Pharoah Sanders set for Glasgow Jazz Festival date
Legendary saxophonist and collaborator with Sonny Sharrock, John Coltrane and Alice Coltrane
‘The creator has a masterplan, peace and harmony for everyone,’ sings a beatific Leon Thomas over light-dappled piano and a rolling bass groove. As the piece reaches an ecstatic pitch, Thomas’s vocals explode into fervent ululations amidst a tumult of free-blowing and shimmering African percussion. This is Pharoah Sanders’ 1969 album Karma, a masterpiece of spiritual free jazz which became a US radio hit and stands as one of the most accessible and beautiful transmissions from the avant-garde.
Mentored by Sun Ra and John Coltrane, Sanders took the gutsy tenor saxophone tone he developed in R&B bands into wild new directions. Yet he is also a deeply soulful and sensitive player, with a harmonic approach inspired by African and Indian music.
Sanders joined Coltrane’s band in 1965, playing on some of the great man’s most radical albums, including the epochal big-band freak-out Ascension. After ‘Trane’s tragic passing in 1967, Sanders worked with his widow Alice on her gorgeous early albums, while pursuing his own mystical and Afrocentric direction on classic Impulse! Records’ sides like Deaf Dumb Blind, Thembi and Black Unity.
Following this intense period of creativity, Sanders settled into a mellower groove, although he rekindled the fire music to stunning effect on guitarist Sonny Sharrock’s 1991 testament Ask The Ages. His current band work within a more mainstream post-bop framework, but Sanders continues to push at the edges, his horn still a conduit for passionate rasps and squeals, even on the most melodic of numbers. Pharoah lives!
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Wed 27 Jun