I’ve had time to digest a lot of the music I share with you all. I thought I would try something new and try writing about something new as I listen to it. Now, I’ll admit that I did chuckle the first time I looked at Pharoah Sander’s 1971 album Thembi…until I realized he was on Impulse! Records which is affectionately referred to as “the house that Trane built.” It was the label of Coltrane’s first major signing and is best known as a free jazz label.
Astral Traveling – Pharoah Sanders
Morning Prayer – Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders is associated with Sun Ra, one of the most enthusiastically insane people I’ve ever known about. Seriously, just watch A Joyful Noise. I couldn’t finish the whole thing, but I was stunned into silence and wholly and entirely speechless during the parts that I did watch. Anyway, Pharaoh Sanders plays tenor saxophone and covers a number of different subgenres within jazz including progressive jazz, avant-gard jazz, world fusion and even hard bop [see: Horace Silver, Art Blakey, Clifford Brown]. He started his professional career in Oakland before moving to New York in the 60s.
At first listen to Thembi, I couldn’t help but think of Yusef Lateef’s album The Gentle Giant. I understand they are playing different instruments, but it seems like the arrangement of their compositions is very similar. It doesn’t follow the traditional jazz outline or even evoke the same listening experience. I think it might be because of the space they both give themselves to play in without a huge chorus of other musicians to fill it up.
Some of his tracks, like “Astral Traveling” or “Morning Prayer”, are simple and really pleasant music to listen to when the sun is out. It’s thinking music for a drive when you don’t feel like making conversation with anyone but yourself. But, Sanders is also an experimental musician, so some of the tracks are definitely out of most people’s normal listening range. “Red Black and Green” sounds like an elephant funeral; lots of instrumental wailing and that pitch of moan only a horn can emit.