Pharoah Sanders, dressed all in white, slinked out onto the stage on Saturday night like a shaman from an era of jazz almost forgotten. Expectations were high for the first real legend of Love Supreme 2018, and Sander’s command over the audience did not disappoint. As the rhythm section stretched out over a modal jazz groove, the 77 year-old danced across the stage, and finally reaching the microphone his distinctively angular saxophone lines immediately resonated with the crowd.
Born and raised in the Jim Crow south before rising through the ranks of the New York free jazz scene in the 60s, Sanders’ first big break was touring and recording with John Coltrane including the seminal album ‘Live in Seattle’. In the late 60s Sanders realised a series of spiritual-jazz albums that were imbibed with influences from traditional African and Indian musical traditions.
On Saturday, his set was a diverse one, moving between fiery modal tunes with elements of free jazz to his more distinctive spiritual and reflective numbers. Sanders left plenty of space for the rhythm section to take solos, sometimes sitting out for ten minutes at a time to allow his backing trio to really lock into the swing. A particular highlight was Sanders’ rubato introduction to the song ‘The Creator has a Master Plan’ which segued into a calypso tune to end the night on a high.
For a player who has always been known for being at the vanguard of jazz, the set may have seemed a little tame for some. However, for a crowd who came to see a legend play, it was humbling to watch Pharoah Sanders light up the stage with his eccentricity, humour and pure joy in music.
Read all of our reviews from Love Supreme 2018, here.