12 Jan 2021


tout simplement magique

'Everything is connected. Last year's release of Alice Coltrane's Live at the Berkeley Community Theater 1972 set in motion a reappraisal of the spiritual jazz and cosmic consciousness music that flourished, briefly, in the early '70s. Interest continued and accelerated this year – with the first new Sun Ra Arkestra record in decades, anthologies from regional labels like Soul Fire Records and the discovery of this rousing Pharoah Sanders concert from 1975. The date is interesting, because recording activity for the intense tenor saxophonist and many similar artists had diminished (Sanders' last work for Impulse! was Elevation, recorded in 1973). But the spirit clearly had not dimmed: Performing in the Grand Auditorium at France's public radio headquarters, Sanders and a tuned-in trio travel on familiar two-chord pathways to spontaneous moments of illumination. Worth it just for the intimate rendering of Sanders' mighty tone, and the searching, canting phrases he uses to pursue sonic truth. Which he finds.' -Tom Moon

Live Healing Spiritual Jazz from One of its all-time Masters!

'This is an incredible live 1975 recording of Pharaoh at his best. Pharoah’s live recordings have always contained some of his best recorded music (including Elevation, Live at the East, Live, and Heart Is A Melody), and this recording lives up to that high standard. It has beautiful powerful versions of some of the healing songs he was playing at that time including Love is Here and Love is Everywhere, the latter of which is one of the best recorded examples of the healing and exhilarating spiritual power of his incantatory vocal songs. Pharoah’s tenor sax playing is tremendous as usual, and Danny Mixon’s beautiful piano playing is an essential part of the music. (Calvin Hill on bass and Greg Bandy on drums are the other two musicians on the recording and play great as well.) The music is very melodic and accessible while at the same time still containing some of the cacophonous saxophone effects that Pharoah is so well known for. An incredible gem of spiritual jazz from 45 years ago that has unexpectedly appeared in our troubled times as a healing gift. Great for long-term Pharoah fans as well as for newcomers who want to experience his spiritually powerful and healing music.' -J.D.

Never-before released document of Pharoah Sanders blowing cool fire in Paris, 1975, including a joyous takes on ‘The Creator Has a Masterplan’ and ‘Love Is Everywhere’ spilling over with spiritual, free, soulful jazz goodness.

'Catching Sanders in the years after his crucial work with John and Alice Coltrane, and following his departure from Impulse!, the home to much of his foundational solo work, ’Live In Paris (1975): Lost ORTF Recordings’ frames the tenor sax wielding jazz titan at a crest of his creative powers. Playing to a clearly appreciative audience in a city famed for its embrace of jazz, Sanders shows why he’s hailed the “Son” to Trane’s “God” and Ayler’s “Holy Spirit” with a coolly learned and sizzling suite of spiritual jazz laid down live at Studio 104, Maison de la Radio, Paris, and backed by Danny Mixon (Piano, Organ), Calvin Hill (Contrabass), and Greg Bandy (Percussion). 

As one of the most direct influences on his bandmate John Coltrane, Sanders has always been recognised by jazz aficionados as a master of his craft, and in recent years his unconventional and omnidirectional work is finding ever wider audiences, with these Lost ORTF Recordings serving testament to the live prowess of a player who Ornette Coleman described as “probably the best tenor player in the world”.

It’s practically worth it for the gripping excerpt of ’The Creator Has A Masterplan’, a shorter version of the 30 minute highlight from ‘Karma’ (1969), especially its Ra-like prang out into avant-garde jazz freedom with Sanders’ dissonant blurts matched by steepled organ and thrashing drums, but the burning vocal and groove of ‘Love is Everywhere’ is also unmissable for anyone who needs a heavy dose of positivity in their life, and one that comes from a more difficult place than many of us will experience, but surely still endures and endears nearly 50 years later.'

