Pharoah Sanders – Astral Traveling

Listen or Download Pharoah Sanders Astral Traveling from the Impulse LP Irrepressible Impulses from 1972

I have always been a huge Jazz fan. From my early discoveries of Miles Davis to my obsession with Jazz Funk legends like Lou Donaldson and further explorations of cats like Ornette Coleman and this musician here, Pharoah Sanders, I can’t get enough. I’m always on the search for a good or different Jazz record, whether it be some private press stuff, or maybe a mid 70’s Art Farmer Lp. I love to learn about the genre and also like to open my mind. I can remember buying this artists famous Karma, at the old Vintage Vinyl in Ocean Township, NJ about 15 years ago. I was hooked. Imagine my surprise when I discover this record, Irrepressible Impulses on the cheap at my local spot. I need to say, apparently someone has been opening their big mouth about “The Spot”. If you go there, don’t go blabbing where it is. Just go. I hear the flood gates have been opened as of late and every person looking for records, especially 45’s has been flocking there. Thanks a lot. Before I get on a huge tangent, get at me privately and I will tell you how I really feel. Here’s Pharoah Sanders with “Astral Traveling”, from the 1970 Impulse Records release Thembi , and 1972’s Irrepressible Impulses.

Born Ferrell Sanders in 1940 in Little Rock Arkansas, Sanders came from a house of music. Both of his parents were teachers, in the public school and private sector. Sanders originally started out playing the clarinet, but switched to tenor saxophone in high school under the influence of the band leader Jimmy Cannon. Exposed to Jazz at this time, he became a fan of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Charlie Parker. Through his teens he would play his part as a sideman, backing such greats as Bobby Bland and Junior Parker. A move to Oakland, CA after high school would start Sanders on his journey to musical enlightenment. He got in with the right musicians (coincidentally the best) in the Bay area, and soon played a variety of styles: Free Jazz, Be Bop, R & B, etc. His move to NYC was not all it was cracked up to be. Unable to make money, Sanders struggled so much that he even pawned his horn and took a regular day gig, which had nothing to do with music. He did play at times when he struggles, with luminaries such as Don Cherry and Sun Ra, but it was still a dark time for the man. He eventually started a group with John Hicks, Wilbur Ware and Billy Higgins. A chance gig at the Village Gate was seen by the genius himself, John Coltrane. Coltrane asked Sanders to play with him, which he did until Coltrane’s death in 1967. Their relationship created some of the most intense (and some say controversial) Jazz music ever. The complete lack of care for structure or “regular” (ie: straight ahead) Jazz makes this period in Sander’s career quite exciting. From 1964 on, Sanders has recorded for ESP, Impulse, Evidence, Timeless, Arista (his first major label effort) and Verve. As he matured as a player, he showed his versatility for the out of the box stuff as well as mainstream, which IMHO makes him the Jazz great he is.

While this may be a bit different than you’re used to here at FMF, it’s a great side none the less. Sanders assembled a great cast of players for this tune: Lonnie liston Smith (Fender Rhodes, Electric Piano), Michael White (Violin), Cecil McBee (Bass), Clifford Jarvis (Drums), and Sanders on Soprano Sax, Bells and Percussion. Although it may not sound like it’s not going anywhere, the atmospheric Fender Rhodes of Smith starts off as if Sanders and company were aboard some space ship moving towards another dimension. This moody, head trip of a Jazz trip I think is best experienced with a pair of headphones. Like I said, it’s different for FMF today, but have I ever steered you wrong? I’ll see you on Friday with some more treats. Keep Diggin’!

4 responses to “Pharoah Sanders – Astral Traveling

  1. I had the pleasure of seeing him play in Bogota maybe 10 years ago and he was as creative and inventive as you can imagine. There was a moment during the show where he grabbed a rubber chicken and some sort of big metal ring and started improvising music with that! It seemed (to me at least) a completely on the spot moment of invention. Amazing…Thanks for the curve-ball!

  2. Wasn’t expecting you to turn in this direction. Caught me off guard.
    Always liked this tune. First heard it around 1972. Had the “Thembi” album and later, the cassette. Where is Leon Thomas these days?

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