Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pharoah Sanders - Heart is a Melody (Theresa, 1983)

After leaving the Impulse! label in the mid 1970's, tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders became a bit of a journeyman. Sanders toned down hiss trident tone a little bit to fit into the jazz club scene but hecould still dip back into into the free jazz bag when the situation required. On this live date, he's joined by William Henderson onpiano, Jim Heard on bass and Idris Muhammad on drums.

This record is somewhat uneven, but on the first side, where the action is, Sanders pins his ears back and just howls through a sidelong version of John Coltrane's "Ole'." Sanders plays with the ferocity that made him such and admired or reviled figure during the previous two decades, using overblowing, growling and other techniques to create a very powerful performance. The second side of the record is altogether differnet. Made up of ballads, proto-smooth jazz and even some vocals, the music does show how varied Sanders could be, but lacks the intensity that made the first performance so exciting.

"On a Misty Night" and "Heart is a Melody" show a kinder, gentler Pharoah Sanders, who gets a huge tone on the ballads and allows room for the side men to solo. Finally "Gion' to Africa (Highlife) brings in a chanting groove to take the record to its conclusion. As with most of Sanders records during this period, this is a hit or miss affair, although the high spot (Ole') is pretty high indeed.

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