'By 1975, Pharoah Sanders had become a reluctant star in the worlds of free and spiritual jazz. He wasn’t trying to be famous; after years of living without a home in New York City and selling his blood for food, he simply wanted to line up enough gigs so he could eat and have a place to stay. But after his peers John Coltrane and Albert Ayler died in 1967 and 1970, Sanders was suddenly at the vanguard of a new kind of energy music, a mind-bending form of jazz meant to reach heaven through shrieking saxophones and boundless rhythm. The idea, it seemed, is if the horns were loud enough, the music might reach God’s ears personally.

Sanders’ music was different, way different, and his art took a little more time to digest. Listeners hadn’t heard a singer yodel on a jazz track, though that’s just what vocalist Leon Thomas did on “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” the multi-part 32-minute centerpiece of Sanders’ 1969 album, Karma. There was also the saxophonist’s shrill style of playing, a roar so swift and face-frowning that The New Yorker’s Whitney Balliett likened it to “elephant shrieks.” Sanders pressed on anyway: in 1971, he was a featured player on what might be Alice Coltrane’s best album, the incredible Journey in Satchidananda, while releasing his own great solo work—Thembi, Black Unity, Elevation, and Izipho Zam (My Gifts) to name a few.

Live In Paris (1975) captures a live performance by the Pharoah Sanders Quartet in the Grand Auditorium / Studio 104 on November 17th, 1975. Featuring Sanders on tenor sax, Danny Mixon on organ and piano, Calvin Hill on double bass, and Greg Bandy on drums, the bandleader sounds surprisingly restrained here, letting others assume the lead by taking some of the steam out of his horn. And he almost does the same on the live rendition of “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” until shortly before the four-minute mark when a faint, recognizable squeal emerges from the back of the mix, and the bandleader howls through tumbling drum fills, surging bass, and the kind of organ chords you’d hear in an old horror flick.

Yet if “Creator” feels tethered to some sort of doom, the following track, “I Want To Talk About You,” slows the pace to a romantic stroll; it’s almost smooth jazz before that was truly a thing, and Sanders emits a softer tone, foreshadowing where he went musically in the late ’70s. But it’s on the concluding track, “Love Is Everywhere,” where the band goes off. All praise shouts and handclaps, the song opens with a mantra that, when repeated several times in eight minutes, feels like a benediction in an old Southern Baptist church. Toward the end, as the arrangement dissolves and Sanders wails through it, the crowd erupts in thunderous applause. It’s unclear if they all converted to his wave of spirituality, but based on the night’s raw emotion, some new fans must have pledged at his creative altar.'

Pharoah Sanders’ group rolled up all the best qualities from his early-1970s LPs into a newly reissued set that bursts with joy and discovery. It’s a concert that sounds more like a party than a seance.

'When Pharoah Sanders played tenor saxophone with John Coltrane in the 1960s, his tone was harsh and wild. Soloing alongside Coltrane on records like Ascension, Om, and Live in Japan, Sanders’ horn would shriek and howl and cry, reaching a pitch of earth-shaking intensity on pieces that pushed jazz to the limits of legibility. But after Coltrane’s death in 1967, Sanders began exploring a different path. Playing with Alice Coltrane on Ptah, the El Daoud and Journey in Satchidananda, and on his own albums for the Impulse! label, his sound was still searching, but now it was lyrical, and his musical settings often included trance-inducing grooves. After a half-decade enduring the blast furnace of free jazz, Sanders’ style grew more spiritual and cosmic and started looking to music from around the globe for inspiration.

The records Sanders made for Impulse! in the first half of the 1970s are marked by intensity and emotional focus but also by accessibility. Solos sometimes included intense overblowing, but sunny melodies and rich instrumental textures bent the music toward peace and light. This is where we find Sanders and his band when they played a show in Paris in 1975. His Impulse! period was behind him, and a few years away were the records for Clive Davis’ Arista, where he’d make deeper forays into R&B and even touch on disco. While he was in this in-between space, Sanders’ group rolled up all the best qualities from his early-1970s LPs into a set that bursts with joy and discovery, positive vibrations radiating in every direction. It captured a gig in a studio at the studios of Radio France with a capacity of about 800 people, the site of live albums by Cannonball Adderley, Freddie Hubbard, and Grant Green. The quality of the sound is exceptional. Given the sonics and the wide appeal of the set, this isn’t a bad place to start for someone new to his work.

