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Pharoah Sanders

MLK Day seems like an appropriate time to write about Pharaoh Sanders at SF Jazz the other week. Afro-American music is the music of freedom. And just as much of Martin's dream has yet to be fulfilled (and is even being eroded by the Supreme Court) Afro-American music will always be the cry for justice, the joy of the struggle, the vision from the mountain top. First acheiving notice playing with John Coltrane, Pharoah's music in the late 60's was a political statement of itself. From African chants, to field hollers, to the R&B clubs of his Little Rock youth, to the arcing spiritual searching of Trane, it was all there in every note. I saw a performance many years ago at the Keystone Korner with Idris Mohamed on drums. They wore white robes, and came onstage rattling chains. Then blowing conch shells. And I realized they were channeling the slave ships. With his huge tone and overblown harmonics, he plays the music of the spheres. The SF Jazz show had William Henderson on piano, Nat Reeves on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums. African-American music is also egalitarian; Farnsworth looks like Kevin Costner playing a detective, but he was the closest thing to Elvin Jones I've heard since Elvin's passing. The music has retained all it's power. And it hasn't changed (they played The Creator Has a Master Plan). I'm normally partial to artists who change radically throughout their careers. But I realized Pharoah doesn't have to. It was perfect then, and it's perfect now.
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