Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pharoah Sanders-BLACK UNITY LP; THEMBI LP (both on ABC Impulse)

Two from the recent Rick Noll purchase which netted me a whole load of wondrous, drool-inducing goodies that I plan on cluing you readers about once I get some free time to hunker down and listen to this tasty pile. And now that the stench of all of those latterday Pharoah Sanders Cee-Dees has finally been awashed from my system maybe I can dig into some of his earlier triumphs for the Impulse label...y'see, these platter date from the good ol' days back when the high energy fire was still roaring strong and Sanders was creating what Richard Robinson once called "shutter jazz"...yeah, I don't know what that means either but it sure sounds swell.

Both of these albums date from 1970 (albeit THEMBI didn't see the light of day until a year later) and they pretty much continue on the post-Coltrane free jazz continuum that Impulse seemed to be banking their newly-found market on at the time, mainly rock kids who thought this the closest anyone could ever come to the Stooges*. BLACK UNITY is a double sided piece in the tradition of FREE JAZZ and ASCENSION and even if it doesn't have the same vast dimensions of those two it does make for a fairly good enough high energy romp despite the presence of future Return to Forever bassist Stanley Clarke (who admittedly does some good loopy bass riffs here). BLACK UNITY does have its moments of mid-level interplay true but it never offends your own sense of propriety, and when Sanders and company get into that total eruption freeplay they can do no wrong taking the late-sixties new thing into the seventies burn of loft jazz and ultimately r&b funk-punk. If you are an aficionado of those double sided jazz explosions (PEOPLE IN SORROW too!) you definitely will want to lap this one up. One strange thing about BLACK UNITY though is that although recorded in a studio setting there was an audience present who gleefully applauded after it's all over! A nice touch true, but it threw me off for a minute.

THEMBI came next and it definitely is a "wowzer" despite the presence of longtime Sanders band member Lonnie Liston Smith, a laid back jazz bum who definitely helped bring down a lot of the energy Sanders was exuding during the day and was always put to better use recording those feh fruity albums in the seventies we'd never think of buying in a million years. Sheesh, at least I can take Leon Thomas who isn't here and in the company of Smith might have driven THEMBI to new lows even I couldn't imagine. One of those discs that could easily be seen as a crossover between the new jazz and the new rock of the Stooges*, THEMBI does have its (admittedly palatable) moments of jazzbo commercialism but before the Liston Smith cosmic retches can get to you Sanders fortunately takes the album into familiar high energy territory with some walls of massive sound sear straight out of TAUHID. Naturally what this and BLACK UNITY needed was Sonny Sharrock or at least a similar-minded guitarist ready to shred the air with his taught chording, but even without the electricity this one shines through despite being taken from two separate sessions thus ruining the ambiance for stringent jazz snobs.

Both albums do meet up to BTC high energy standards despite any calls to higher karmic whooziz, especially when Sanders gets out of his own peace and love hell and goes into overdrive with some of the greatest atonal rushes to have been laid down in the very-early seventies outside of FUNHOUSE*. A definite musical high mark of the times, and as Wayne McGuire once said one of the few musical acts to transcend notes and sound breaking into a new musical realm along with Coltrane, Lamonte Young, the Stooges*, Velvet Underground and Yoko Ono.
*You might notice a strange fixation I'm having with the early legacy of the Stooges these past few weeks which more or less seem poised as to how the group was perceived during the years when they were still a living and funtioning entity...well at this point in time I prefer to understand these guys from an early-seventies frame when they seemed to be the end-all in abstract/incomprehensible musical terms and not just some excuse for the umpteenth run-through of "I Wanna Be Your Dog"! Thus the concentration on what they meant for o-mind teenage CREEM minions in 1971 and not the future spawn that sorta fizzed out along with everything else once the seventies underground generation seemed to die out, and for good!

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