The essence of Sanders’ music in this period is the two-chord vamp. This wasn’t the only structure he used and he would occasionally take on standards or tunes by John Coltrane, but vamps undergirded a lot of his most memorable music. Most of the tunes on “Live in Paris (1975)” are built from simple basslines by Calvin Hill, and pianist Danny Mixon seesaws back and forth between two chords, with a few variations. Music that goes on for minutes on end with only two repeating chords creates a special mood. It’s not unlike listening to the sound of breathing. Tension builds and releases with each successive bar, but the feeling is open and easeful, bringing to mind dreamy images—trees moving outside a car window, waves crashing into a shore. A two-chord vamp suggests travel, but it never feels like it’s going anywhere in particular. The journey, rather than the destination, is what counts.

Such a harmonic framework is perfect for Sanders, who stretches out on solos that are melodic and lyrical but still relatively simple, a triumph of tone and phrasing possible only when virtuosity is a given. “Love Is Here,” performed in two parts, mostly centers on a vamp, with Hill playing his bass high on the neck to give the groove an elastic propulsion, as if he’s in front pulling the band behind him. At times, Sanders goes into the fiery overblowing that he made his name with, but these eruptions never last long, and they seem celebratory rather than violent. He also sings through his horn, creating a beautiful bird-like yelp that blurs the lines between voice and instrument. Similar techniques are found in “Farrell Tune,” another classic-sound vamp that bears some resemblance to Sanders 1971 tune “Thembi.”

Sanders’ reins in his most far-out musical conceptions here; it’s a set that sounds more like a party than a seance. The original version of “The Creator Has a Masterplan,” which debuted on Sanders’ 1969 album Karma, ran over 32 minutes. But this take is more focused, keeping the original’s searching melody but simplifying the arrangement. Mixon gets harp-like tones out of his piano, with quick trills on the upper keys that sound almost like strums, and he breaks out for a funky solo. “I Want to Talk About You” is a ballad closely associated with John Coltrane—it appears on both Soultrane and Live at Birdland—and it’s the one change-up on a set that is otherwise quite unified. Sanders gives it a yearning, though relatively straight reading, and the standard’s chord changes offer a welcome diversion from the consistent groove.

Three of the six tracks feature the word “love” and another suggests that God knows what he’s doing, so the overriding mood here is one of comfort and bliss. On the closing “Love Is Everywhere” Sanders sings and chants as often as he plays his horn, sounding like a preacher at a revival leading a call-and-response. Hearing his rough vocals over the impossibly peppy and cheerful music compels the untrained singers among us to join in. The song’s false ending, taking a page out of James Brown’s book, is pure communal ecstasy, filled with an organ swell, crashing drums, and chants that seem to bring every Parisian in the room to their feet. It’s so stirring, it makes you want to look around wherever you are when listening to confirm what he’s singing: Love is everywhere. Could it be? Whatever contrary evidence exists elsewhere in the world, now or any other time in history, Sanders makes a convincing case for its omnipresence on this particular day 45 years ago.' -Mark Richardson

1. Love is Here : Part 1 6:11
2. Love is Here : Part 2 7:35
3. Farrell Tune 7:43
4. The Creator Has A Masterplan 8:53
5. I Want To Talk About You 4:51
6. Love Is Everywhere 8:25

Concert du Quartet de Pharoah Sanders,
Concert à Paris, 1975 - Enregistrements inédits.
Enregistré le 17 novembre 1975 au Grand Auditorium / Studio 104 - Maison de la Radio.
Remastered from the original master tapes.

Pharoah Sanders Quartet :
Saxophone ténor : Pharoah Sanders
Piano et Orgue : Danny Mixon
Contrebasse : Calvin Hill
Batterie : Greg Bandy