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Album Review

Pharoah Sanders' third album as a leader is the one that defines him as a musician to the present day. After the death of Coltrane, while there were many seeking to make a spiritual music that encompassed his ideas and yearnings while moving forward, no one came up with the goods until Sanders on this 1969 date. There are only two tracks on Karma, the 32-plus minute "The Creator Has a Master Plan" and the five-and-a-half-minute "Colours." The band is one of Sanders' finest, and features vocalist Leon Thomas, drummer Billy Hart, Julius Watkins, James Spaulding, a pre-funk Lonnie Liston Smith, Richard Davis, Reggie Workman on bass, and Nathaniel Bettis on percussion. "Creator" begins with a quote from "A Love Supreme," with a nod to Coltrane's continuing influence on Sanders. But something else emerges here as well: Sanders' own deep commitment to lyricism and his now inherent knowledge of Eastern breathing and modal techniques. His ability to use the ostinato became not a way of holding a tune in place while people soloed, but a manner of pushing it irrepressibly forward. Keeping his range limited (for the first eight minutes anyway), Sanders explores all the colors around the key figures, gradually building the dynamics as the band comps the two-chord theme behind with varying degrees of timbral invention. When Thomas enters at nine minutes, the track begins to open. His yodel frees up the theme and the rhythm section to invent around him. At 18 minutes it explodes, rushing into a silence that is profound as it is noisy in its approach. Sanders is playing microphonics and blowing to the heavens and Thomas is screaming. They are leaving the material world entirely. When they arrive at the next plane, free of modal and interval constraints, a new kind of lyricism emerges, one not dependent on time but rhythm, and Thomas and Sanders are but two improvisers in a sound universe of world rhythm and dimension. There is nothing to describe the exhilaration that is felt when this tune ends, except that "Colours," with Ron Carter joining Workman on the bass, was the only track that could follow it. You cannot believe it until you hear it.

Customer Reviews

Classic

What is there to say. My first 'hit' of Pharoah Sanders. Bought it 40 years ago on vinyl. on CD and now on Itunes. An integral part of any real jazz collection.

AN ODYSSEY

This album, though only two tracks long, is a jewel in the crown that is jazz! Takes me to that spiritual place that one can only venture to in bitter-sweet solitude, where thought and passion are lone my companions.

Spiritual, exhilirating, beautiful

Possibly one of the greatest albums ever recorded by anyone. Essential for anyone with a taste for fine music.

Biography

Born: October 13, 1940 in Little Rock, AR

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Pharoah Sanders possesses one of the most distinctive tenor saxophone sounds in jazz. Harmonically rich and heavy with overtones, Sanders' sound can be as raw and abrasive as it is possible for a saxophonist to produce. Yet, Sanders is highly regarded to the point of reverence by a great many jazz fans. Although he made his name with expressionistic, nearly anarchic free jazz in John Coltrane's late ensembles of the mid-'60s, Sanders' later music is guided by more graceful concerns. In the free-time,...
Full Bio