was issued on the fairly obscure Strata-East Records label some four years after it was recorded, following a string of well-received albums for Impulse. His group features many soon-to-be legends of the out jazz world: Sonny Fortune (alto saxophone), Cecil McBee (bass), Sonny Sharrock (guitar), and Sirone (bass). The opener should be familiar to fans of Jewels of Thought. There titled "Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum Allah," here it is presented in a somewhat stripped down form as "Prince of Peace," highlighted by Leon Thomas' distinctive throat singing. I've never been a fan of that particular track, and as a result, the album does not begin auspiciously. "Balance," the second track, however, might stand of Pharoah Sanders' defining moment as a bandleader. It is pure chaos of the highest order, highlighted by Sharrock's appropriately deployed rhythm guitar frenzy and Howard Johnson's complementary tuba playing. The track weaves in and out of structured and unstructured sections deftly. Fans of Sanders must hear this one. The nearly half-hour-long title track closes out the album in strong fashion. Though it can't match the torrent generated by "Balance," it is a slow builder that features solid contributions from each player. This overlooked album should be a part of any free jazz fan's collection.

A rare non-Impulse Records album from the early days of Pharoah Sanders – but a set that ranks right up there with his classics for that legendary label! The album's one of the classics in Strata East's Dolphy Series – and it's a uniquely collaborative session from 1969, one that has Sanders working with a largeish group that includes Sonny Fortune on alto sax, Sonny Sharrock on guitar, Lonnie Liston Smith on piano, Leon Thomas on vocals, and Cecil McBee on bass – all coming together with a freely exploratory sort of energy, one that's a bit like some of Archie Shepp's most righteous sides from the same time. Sanders' tenor still dominates most numbers, but not as much as on some of the Impulse sides – and there's a nicely relaxed and personal feel to the whole album.

Pharoah Sanders - 1973 - Wisdom Through Music

Pharoah Sanders 
Wisdom Through Music

01. High Life 4:20
02. Love Is Everywhere 5:23
03. Wisdom Through Music 5:40
04. The Golden Lamp 4:40
05. Selflessness 10:55

Bass – Cecil McBee
Drums – Norman Connors
Flute – James Branch
Percussion – Babadal Roy, James Mtume, Lawrence Killian
Piano – Joe Bonner
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Flute – Pharoah Sanders

Recorded at A&R Studios, N.Y. and The Village Recorder, Los Angeles, California

Living up to the promise of its title, Pharoah Sanders‘ Wisdom Through Music delivers just that. Although he made a name for himself as a fiercely expressionistic, almost anarchic tenor saxophonist in John Coltrane’s later bands, the music on this album is guided by gentler passions. More reflective of Pharoah’s Eastern-looking musical collaborations with Coltrane’s widow, Alice, Wisdom Through Music manages to soothe the soul without sacrificing any of the intensity that defined his earlier work as Trane’s apprentice. Much like his previous Impulse! LP, Black Unity, this 1972 offering finds Sanders and his group weaving together cosmic musical mood collages in front of which the occasional solo peaks out. What makes this record so unique is the strong emphasis on song over solo.

Pharoah sings out soulfully as members of the band join their voices together in an all male gospel chorus, creating an African-flavored call and response dynamic that lends weight to the album’s two message-songs, “Love Is Everywhere” and “Selflessness.” Throughout the record, chanting voices float over the music, calling to the spirits. The music shimmers ecstatically with the dancing bass lines of Cecil McBee, the Lonnie Liston Smith inspired piano stylings of Joe Bonner, the driving intensity of drummer Norman Connors, and the wall of African and Indian tribal rhythms provided by percussionists Mtume, Lawrence Killian and Babadal Roy. “High Life (Adaptation of Nigerian High Life)” opens the record with exuberant shouts of joy from Pharoah and the band. The song pushes strongly forward with rhythmic hints of the Carribean mixed in with a traditional African High Life celebration. Pharoah’s tenor belts out with barely contained enthusiasm, giving way to a densely percussive drum break in the middle of the song.

