Each year, Festival of Jazz of Cheltenham, UK, promises to host at least one of the living legends of jazz. Past masters to adorn the main stage include free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman, funk master Herbie Hancock, jazz guitarist John Scofield extraordinary. This year, expectations were running high after the Festival organizers announced that legend sax tenor of 70 years, Pharoah Sanders, would be starring.
Under a background properly psychedelic, Sanders conducted a series of six-track, to each room with rates of exciting technique. Decorated with an African tunic golden and its iconic white goatee, Sanders resembled a former Saharan God. The venerable saxophonist impeded and off-scene, regularly sitting between the solos on the edge of the stage to rest his arthritic joints. Yet, even when perched in the wings, his charismatic and impressive presence effective radiated across the stage.
Sanders is one of the most important musicians to have emerged in the "free jazz" movement of 1960s. He has performed with John Coltrane on the seminal albums like Ascension and meditations and played alongside the great man before his untimely death in 1967. The Pharaoh has kept the flame of Trane combustion since with an extensive tour and recording; his quartet at Cheltenham marked no departure from it.
The show opened with a "Giant Steps of Trane" coruscating rendering, exploded forward by Gene Calderazzo furious drums. Impeccably dressed pianist Jonathon Gee sent showers of notes plummeting to wire the ever-changing melody, turbulence brew of the strings in a prodigious view of technical brilliance. The first match was followed by a return mouth-watering "naima," tenor in which Sanders marked red iron with explosions of foghorn and softened with moments of pure lyrical tenderness.
The highlight of the show is undoubtedly for the return of the band of the anthem of Coltrane of modal jazz, "my Favorite things". He was also close that anyone would now get in the hearing of Coltrane playing in concert. Soprano, hand Sanders resembled a snake charmer whose hypnotic progressions cascade rose higher and higher above the swirling waltz in 3/4 below. "The opening of the next tune did more that a few spectators jump as Sanders did end in the microphone, I've got the blues!"-prior to retrieving a number quite lazy, somewhat haphazard 12-bar blues. This is not large, but most punters received a handful of toe-tapping moments out of it.
For a man once at the forefront of the movement of free jazz, Sanders delivered a surprise show safe. Although there is no doubt of the moments of inspiration, the directory has been a bit standard (even tired, although beautifully played, "A Nightingale blood in Berkeley Square" received a broadcast). More that a few members of the audience in the bar afterwards expressed their disappointment that Sanders had neglected his own catalogue of substantial back. However, the Group did round off the show with most famous number of the Pharaoh, the dream of sumptuous hippy of "the creator has a Master Plan". He was just as brief but hear deep Sanders, voice rich crooner "creator makes but an application /Happiness through all the land" was really a delight.
Avant-garde saxophonist Albert Ayler said, "John Coltrane is the father, Pharoah Sanders, the son, and I am the Holy Spirit." Sanders has certainly reaffirmed his status as a living legend here and his game is undeniably world-class. It is not perfect all well; Perhaps with a few repeats more, his group formed in haste could have done even more impact. Nevertheless, it is a privilege to sit among more than thousand people and witness to a real great 20th century jazz Recalling with this Husky gusto a heritage forged in furnaces of jazz of the 1960s.
But perhaps the best part of the evening - certainly for this criticism - was the moment when I reached a round door cloakroom of the Pharaoh after the show and observed the great saxophonist meditating in the corner. It can be done a little, but the man still is the spiritual leader of the free jazz.
Editor's Note: examination of the Losh of a performance by Andy Sheppard and his trio again at the same festival is here.