I consider Saxophonist Pharoah Sanders to be the heir to John Coltrane’s earthly mission. As a young man he was taken under Coltrane’s wing, recording the spiritually turbulent music Coltrane made on Meditations, Live In Seattle, and Live At The Village Vanguard. Sanders searing tone was a piece of the puzzle John Coltrane worked on at the end of his short life. After Coltrane’s death, Sanders continued on a spiritual quest in his music, often with the help of John’s widow, Alice Coltrane. His albums Karma and Tauhid, were models not only for the jazz avant-, but for spiritual music and world ambient music. His music has mellowed somewhat over the years, but arguably so would Coltrane these 33 years later. Sander’s has renewed his music, examining jazz standards, the middle-years of Coltrane’s career, and continued to combine world music into his circle of influence. Without a major label contract, his output has been sparse and inconsistent. Finding a gem like Spirits is a reason to rejoice.
Percussionists Adam Rudolph and Hamid Drake, both practitioners of Jazz, African, and Indian percussion, lay down a meditative rhythm for this hour of live music. Drake moved to Chicago and found a home with the AACM musicians that inhabit a world of free jazz and explorative creative music. He has been a vital component first in the music of Fred Anderson (check out last month’s review of Live At The Velvet Lounge ), then with Herbie Hancock, Peter Brotzmann, Bill Laswell, and recently Ken Vandermark’s DKV trio. Rudolph followed a similar path through Anderson, Hancock, Laswell, plus the bands of Don Cherry, and Yusef Lateef. Rudolph’s study and practice in the art of European, African and Asian percussion is impressive, as is this collaboration with Drake.
Like the music of Pharoah Sanders, Drake and Rudolph create a meditative rhythm that peaks and flows throughout the hour. Trap drums are replaced by hand drumming, congas, and tablas. Drones and chants are utilized to heighten the energy without disturbing the process. At a point in “The Thousand Petalled Lotus,” Sanders is vocalizing in the midst of his overblown saxophone solo, but because of the progression of the music it is not disturbing (maybe to the disappointment of free jazz fans) this meditation. This is the Sanders of Karma, Shukuru, and Welcome To Love. If you have found this recording, treasure it, meditate with it, and somebody please sign Pharoah Sanders to a major label.
Track List:Sunrise; Morning In Soweto; The Thousand Petalled Lotus; I And Thou; Uma Lake; Ancient Peoples; Calling To The Luminous Beings; Roundhouse; Molimo; Sunset.