Pharoah Sanders, Jewels of Thought

So. Some discussion. I actually researched this one, motherfucker. Dig, you bastard.

Here follows some points from one Ashley Kahn’s book:

Ed Michel: “The Jewels of Thought session was ‘a sort of a traveling gypsy orchestra complete with cooks and camp followers. The room [Plaza Sound’s studio] was huge, and they’d set up a table with lots of food, lots of incense. It was a party. This was the first time I’d recorded Pharoah. He was a guy who is not a talker [but] everybody knew what they were doing. Leon [Thomas] yodeled. There were two bass players: one of them was Richard Davis there was this other young guy I didn’t know. What an eye-opening experience that was: Cecil McBee! I was more stunned by Cecil McBee and Roy Haynes than anything else, and Pharoah was easy. The music would roll on.'”

“It was just a good band,” Michel continues, “and the only problem was that Pharoah’s tunes tended to run as long as they could run. I had to find a way to let him know when he had to bring it down and get out. He decided that just flashing the lights on and off would work fine, except that Pharoah frequently played with his eyes closed. But we worked it out.”

Jewels of Thought established the feel and flow of  Sanders’s releases of this period: lengthy jams filled with percussion and world-beat rhythms, spiritual titles referencing Eastern and Western religions.

For two simple reasons, Jewels of Thought remains Sanders’s personal favorite of his Impulse! recordings: the sidemen and the sound. “They were great musicians,” he says, “and the engineer brought the horn up [in the mix] on that one.”

“The band on Jewels of Thought is largely the same as on Deaf Dumb Blind and Karma, with a few changes. Idris Muhammad has, with the exception of “Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah Hum Allah,” replaced Roy Haynes, and Richard Davis has permanently replaced Reggie Workman and Ron Carter, though Cecil McBee is still present for the extra bottom sound. Leon Thomas and his trademark holy warble are in the house, as is Lonnie Liston Smith.”

Tell me that does not sound fun as fuck.

It makes me wanna light some incense and just jam out, metal-style, with these jazz guys who would almost certainly school me on jamming out.

Know what I mean? Yeah, you do.

I just wanna get down with my horn and/or guitar, you dig?

Yeah, you dig. You get me. You feel this record.

Jewels of Thought is, in total, only two tracks: “Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah,” and “Sun in Aquarius.”

“Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah,” very much like “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” the perfect stoner jazz tune, opens with and mostly relies on, a recurrent 3 chord (tenor sax D#, C#, B or concert C#, B, A) melody that seems to pick the 3 least likely chords for anyone, let alone a tenor, Leon Thomas warbling, sounding not unlike Wayne Brady as a religiously/jazzish-ly zealous preacher… an extended semi-holy party of 15:10, three chords and everyone just streeeeeeetched out over them… overall, the religious stoner version of Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown soundtrack….

“Sun in Aquarius” starts with percussion, as is Sanders’ wont: gongs, many, many bells, rhythm in excelsis, no melody of any kind; string rakes at 3:20, still setting mood and tone, albeit dissonantly– the initial mantra/ party atmosphere suddenly rent by those string rakes…. then a rumbling piano, storms through the black and white keys (a Cage-ed Schoenberg?)… then the shrieking Sanders, shrieking through the horn (have you ever tried to growl like that through a tenor…? it shreds your voice… Pharoah must have vocal chords stronger than John Tardy….)… then comes Leon Thomas, then a bass solo at around 16:45… 21:00 and we’re in chaos’ed, shrieking land

Overall? Is it “rote” Sanders? Is he phoning it in…?

Yep, pretty much, yeah. But it’s still better than 95% of jazz out there.

Buy here

Begin to listen here:

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