28 July 2009

Cosmic Jazz

1 Kull-i-Shay, 9 Vahid - Year Vahhab

I've been listening to some of Pharoah Sanders' early 70s records lately. Sanders guested on a lot of John Coltrane's later albums and continued 'Trane's forays into Afro-centric psychedelic jazz, much like Alice Coltrane, John's widow.

Sanders recorded the seminal Karma album in 1969. It wasn't his debut, but it was a much of a style-changer as Bitches Brew was to Miles Davis. He followed "Karma" up with a string of records, released on the Impulse label, though the early to mid 70s. The tunes would be lengthy jams, featuring African percussion and Sanders' soulful vocals. At times, he would warble and ululate, almost yodelling. Sanders would fire off sheets of sax notes, much like Coltrane's playing on Om or Sun Ship. His band would compliment the melodies - all of them seeming to operate, like most exceptional groups, on a 'wavelength' of collective thought. Cecil McBee's deft double-bass playing keeping a steady groove and Roy Haynes' drumming adding detailed flourishes to the mix.

Here is a home-made vid for Astral Traveling, from the Thembi album, released in 1971. It's a sweet, mellow instrumental that kicks off the record. I like the way that the critter who made the vid left the vinyl crackles in.

Lonnie Liston Smith, who played keyboards in Pharoah's band, left in 1972 to form his own group, The Cosmic Echoes. Their debut, Astral Traveling (familiar title there), was released in 1973. Smith also recorded several mellow/cosmic jazz albums throughout the 70s.

Here is a vid for I Mani (Faith) from the "Astral Traveling" record. It's very close, style-wise, to 'Trane/Pharoah's sound:

Both Sanders and Smith are still around and still playing. I haven't heard any of their newer offerings, so I can't give an accurate description. I'd like to think that they're still creating cosmic grooves for us to enjoy.

1 comment:

Mr Axl said...

The latest I heard of Sanders was his playing as part of Kenny Garrett's band on the "Beyond The Wall" album (2006), which was pretty damn fine stuff.
They've done another one together since, but I still haven't managed to hear it yet.