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Joey DeFrancesco: In The Key Of The Universe

Chris Mosey By

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This is an important, even historic album. It marks—unannounced—the return of a great figure of the free jazz era, Pharoah Sanders. Saxophonist Albert Ayler once famously declared, "Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost."

Hammond organist Joey DeFrancesco has orchestrated Sanders' return from oblivion. Without it, the album would be just one more round of Hammond organ tunes that adhere to DeFrancesco's dictum "I just like to swing."

Sanders is featured on three numbers: the title track; his own, perhaps best-known song, "The Creator Has A Master Plan"; and "And So It Is." Without in any way disturbing the album's main, happy-go-lucky thrust, these songs provide a glimpse back into another time when brave men sought to expand the music's and their own horizons.

Sanders, aged 78, has distanced himself from those free jazz years. His website says: "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. The hallmarks of Sanders' playing at that time were naked aggression and unrestrained passion. In the years after Coltrane's death, however, Sanders explored other, somewhat gentler and perhaps more cerebral avenues—without, it should be added, sacrificing any of the intensity that defined his work as an apprentice to Coltrane."

Hats off to Joey DeFrancesco for this chance to re-evaluate Sanders' work.

DeFrancesco's own numbers are executed with his customary panache. "Inner Being" and "Vibrations In Blue" test the limits of the instrumentation to emerge by and large unscathed. "Soul Perspective" is gentle and melodic, with Troy Roberts putting in some good work on tenor and soprano saxophones.

"A Path Through The Noise" speaks for itself —it's meditative and calm with DeFrancesco taking a solo on trumpet, which he took up after gigging with Miles Davis as a very young man.

Track Listing: Inner Being; Vibrations In Blue; Awake And Blissed; It Swung Wide Open; In The Key Of The Universe; The Creator Has A Master Plan; And So It Is; Soul Perspective; A Path Through The Noise; Easier To Be.

Personnel: Joey DeFrancesco: organ, trumpet; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone, vocal; Troy Roberts: soprano, alto and tenor saxophone, bass; Sammy Figueroa: percussion; Billy Hart: drums.

Title: In The Key Of The Universe | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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