Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pharoah Sanders - In the Beginning 1963-1964 (ESP, 2012)

Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders originally came from Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to New York City to try his luck on the music scene in the early 1960’s. He payed his dues hard, living on the street at times as he explains in some of the interviews included in this set, but gradually he began to make headway. His initial break is documented on the first disc, recording with Don Cherry and Paul Bley, both of whom had significant links to Ornette Coleman. This led to music that was rough around the edges, but exploratory free-bop. Disc two features Sanders debut album as a leader, Pharoah’s First. Sanders performs two sidelong improvisations in a quintet setting. This works out very well, with two strong pieces that stretch the boundaries of hard-bop, but don’t quite move into the full throated roar that Sanders would demonstrate when he joined the John Coltrane Quintet in 1965. The final two discs of this collection bring together an extended version of the album Sun Ra Featuring Pharoah Sanders and Black Harold. Sun Ra, in fact was the person who gave the former Farrell Sanders the nickname “Pharoah,” but the title of this album is really something of a misnomer, as both Sanders and Howard get very little solo space on the record. What is interesting, however, is hearing the Arkestra in a live setting, playing some of their most angular and free music. The one place where he really gets the spotlight on the massive track “The Other World” which includes a fiery overblown Sanders solo and a lengthy interlude for several band members in percussion. This is a bit of an odd, yet interesting collection where Pharoah Sanders is the connecting link between various aspects of free music in New York in the 1960’s. There are several illuminating interviews included and the liner notes offer some interesting context, so fans of early 1960’s free jazz will find this set worthwhile. In the Beginning 1963-1964 -

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