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Pharoah Sanders

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Pharoah Sanders: Elevation

Impulse AF9261

Pharoah Sanders' latest release on Impulse is a treat. It's his best album in some time, ranking with the Karma and Tauhid masterpieces.

And it's also one of his most accessible releases. Accessible in the sense that even people who've been scorning jazz as too "dissonant" all this time couldn't help but tap their feet to more than half this record. Just as Pharoah stomped to the poly-rhythms while performing the Elevation ritual several months ago at the late, lamented King Pleasure.

Elevation. Pharoah has a knack for precise understatement. For putting across his entire point in the music, and then for those who can't quite take it from there, a few blunt phrases beckon out from his album covers. Elevation. Gathering. Black Unity. Red, Black and Green. Astral Travelling. Love is Everywhere (which Impulse should release as a single already).

This is visionary music, right down to the irridescent pyramid gracing the cover. The themes are soulfully melodicĀ and rich. The rhythms bouncy, almost calypso and Latin-sounding, enriched by Pharoah's variety of hand-made African percussion and reed tools. And every so often Pharoah breaks from the melody with screaming saxophonic sounds never before heard or felt, alternating with his own passionate vocal incantations of Ohm. The sound of the peace that comes only with struggle.

This is a very well mixed, live recording. You're not likely to hear it on your radio (not yet, anyway). For those who have yet to take off on Pharoah, this is a good one to start with. For those who have already been hooked on his genius, Elevation should stand out as one of THE records to get off on.

Dave Fenton