Pharoah Sanders

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Tauhid

Tenorist Sanders recorded a string of very similar, but as a series, highly distinctive albums from the mid-sixties into the early-seventies; this 1966 effort was the first. All the albums combine avant-garde improvisation with long, repetitive, world-music afro-grooves, played with lots of percussion and a miscellany of unusual folk instruments. The generally tuneless, two-chord grooves, which swirl on for ages, are a kind of superior chill-out music with a strong peace-and-love / spirituality vibe, while Sanders’ infrequent bursts of screaming are among the most ferocious and violent sounds jazz has to offer; the aim was presumably to kill the listener with shock. This particular album includes ‘Japan’, a Japanese folk song (allegedly) that Albert Ayler also recorded, and which Sanders sings: he sounds completely mad. ‘Aum’ recalls the Coltrane band of the time, and features some pioneering free-jazz electric guitar from Sonny Sharrock, before the music melts into the peaceful spirituality of ‘Venus’, one of Sanders’ best tunes. The highlight, however, is the last five minutes of ‘Upper and Lower Egypt’, a groove that epitomises the whole series, and which features screaming of an intensity that only Sanders and Ayler ever achieved.
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Thembi

The huge, warbling sound of Cecil McBee’s bass and Lonnie Liston Smith’s keyboards feature prominently on this 1971 album, as does Sanders’ soprano. The highly atmospheric opening track, ‘Astral Travelling’, with birds singing and Pharoah’s soprano sounding particularly gorgeous, is unusually structured for one of these albums, both melodically and harmonically. Even more memorable, however, is the apocalyptic Egypto-fury of ‘Red, Black and Green’; the tenor comes out and all hell breaks loose.