The title track, “Wisdom Through Music,” harks back to Pharoah’s work on Alice Coltrane’s Indo-Jazz masterpiece, Journey In Satchidinanda. “Golden Lamp” is as sensuously layered and entrancing as such Pharoah classics as “The Creator Has a Master Plan” or “Thembi.” The album closes with the generous beauty of “Selflessness,” an 11-minute epic which finds Pharoah finally letting loose, his tenor screaming out passionately until the record spins to its end. This album sounds so good, it’s no wonder that it remains out of print (as the saying goes, “Anything that feels this good MUST be illegal”).

Pharoah Sanders Featuring Vocalist Sedatrius Brown - 1973 - Village Of The Pharoahs

Pharoah Sanders Featuring Vocalist Sedatrius Brown
Village Of The Pharoahs

01. Village Of The Pharoahs, Part One 7:15
02. Village Of The Pharoahs, Part Two 5:00
03. Village Of The Pharoahs, Part Three 4:50
04. Myth 1:44
05. Mansion Worlds 9:11
06. Memories Of Lee Morgan 5:34
07. Went Like It Came 5:11

Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, bells, percussion, vocals
Art Webb: flute
Joe Bonner: piano, flute, percussion, vocals
Calvin Hill: bass
Cecil McBee: bass
Stanley Clarke: bass
Jimmy Hopps: drums
Norman Connors: drums
Lawrence Killian: congas, percussion
Kenneth Nash: drums, whistles, percussion
Kylo Kylo: tambour, percussion
Sedatrius Brown: percussion, vocals
Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson: percussion

A1 to A4 and B3 recorded September 14, 1973 at Wally Heider Recording, San Francisco.

B1 recorded December 8, 1971 in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

B2 recorded November 22, 1972 at A & R Recording Studios, New York City.

Raise your hand if you’ve been holding out hope that more of Pharoah Sanders’ early ‘70s catalog would finally get remastered and/or released for the first time on CD.

Anyone? Well, there weren’t necessarily people clamoring for this music even during the era it was made. But certainly more people had at least heard of Pharoah Sanders. Then again, more people had heard of jazz then. Therein lies the beauty of this music (jazz in general and Sanders in particular): it was not created with commercial intent and no jazz musician ever becomes a professional expecting to make an easy living.

Not much has changed in the last four decades, except that the audience, already diminished due to generational shifts and the full ascendancy of rock music, has shrunk considerably. And that’s okay: the important thing is that this music was made, and it is still available for the cultivated ears that crave it. Since two of Sanders’ lesser-known recordings are getting the official reissue treatment, it’s certainly cause for celebration, or at least recognition.

If you are remotely inquisitive or, better yet, have been on the lookout for this material, now’s the time to leap in, as Impulse has included Sanders in their ongoing “two-fer” reissues, wherein you get two full-length albums for the price of one. Considering the prices of import-only versions of some of these albums have been fetching in recent years, this is miraculous news for completists. Needless to say, Impulse is typically on top of their game: all the tracks sound immaculate and it is considerable cause for joy to see them receive the TLC of today’s technological advancements.

it’s worth asking how this music stacks up with what is being made today. In this writer’s opinion, it holds up quite nicely indeed. The centerpiece of Village of The Pharoahs is the three-part title suite, which stretches over 16 minutes. It comes crashing (and conga-ing) out of the gate and establishes a good groove, never losing its momentum while also managing to avoid the indulgence that tended to mar some of this era’s work (including Sanders’). This is the work of a confident explorer willing to go anywhere and do anything, and a cursory glance at any of Sanders’ unsmiling album covers from this period makes the conditions clear: strap in and come along for the ride because once we start we aren’t slowing down.

Village Of The Pharoahs is certainly not Pharoah Sanders finest moment, but I just don’t get the negative reviews I’ve seen on various sites regarding it. What I think some reviewers have against it is that it’s much more Pharoah Sanders performing as part of a band, as opposed to him being the master of the album, like on the powerhouse noise-fests of his earlier Impulse recordings. Also, this album is quite a lot less free than his more noted Impulse works like Karma and Black Unity.  What you do get on here, in place of his famed screech and free aural onslaught style, is much more of a solid driving rhythm, almost a slight touch of funk, but with all the depth and spirituality you’d expect from a Pharoah Sanders album. 

