24 Nov 2021

USA

At last...after being unavailable for decades!

'Twenty three or 24 years ago I heard "Healing Song" played on a college radio station in Moscow, ID. of all places. I had been taping the broadcast because the DJ played a wonderfully eclectic blend of obscure music from the fringes of the Jazz genre. "Healing Song", the first cut on this ramastered CD, is for me, the finest recording of Pharoah Sanders' early post-Coltrane period. It is a gem...and aptly named. Sanders's tenor opens with a strong individual proclamation. That voice plunges head-on into a cacophany of percussion, bass (Cecil McBee and Stanley Clarke!) flute, trumpet and voices that range from frenetic, free improvisation, to reaching an exultant resolution of the highest order...and we, the listeners, are carried along on this healing journey. The contribution of pianist Joseph Bonner, who worked with Sanders from time to time into the 1980's, deserves special mention here. He is listed as co-composer, and his ringing keyboards are the perfect match for the ensemble sound achieved here. This music is not for everyone, but Sanders fans will find resolution and fullfullment with this important live recording (1971-72?). I only wish the liner notes were in English (as well as the Japanese)....But that's alright...the music speak for itself, and I've been waiting over two decades to get my hands on this recording!' -J. Michael Short

'Pharoah Sanders in 1971 was at the peak of his powers. He would play either peacefully or ferociously and this live recorded perfectly captures that duality. The passionate tenor litl up the club with a fine array of backing men including trumpeter Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, flutist Carlos Garnett, drummers Norman Connors and Billy Hart and more. This album features a number of length excursions into another dimension namely the 20-minute 'Healing Song,' the extended 'Memories of J.W. Coltrane,' and 'Lumkili,' which comes in two parts. The Pharoah is in fine form throughout, making this a must for fans old and new.'

'One of my favorite Sanders albums. It captures the spirit of his music and how it sounded in front of a live audience. While some of his albums can be criticized as "time locked" in a late-60s sound (something that never bothers me -- do people ever mention Charlie Parker being "time locked" in the late 40s?), this one has less late-60s instrumentation going on, focusing often instead on a steady drone or beat that Sanders plays with and against. Whatever it is, it really works, creating a highly spiritual, and spirited, session.' -Drew Fields

'By 1971 Pharoah Sanders' playing essentially alternated between two moods: ferocious and peaceful. This live record gives one a good example of how the passionate tenor sounded in clubs during the early '70s. Sanders is joined by an impressive group of players: trumpeter Marvin "Hannibal" Peterson, flutist Carlos Garnett, Harold Vick on tenor, pianist Joe Bonner, the basses of Stanley Clarke and Cecil McBee, drummers Norman Connors and Billy Hart, and percussionist Lawrence Killian. On the 20-minute "Healing Song," the lengthy "Memories of J.W. Coltrane," and the two-part "Lumkili," Sanders is heard in top form.' -Review by Scott Yanow


Pharoah Sanders Live at the East

'Pharoah Sanders Live at the East was released after Sanders had already come into his own with the album Karma, released on Impulse in 1969. Sanders was well recognized within the modern jazz community, having been mentored by the likes of  Coltrane and Sun Ra. Sanders appears on one of my favorite Alice Coltrane records, Ptah, the El Daoud, released in 1970. In 1972, Sanders released this live album, which can be found at reasonable prices despite the increasing market value of the older Impulse pressings. The line up on this album is stellar, from Cecil McBee and Stanley Clarke on bass, to Carlos Garnett and Harold Vic on flute and tenor, respectively, to Billy Hart on drums.

The East was a cultural center which opened in the Bed-Sty neighborhood in 1969 and played an important role in that historically black neighborhood during a period of turmoil. From what I gather, this album, consisting of three tracks, was not actually recorded at the East but in a studio with audience members from the East in attendance.  It does give you that “you are there” quality, though, and the quality of the recording is high.

Sanders had already developed his signature sound- multiphonic, overblown, but never veering out of control, straddling a fine line between the intense and the serene.

The first track, “Healing Song” starts with an edgy horn blast but quickly becomes melodic as various instruments susurrate and then intone individually; you can hear a cool hook that wraps behind this interlude. This reminds me of the lesson that multi-instrumentalist Brahja said he learned from the great Paul Bley: “…when you make something pretty too long, it ceases to be pretty. He would tell me, put something ugly there—beauty is revealed in contrast.” That repeat refrain, while beautiful, forms a foundation for a great horn solo. There’s still a lot going on in the background, voices, double bass and Sanders eventually breaks out into his characteristic distorted sound, but it’s tempered here. The piano picks it up and Marvin Petersen’s work on the trumpet fits perfectly. A sort of frantic shrieking is set up by Sanders to offset the more conventional musical refrain; when he completes the piece, Sanders just nails it. Very satisfying.

For someone who is relatively new to modern jazz, treat this as a jam session and go with it; for listeners more accustomed to a little cacophony, this is mild stuff.

The jacket lists a short track, Lumkili Part 1, as completing side one. My copy is not pressed that way- “Healing Song” takes up the entirety of side one and side two begins with “Memories of J.W. Coltrane,” a muted contemplation of instrumentation, chants and percussion that eventually makes way for some incredible bass work. Remember, Stanley Clarke and Cecil McBee both appear but it is not clear if they are on stage at the same time. This track will take you out there – rather than listening for melody, I’m listening to the tone of the instruments- the high plucked notes on the bass, for example and letting the overall performance set the mood.

Lumkili appears in its entirety rather than in parts as the second track of side two. We return to a more melodic style, with the sax leading. Sanders’ intonation is beautiful as he lingers and dwells on certain “sweet spots” but still respects the timing of the rest of the band. Those high filigrees on the bass sound like McBee’s work as the piano fills in the space with trills and flourishes and a lovely lower register that is matched by the bass. When the horn returns, it feels like home-peaceful and serene.

This is not the most popular Pharoah Sanders album, nor is it necessarily his best. Why even bother? Because there are moments of brilliant playing here, and a killer band. This is a cheap entry into first generation spiritual jazz on a label that was one of the wellsprings for the movement.' -Bill Hart


1. Healing Song 21:46
2. Memories Of J. W. Coltrane 12:52
3. Lumkili 8:35