Explorations Of African Mysticism On Vinyl LP!
Includes The Astonishing "Sun In Aquarius"!
Pharoah Sanders possesses one of the most distinctive tenor saxophone sounds
in jazz. Harmonically rich and heavy with overtones, Sanders' sound can be as
raw and abrasive as it is possible for a saxophonist to produce. Yet, Sanders is
highly regarded to the point of reverence by a great many jazz fans. He made his
name with expressionistic, nearly anarchic free jazz in John Coltrane's late
ensembles of the mid-'60s. The hallmarks of Sanders' playing at that time were
naked aggression and unrestrained passion. In the years after Coltrane's death,
however, Sanders explored other, somewhat gentler and perhaps more cerebral
avenues — without, it should be added, sacrificing any of the intensity that
defined his work as an apprentice to Coltrane.
Coltrane's ensembles with Sanders were some of the most controversial in the
history of jazz. Their music represents a near total desertion of traditional
jazz concepts, like swing and functional harmony, in favor of a teeming,
irregularly structured, organic mixture of sound for sound’s sake. Strength was
a necessity in that band, and as Coltrane realized, Sanders had it in abundance.
Sanders made his first record as a leader in 1964. Jewels of Thought was
recorded at Plaza Sound Studios in New York City on October 20, 1969, and was
released on Impulse! Records in the same year.
"In 1969, Pharoah Sanders was incredibly active, recording no less than four
albums and releasing three. The band on Jewels of Thought is largely the same as
on Deaf Dumb Blind and Karma, with a few changes. Idris Muhammad has, with the
exception of 'Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah Hum Allah,' replaced Roy Haynes, and Richard
Davis has permanently replaced Reggie Workman and Ron Carter, though Cecil McBee
is still present for the extra bottom sound. Leon Thomas and his trademark holy
warble are in the house, as is Lonnie Liston Smith. Comprised of two long cuts,
the aforementioned and 'Sun in Aquarius,' Jewels of Thought sees Sanders moving
out from his signature tenor for the first time and delving deeply into reed
flutes and bass clarinet. The plethora of percussion instruments utilized by
everyone is, as expected, part of the mix. 'Hum-Allah' begins with a two-chord
piano vamp by Smith and Thomas singing and yodeling his way into the band's
improvisational space. For 12 minutes, Sanders and company mix it up --
especially the drummers -- whipping it first quietly down into the most pure
melodic essences of Smith's solo and then taking the tension and building to
ecstatic heights with all manner of blowing and intervallic interaction between
the various elements until it just explodes, before coming down in pieces and
settling into a hush of melodic frames and the same two-chord vamp. On 'Sun in
Aquarius,' African thumb pianos, reed flutes, sundry percussion, and orchestra
chimes are employed to dislocate all notions of Western music. Things get very
quiet (though there is constant motion); the innards of the piano are brushed
and hammered quietly before Sanders comes roaring out of the tense silence with
his bass clarinet, and then the tenor and bass share an intertwined solo and
Smith starts kicking ass with impossibly large chords. It moves into another
two-chord vamp at the end of 27 minutes, to be taken out as a closed prayer.
It's more like a finished exorcism, actually, but it is one of the most
astonishing pieces by Sanders ever." - Thom Jurek, allmusic.com
"Jewels of Thought deeply explores the nimbus of African mysticism. With eyes
closed and heart wide open, empyreal atmospheres are courted with almost
religious fervour, the shrieks of brass ascending (sometimes falling down) the
majestic stairways of celestial dimensions. On its opening track
'Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah', a Sufi meditation, is given a gentle sway via a
strangely proto-hip-hop rhythm, predating the genre by nearly ten years. A
sparkling, lush melody supplied by the simple strokes of a piano gives Sanders
the freefall width to send his sax notes sailing high into the stratospheres.
Then there is the hollowed African percussion and Leon Thomas' rippling yodels.
It may have displeased jazz purists who didn't care for a multi-national
confederation of sound, but clearly Sanders was having fun. The album's second
track, the astrologically-themed 'Sun in Aquarius' (a motif continued from
Tauhid's 'Capricorn Rising'), unfurls with the notes of a thumb piano, which
scatter like jewels. Making a stormy mess with the noise of saxophones, bass
clarinets and the combined squalls of the piano and drums, 'Sun in Aquarius'
exorcises not demons but the seraphs deeply rooted in the songs of earth.
Sanders, in restless temperament here, does away with the mathematics of logic
and process; his work is down to an emotion invested purely in risk." -
Imran Khan, Pop Matters
• Vinyl LP
Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone, contrabass clarinet, reed flute, kalimba,
orchestra chimes, percussion
Leon Thomas, vocals, percussion
Lonnie Smith, piano, African flute, kalimba, percussion
Richard Davis, bass, percussion (tracks 2 & 3 only)
Cecil McBee, bass, percussion
Idris Muhammad, drums, percussion
Roy Haynes, drums (track 1 only)
2. Sun In Aquarius (Part I)
3. Sun In Aquarius (Part II)