Side one of this album is four tracks (“Village of the Pharoahs Pts. 1 – 3” and “Myth”) played as one unbroken piece, and I have to say that this is close to one of the most magical musical moments I’ve ever sat through.  This side is a mix of driving bass, supplied by Calvin Hill, with a simmering current of Middle Eastern/African melodies gorgeously laid-down by Kylo Kylo.  As with most Pharoah Sanders Impulse work, a deliciously hypnotic cacophony engulfs you for the duration of the recording.  My only fault with the music on this side is that Pharoah Sanders has used Sedatrius Brown as the vocal/percussionist as opposed to Leon Thomas.  Not wanting to be disrespectful to Sedatrius Brown, but Leon Thomas just has the edge in this style of free vocal work. 

Side two contains three individual tracks, which the latter two of these are where I think the albums gets let down. The first of the three (Mansion Worlds) is a bit of a bottom-end masterpiece that really sticks to the lower tones of the spectrum.  On this track both Cecil McBee and Stanley Clarke are on bass duties. Then you have the most delicate piano work from Joe Bonner, and an almost unobtrusive soprano sax from Pharoah Sanders. This tune is a very delicate and beautiful thing it’s almost fragile in its subtlety, and definitely a real high-point for me of Pharoah Sanders recorded work.  The last two tracks on here are pretty standard affairs, and a bit of a let down after the last thirty minutes of music you’ve just been wowed by. The penultimate track is an appreciation entitled “Memories of Lee Morgan” which obviously is a nod in the direction of the style of Lee Morgan. Lastly is an up-tempo rocking and bluesy crowd pleaser called “Went Like It Came” that for me was the real low point on this album. 

I did notice that one of the negative reviews I’d previously read of this album has just been changed from an apathetic one, to one of pure praise.  This could be because this album has just been reissued on CD and they wanted people to buy it from them.  Either that or they’ve finally got to hear it properly as opposed to just flicking through the second-hand vinyl copy I brought from them. 

Three quarters of the tracks on Village Of The Pharoahs are truly great musical moments and will be of interest to anyone who likes their music with a pulse. I will most certainly be re-visiting the first three quarters this album a lot.

Often decried by Sanders purists, I find that the present Village is one of Pharoah’s more interesting work, especially that he tends to forget about the dissonant forays into free-jazz improves and concentrates on the up-tempo grooves. Maybe some tend to see this album as an end of an era, as this is one of his last works before a two years+ absence of new material and his change of label. 

Opening on the wild 17-mins three-part suite title track, it is coming with some low-in-the-mix vocals/chants from Sedastrius Brown (who gets his name on the front and some wild African rhythms mixed with Indian influences and percussions. Of the usual Pharoah suspects on the A-side, you’ll only find pianist Bonner, but we’re still very much in the Coltrane sonic galaxy. A short Myth piece closes the suite in a minor fashion. 

The flipside is sees regulars like bassist McBee and drummer Connor reappear (on top of Bonner’s contributions) and features second bassist Staley Clark (no “e”), but this writer can’t get his enthusiasm to rise to the level of the title track suite. This is particularly true for the 9-mins Mansion Worlds, a confused affair, where dynamics seem to have been dulled by the erosion of time, despite a bass duet ending the hostilities. Returning to an alice C sound, Memories is a rather tedious affair, missing its mark, and Bonner’s flute doesn’t hit the spot. As to the boogie-woogie closing piece, it is forgettable, despite presenting an unusual facet of Sanders. 

Mostly worthy of interest (IMHO) for the sidelong title track, the Village album indeed seems that we’re nearing the end of an era (which will happen with that two year gap and a change of label), but there is really nothing to tell us that it would happen when listening to the present. Maybe not Pharoah’s best, but it’s still worth throwing your ears on the vinyl grooves of this slice of wax.