Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Sanders (sax; b. 1940)

Bold, expressive and distinctive are the best ways to describe the legendary Pharoah Sanders. For many jazz fans he is best known for his work in John Coltrane's latter groups on the Impulse label. Sanders boisterous and free flowing playing was the perfect counter to the introspective, spiritual tone Trane was exploring toward his final years. Coltrane's work during this period would directly impact Sanders own work early on.

Pharoah Sanders has recording career spans four decades and over 40 albums. It's is a daunting task even for the ardent jazz fan to venture into these recordings. If you have an understanding of John Coltrane's latter work (OM and Kulu Sa Ma) you will be able to digest Pharoah Sanders earliest work with some ease. His earliest recordings all demonstrate a great grasp of free jazz with a deep elegance and beauty that wouldn't be revisited until the late 90s and new century. His playing and career has gone up and down over the last two decades but he maintains energy and melodic structure that is highly distinctive and will continue to be part of his legacy and influence for decades and generations to follow.

I dont' there is a perfect statement album in Pharoah Sanders discography (please feel free to feedback) but I do think there are a series of compilations that really do illustrate Pharoah Sanders reach and depth. One compilation that I believe is definitely comprehensive, is Anthology: You've Got To Have Freedom (Universal UK; 2005).

Anthology covers a pretty good stretch time (1967 - 1996) and over 4 labels including his most prolific and important period with Impulse. This collection features some killer pieces including the classic "The Creator Has A Master Plan," "Thembi," "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" and my favourite "Summun Bukmun Umyun". These are recordings that still follow in the African and Far East spiritual transcendence that was explored in Coltrane's groups but with even more voracity and complexity.

Anthology: You've Got To Have Freedom is a perfect document for a musician that still revered but may not be a well regarded as the legend has work with and established himself with over 40 years prior but I think in due time many people will hold Pharoah Sander in the same stead. Highly Recommended.

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