Pure Pleasure Records releases a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of this late jazz icon.
Pharoah Sanders – Shukuru – Theresa Records TR 121 (1981)/Pure Pleasure Records (2022) 180-gram stereo vinyl, 42:04 ****:
(Pharoah Sanders – tenor saxophone, vocals; Leon Thomas – vocals; William Henderson – keyboards; Ray Drummond – bass; Idris Muhammad – drums)
There are many giants among jazz tenor saxophonists. John Coltrane, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, Hank Mobley…the list is voluminous. One of these icons is Pharoah Sanders. He came to prominence as a member of Coltrane’s mid 1960’s ensemble. This was the genesis of spiritual jazz defined by sheets of music improvisation, including high-speed arpeggios and sixteen notes. The marriage of spirituality and blues altered the course of modern jazz. Sanders’ playing style utilized dissonance and helped to create the free jazz genre, influencing several 60’s musicians including Coltrane. As a solo artist, Sanders has recorded scores of albums encompassing over 50 years. Sadly as this review goes to publication, Pharoah Sanders passed away at the age of 81.
Pure Pleasure Records has released a re-mastered 180-gram vinyl of the Theresa Records 1981 album Shukuru. It is a diverse tapestry of musical expression, with a mainstream approach. Side A opens with the ethereal title cut. Against a deliberate, slow groove and synthesizers (William Henderson), Sanders invokes a ruminative, melodic lead. The arrangement is atmospheric and in some ways, hypnotic. Maintaining traditional structure, “Body And Soul” (a perennial jazz standard for saxophonists) is classic balladry with a gentle flow. Sanders fluid, crisp saxophone (with limited vibrato at the end) captures the inherent slow-burning intensity, but the lush arrangement (with synthesized vocals) is spacious. Henderson adds textured solo on piano featuring chords and right hand notation. In a shift of mood and tone, vocalist Leon Thomas brings a Caribbean vibe to the festive “Has In Brooklyn (Highlife)”. The jaunty countenance and falsetto are infectious and the arrangement glows with warmth. Thomas’ unique vocals are at the core of “Sun Song”, which feels like a Latin-infused reverie, infusing a steady, relaxing pulse. Sanders’ gossamer run is understated and embraces the melodic essence of the song.
Taking another page from Coltrane, Sanders breathes new life into the popular standard“Too Young To Go Steady”. With a deep sensitivity, the angst of young love is translated perfectly. Henderson’s thoughtful piano is kindred to the spirit of the song. In a flourishing opening provided by Henderson, “Jitu” swings. The aggressive waltz-time tempo provides a cohesive structure for Sanders’ passionate offering. There is a distinctive swing tempo and the unusual layered vocalese, with Henderson percolating on another memorable solo. Idris Muhammad executes a couple of well-time drum fills. “For Big George’ makes its first appearance on vinyl. This is a plaintive statement, with mournful tenor shading and feathery synthesizers. It is quintessential spiritual jazz, with Leon Thomas adding his distinctive baritone voice.
Shukuru is another compelling album from a true jazz visionary. There are nuanced layers and motifs on every track. The re-mastered sound mix is excellent with balanced stereo separation.
Side A: Shukuru; Body And Soul; Has In Brooklyn (Highlife); Sun Song
Side B: Too Young To Go Steady; Jitu; For Big George.
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