Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Musical Wisdom From Pharoah Sanders

Among the recent reissues of classic Impulse releases as part of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Impulse, there has been a CD containing two of his CDs, Village of the Pharoahs/ Wisdom Through Music. These albums date from the early 1970s after his path making earlier Impulse recordings that made use of rhythmic trance-inducing vamps and a raw, blues-rooted tenor sax style that on these albums may have some rough edges but also less of the high crying overblowing of some of his earlier recordings including those he made working with John Coltrane. He also made use of vocals including wordless chanting. Wisdom Through Music has a smaller group including pianist Joe Bonner, bassist Cecil McBee, drummer Norman Connors and percussionist Lawrence Killian, all of whom are part of the larger group on Village of the Pharaohs which also includes bassists Stanley Clarke and Calvin Hill, drummer Jimmy Hopps and vocalist and percussionist Sedatrius Brown.

The title track of Village of the Pharaohs is in three parts with Sanders on soprano sax sounding like a cross between a snake charmer and a rhythm and blues wailer and in the third part has an exchange in vocalizing and chants with Brown. “Mansion Worlds is another number which evokes The Creator Has a Master Plan, with Bonner setting forth the theme with a driving vamp and percussion with Sanders adding his soprano. Went Like It Came comes off as a rhythm’n’blues gospel infected blues with Sanders on tenor sax and Sedatrius Brown featured on the bluesy vocal. I had the pleasure of seeing this multi-talented woman (a terrific organist as well as singer) over a decade ago in Washington DC, but I understand she has devoted herself to gospel music.

In many respects, Sanders music was world jazz before that term, or ‘world music’ was coined, and heard on Wisdom Through Music. African grooves are most evident on High Life, with Sanders leading the rough house vocalizing of the Afro-Beat grooves before taking a robust tenor sax solo with some honks and squeals, followed by Love Is Everywhere, where he chants (mainly the title phrase) with the band echoing his chant. The title track finds Sanders playing soprano with a bagpipes quality with an intriguing backing.

These are not the best known of Sanders Impulse albums perhaps, but they certainly should be of interest to those who have followed his music (and may have overlooked these when they came out like I did) as well as interested in the important output of the Impulse label.

I received my review copy from Jazz & Blues Report for whom this review was written. Here is a you tube video of Pharoah Sanders. 

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