Pharoah ‘Farrell’ Sanders (born 1940) is a leading figure in the world of jazz and one of the last living legends with connections to players like Sun Ra and John Coltrane. His tenor saxophone playing has earned him royal status amongst free jazz players, critics and collectors.
Originally Sanders was interested in urban blues music, but his high school teacher exposed him to jazz and this took Farrell in an entirely new direction. Once completing high school Sanders quickly packed his belongings and headed to Oakland, where he got a chance to work with musicians of high caliber such as saxophone players Sonny Simmons and Dewey Redman (who were both later to be major forces in new jazz and free jazz). Soon the young Pharoah would meet John Coltrane and would feel being attracted to the life as a professional musician. By the early sixties Sanders moved to New York where the major jazz scene was happening. Here he’d spent most his time honing his skills at rehearsals with Sun Ra….sadly he was not making much money with the Arkestra and soon found himself living on the streets, trying to stay up all night playing and then scrounging for money during the day, often selling blood to eat.
Sanders recorded his debut album for ESP soon after, but it wasn’t until he started playing with his old friend John Coltrane that he would fully unleash the fury of his saxophone on the world of free jazz. The records Pharoah Sanders played on for Coltrane laid the foundation of what was to come for both the world of free jazz and for Sanders as a musician. After Coltrane’s tragic death Sanders would record further with Alice Coltrane, John’s widow, on the album Karma (1969 – Impulse!), which is universally accepted as Sanders’ masterpiece. Along with musicians Alice Coltrane and singer Leon Thomas, Sanders helped to create the genre of spiritual jazz.
On the album we are presenting you today (Africa from 1987) Sanders plays with an all-star line-up consisting of Idris Muhammad, John Hicks and Curtis Lundy. Muhammad brings his trademark tight sense of timekeeping, but with a looseness that we love – and Lundy’s warm soulful bass does more than enough to give the set a sound bottom- all this while Hick’s free lyrical piano works nicely with Sander’s spiritual horn.
The brilliant ‘Africa sessions’ features the quartet at their best…soulful but also searching for a strong groove at the same time. The music here is less ornamented than on most of Sanders’ studio recordings, where sextets, septets or larger lineups have been the norm, but this brilliant effort here remains every bit as compelling. Pharoah and his crew play with the utmost sensitivity and give a demonstration that shows us the full extent of their skills.
Tidal Waves Music now proudly presents: the official reissue of this fantastic album, back available on vinyl for the first time since 1987. Available as a deluxe 180g 2XLP set, with TWO bonus tracks from the same session that were not featured on the original vinyl release. This album is limited to 500 copies worldwide and comes with an obi strip + liner notes by American jazz critic & author Kevin Whitehead.