Mar 31, 2014

Psychedelic Free Jazz: Pharoah Sanders' Karma

Pharoah Sanders was born on October 13, 1940 under the name Ferrell Sanders in Little Rock Arkansas.

 Karma is an album that found a big audience on college radio in the late 60's, with their willingness to play full length album tracks.

Miles Davis also benefited from this young open minded audience with his jazz rock masterpiece Bitches Brew.

Karma is one of my favorite all time jazz albums period, Vocalist Leon Thomas who is also an acquired taste with his nasally yodeling approach, is the perfect foil for Sanders fiery balls to the wall playing.

Karma  is basically one track, "The Creator has a Master Plan":  The track is a 32 minute opus with a smooth droning bass line and Thomas' friendly yodeling. When Sanders's upper register howls and grunts enter, they prove to be very startling, yet ultimately exhilarating.

 This is a powerful album with a hippie, almost psychedelic feel to it, yet it is a free jazz album. Creator is a long journey, offering mellow meditation and contemplation, peaceful really until... Enter Pharoah Sanders.

 Pharoah reminds you that this is indeed the late 60's, Dr.King and the Kennedy's have been killed and those with non white skin haven't exactly received their piece of the American dream, let alone finding the land of milk and honey.

The album is breathtaking, and a must for all jazz and free jazz collectors. I have always felt that Karma was an answer of sorts, or a least a next act to John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme". Both albums, are concept album, both have an opening fan fare, they both have the droning bass and then the powerful saxophone explosions.

Both A Love Supreme and Karma offer a hope for a better path to follow, yet don't sugar coat the indignity man has done to himself, with the way we treat each other.

Karma certainly is influenced by the Coltrane Masterpiece in any event.

You can get Karma the LP, like the pictured vinyl copy for around 20 dollars if you shop around, a pretty desirable record 45 year later.

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