Pharoah Sanders – The Impulse Story – Impulse

by | Nov 7, 2006 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Pharoah Sanders – The Impulse Story – Impulse 6571-02, 60:41 2006 *****:

(Artists: Pharoah Sanders, tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, piccolo, percussion, vocal; Dave Burrell, piano; Sonny Sharrock, electric guitar; Henry Grimes, bass; Nat Bettis, percussion; Roger Blank, drums; Julius Watkins, french horn; James Spaulding,flute; Lonnie Liston Smith, piano; Richard Davis, bass; Reggie Workman, bass; Billy Hart, drums; LeonThomas, vocals, percussion; Michael White, violin; Cecil McBee, bass; Clifford Jarvis, drums; Joe Bonner,harmonium; Calvin Hill, tamboura; Lawrence Killian, bell tree; John Blue, percussion; Jimmy Hopps,percussion; Michael Carvin, drums)

While Pharoah Sanders’ Impulse Story compilation may be redudant for those who are already fans of the man, for first time listeners it’s an amazing introduction to one of the most intriguing jazz musicians of the post-bop era. Covering the years 1966 to 1973, the Impulse Story covers Sanders’ years at Impulse, from his first album, Tauhid, to his last, Elevation.

Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, the first composition Sanders played for John Coltrane after the latter expressed interest in Sanders joining his group, is the first track on the album and you could mistake its first twelve minutes for an experimental rock track. With Sonny Sharrock’s droning, trebly guitar line, a nasally piccolo interlude from Sanders, and extended percussion solo, the general mood is avantgarde. But when Sanders comes in at the twelve- minute mark, the song jazzes up, with Sharrock playing smooth comping chords and the percussion getting in gear.

The Creator Has a Master Plan, like “A Love Supreme”, found crossover appeal (and radio play!) with an eight minute edited version. The full version, clocking in at 32:45, is featured on the Impulse Story and it’s a true tour-de-force. From the gorgeous meditative mood of the first fourteen minutes, with its classic ascending melodic line and yodeling courtsey of Leon Thomas, to the sped-up, free jazz section where Thomas yodels over a storm of screeching sax, flute, and French horn, to the final tentative return to the original melody, the song never lets up.

The album’s last two tracks, Astral Travels and Spiritual Blessings show Sanders experimenting with rock and roll recording techniques like overdubs (playing extra parts on top of the basic track), echo and reverb effects, and multiple channel editing. While certain players of the time may have scoffed at the notion of mixing a saxophone to bounce back between left and right channels, the end effect is the opening up of a track to new sounds and moods. Hearing Sanders play gorgeous soprano sax lines over a harmonium is so enchanting you could care less whether it’s jazz or fusion or world music you’re listening to.

For those who’ve only heard the edited version of The Creator or for rock fans who love Coltrane and Miles, The Impulse Story is a wonderful introduction to a jazz genius who can cross-over in the most positive sense of the word.

Tracks: Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt, The Creator Has a Master Plan, Astral Travels, Spiritual Blessings.

– Dan Krow

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