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Sam Sanders

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Sam Sanders and Visions broke it loose like an old caboose tor the past few weeks at The Perfect Blend in Southl'ield. Stranger atmospheres have I veen and feit while listening to jazz, but don't ask wliere. Tucked away in one of those formless office buildings in the northern subuibs, glit tering with a million mirrors and multi-colored lights, it wasakin to seeing something the Partridge Family down at Ethel's Cocktail Lounge. Nevertheless, the lolks at the Blend are trying to offer a better fare than ils rivals, and they do present the music in a spaciousand relaxed setting. Sam Sanders is one of Detroit's most precious natural resources, even it' his name doesfl'i ring as familiar as AlJCaline's. His artful saxophone work has graced the ensembles of Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Smokey Robinson and countless Motown dates. He was also invólved with Harold McKinney in "Creative Profiles." Currently, Sarh is involved as an instructor at Oakland University in their jazz curriculum. "Visions" is a group of musicians aJso well known to Detroit listeners. Ed Pickens is generally the first bassist to be called for back-up work with musieians passing through the city. Little surprise! The man could back up the Messiah if the cat ever makes it back. He played along with Sam in Smokey's group and also put in four years with Creative Profile. Keyboard artist John Katalenic, a Berklee School of Music grad and an alumnus of Eddie Nucilli's band, brings arrangements and compositions galore to the group's repertoire. Drummer James Allen came up in the ranks of such luminaries as Ron Carter and Cannonball Adderley and was also backing up Smokey (little coincidence). The group is füled out ably by percussionist-drummer Suele who studied wirti Jimmy Allen at Metro Arts Complex before joining Visions. Together this group is capable of a music of infinite shadings and textures. On a tune entitled simply "The Blues," Sam's tenor sax cuts and jags like a desert hare at sunset, quick and lithe and full-bodied. Katalenic creates depth and dimensión on electric piano during an imaginative solo and Jimmy Allen is there with a pulse as natural and regular as his very own heart. On the "Sixth of March," Sam opened with the soothing beauty of his soprano saxophone playing an elegant and mellow figure. Ed Pickens was just too much bassist to believe as he underscored exactingly John's solo. More than just blowing tunes, these gentlemen are playing painstakingly conceived arrangements in a controlled and soulful fashion. A good example is a Sanders composition, "Madame Butterfly," lt opened with a lovely dialogue between Katalenic and Suele, who is a sensitive and inventive percussionist. And then, mercy sakes alive, in comes Sam, hiá tenor'singing a fresh and springlike theme reminiscent of many such subjects from any nuniber of old Blue Note sides. Onward and upward they soared 'til the song ended! But ratlier than being accused of sound pretty, they shot right back with Herbie Hancock's "Hang Up Your Hangups." Tight, right, handin-glove and outasite, this tune is one of Herbie's funk-factory deluxes. Ed Pickens adds daggerlike bass accompaniment and really makes the tune. Sam shows some youthful blood himself as his tenor whips and turns circles around many I of his contemporaries. As Sam maintains a schedule full of many projects, recording, teaching and blowing, it is always a good idea to jump when you hear he will appear. It is, alas, all too rare an occurrence I in these parts. Don't take our local musicians for granted, or else they just might up and skáte I for New York or California, as so many have to I date. We need 'em here!