Jazz Legend Pharaoh Sanders Enchants Arroyo Seco Weekend Review+Photos: Pharaoh Sanders @ Arroyo Seco Weekend 6/23/18
“… For those who say they “know” jazz, ask them if they know who Pharoah Sanders is. If they don’t, then they need to study up a little bit. I did.
My first exposure to this saxophone god was when I saw crate-digging for record, at a Goodwill, no less. I pulled from the assortment of musical theatre and Andre Previn albums a slightly worn copy of Pharoah Sander’s “Karma”. It’s lettering, bold and mystical, emblazoned on top and an image of Pharaoh sitting in a meditative position with his eyes closed, head tilted up, just called to me.
I purchased the album and immediately lay it flat upon my record player upon my return home. It was seriously a spiritual experience. One track, “The Creator Has a Master Plan” is a 32 minute masterpiece that’s as lush as any jazz arrangement I’ve ever heard. And Pharaoh’s technique is beyond reproach. Not only is it technically superior (there are passages where I had to lift the needle and replay certain part to just figure out where he took his breaths), but his passion reaches a boil about 9:40 in.
His set was the first of the day for me, and at 77 year old, I tempered my expectations of him. When I saw him and his band literally slowly take the stage with short aged steps, I tempered my expectations a little more. Things looks to move in slow motion as they reconfigured their position on the stage, and as their start time had passed, I truthfully was expecting the worst.
They brought the drums and piano closer to the center of the stage, creating a tighter nucleus around Pharaoh. Once the set-up was to Pharaoh’s liking, he slowly nodded his head to suggest that it was time to play some music. 10 minutes behind scheduled and the music commenced.
As soon as I heard Pharaoh push the air through his horn, all of my doubts and worries floated away. Pharaoh’s tone was strong. His breath support was contrary to his physical movements. It was powerful. He played like a lion.
He dipped into “The Creator Has A Master Plan” and during the call and response portion of the song where he urged the crowd to join him in yelling out, “The Power Of God”, it felt as if something mystical descended upon the early afternoon crowd. I’m personally agnostic, but if there is a God, he was there under that tent…”
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