Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rock Revival's Classic Albums (1971): Pharoah Sanders 'Black Unity'

Black Unity

This is a jazz album for fans of prog, fusion, psychedelia, funk, etc, by Pharoah Sanders, a man Ornette Coleman once described as "probably the best tenor player in the world."

Sanders emerged in the mid-60's as a member of John Coltrane's band, a man who outdid Coltrane's 'sheets of sound' and pretty much jumped off the tonal cliff well into free-jazz-psychedelic-freak-out mode

Another free jazz musician, Albert Ayler, once said; "Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I was the Holy Ghost." (pretty modest)

Coltrane himself said: "Pharoah is a man of large spiritual reservoir, always trying to reach out to truth. He's trying to allow his spiritual self to be his guide. He's dealing, among other things, in energy, in integrity, in essences."

Richard Cook for the New Statesman said 1998. "Where Coltrane was all steely majesty, Sanders sprayed notes and sounds everywhere, drawing multiphonic sounds from his saxophone which the leader seemed to be bewitched by."

By 1971 it is safe to say that Pharoah had explored the extremes of free jazz (only Sun Ra could go further) and Black Unity represents a return to rhythm of sorts. He employed funkier players than normal, including a young Stanley Clarke (of Return to Forever)

Black Unity consists of one track only: 37 minutes of pure Afro-Latin-blue, some wild experimentations on sax but beautifully held together by percussion and a heavy groove provided by two bass players, everything you wanted your free-jazz to be but were to afraid to ask. The minute you think it's headed off the rails for good it comes back, a jugernaut of sound but one you can still dance to ? Well maybe not.

Highly recommended ****

ImageCourtesy Impulse

No comments: