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4.62 | 37 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 1969


A The Creator Has A Master Plan Part 1 19:20
B1 The Creator Has A Master Plan Part 2 13:36
B2 Colors 5:36

Total Time: 38:25


Bass – Reggie Workman, Richard Davis (tracks A,B1),Ron Carter(track B2)
Drums – William Hart(tracks A,B1),Frederick Waits (track B2)
Flute – James Spaulding (tracks A,B1)
French Horn – Julius Watkins
Percussion – Nathaniel Bettis (tracks A,B1)
Piano – Lonnie L. Smith Jr
Tenor Saxophone – Pharoah Sanders
Vocals, Percussion – Leon Thomas

About this release

Impulse! – AS-9181(US)

The Creator Has A Master Plan recorded: February 14, 1969
Colors recorded: February 19, 1969

Thanks to Abraxas, snobb, dreadpirateroberts for the updates


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Pharoah Sanders might well be the king (or pharaoh, in this case) of what I like to call "hippie jazz". I refer hippie jazz to the music that was inspired by John Coltrane's vision of religions and God, this music has the feel, and sometimes lyrics, expressing peace and love in the earth. Other supporters of this movement would be Alice Coltrane, Lonnie Liston Smith, Leon Thomas, among other like-minded musicians.

When John Coltrane added Pharoah to his classic quartet by 1965, Sanders was seen as either a potentially great avant-garde saxophonists or simply an ear-ache, with his extensive appliance of shrieks.

With the death of Trane, Sanders went solo and his playing matured with each new release, although still using the shrieks as a method to express ecstasy in the music, it is clear that Pharoah became a great unique tenor saxophonist, and not only that, his compositions were also unique and praised by the avant-garde jazz audience.

It is in Karma, released in 1969, where Pharoah’s full potential is shown in, and in my opinion this is his magnum opus, and one of the high points of the avant-garde movement.

The album has only two compositions, a 32 minute piece called ‘The Creator Has a Masterplan’ and a rather short in comparison tune called ‘Colors’. It is obvious that it is the big piece the central part of the album, and what makes this Pharoah’s greatest album.

‘The Creator Has a Masterplan’ can be considered as a continuation to Coltrane’s masterpiece ‘A Love Supreme’, both have that simple, hypnotizing bass line (although made slightly different), both open in an abrupt way with wailing saxophone evoking a supreme being, and both deal explicit, with lyrics, the adoration of a God, no matter what religion. Agree or not with these spiritual views, no one can deny the whole euphoric feel that these two mega-compositions achieve. However, Pharoah does not rip-off ‘A Love Supreme’, he makes his own “love supreme” composition. It is a way more tranquil and spiritual-sounding composition than anything Coltrane ever did, and the composition is by far denser in terms of instrumentation, lots of Eastern percussion plus the addition of Leon Thomas’ magnificent vocals. It’s no surprise that Lonnie Liston Smith is in here as well, playing his piano which is pure bliss. Warning, Sanders does happen to shriek with the whole band in a pure chaotic way for a few minutes, although not pleasant, it’s something that the tenor man would do throughout his whole career, and some few chaotic minutes in a 32 minute euphoric piece is more than ok for me.

As for the second and last track, ‘Colors’, it’s actually another gem, although a minor one. It continues with the love-and-peace themes and feel, but it’s not an extension of the main piece. This time Leon Thomas expresses sadness in an ecstatic way, and as a whole it’s a beautiful closer, where Pharoah does well avoiding any shrieks.

Truthfully no words can really express what I feel when I listen to both of these “supernatural” pieces, I just recommend you, open-minded jazz listener, to give them a try.

Don't fear the avant-garde jazz label, it’s not really free in any similar way to Albert Ayler’s free jazz or Coltrane’s late free jazz, with the exception of the occasional shrieks. Karma, and Sanders discography in general, is pretty accessible for anyone accustomed to lengthy saxophone solos and repetitive themes.

Members reviews

I've been on a spiritual kick for a few days now, as I'm trying to force onto myself a top 50 spiritual jazz albums list, and then move onto free jazz and diversify a top 100 avant-garde. As you can see, I'm proudly autistic. I just love making lists! But these lists have to be PERFECT. So I demand perfection. And lemme tell you, spiritual jazz is a challenge. While I absolutely adore atmosphere, I don't like it when songs are too long. I even have trouble with Frankie M. So I need something that switches and diversifies every few minutes, even from a spiritual jazz album. Thankfully, Pharoah Sanders often builds his albums on this concept, and the best example is Karma.

I recently compared Karma to his other big hit album led by Alice Coltrane: Journey in Satchidananda. Both are incredible, but I wanted to know which album I prefered since I hadn't heard either in a while. Now I know it's Karma. See, the reason Karma is the best example of Pharoah's love of switching things up (as shoved in our faces for proof on Thembi), Karma puts 80% of its runtime on 1 track. This track is the very essence of Pharoah Sanders' style. It has sparse but scattered vocal chanting of a very ritualistic and calming style accompanying an up-and-down rollercoaster that brings us into the spiritual world of heaven, drags us down to the free jazz chaos of our own world, and back up and back down and back up, ending with a culmination of both complexity and atmosphere for its second track., diversifying itself from the 32-minute epic. This journey is much great than Alice Coltrane's, who keeps us in the mysticism of Earth while Pharoah goes astral.

I should also mention that this is one of the very first avant-garde jazz albums I'd recommend to anyone to get them invested in jazz, telling them to just let the music take them away into another world and not worry about a beginning and an end. This album, despite its obvious avant-garde behavior, is actually pretty accessible in comparison to a lot of avant-garde jazz out there. This, Journey in Satchidananda and Tauhid are the three starting points I'd recommend for a beginner. Karma is currently in my top 20 albums of all-time, if not solely due to the fact that Pharoah mastered his style so early in his solo adventures.
Sean Trane
Generally regarded as one of the better or more influential Pharoah piece, Karma is a spiritual work as its title and artwork obviously indicate; somewhere stuck between Trane’s meditative realm and Sun Ra’s celestial explorations. Actually some sanders purists would prefer later albums like Black Unity, but the fact is that Sander’s explorations are still quite accessible here, despite having invited Leon Thomas’s voice to soften the experimental propos.

Only two tracks on this album, one clocking some 33-mins, a spiritual repetitive (ala turk or dervish) Master Plan, where you can’t help but thinking of Trane’s Love Supreme borrowings or influences, down to the piano and the contrabass riff. Indeed the slow evolution of this “epic” track is not exactly enthralling, but it does have some anesthetizing qualities and wrap around your ears a safety blanket through a mild spiritual trance (despite Leon Thomas’s mildly irritating chants/scats) until the Master Plan develops in a monstrous cacophonic few minutes where all hell breaks loose (from the 20-mins mark onwards), before settling back into a softer invocation of the calm after the storm. Overall, Master plan is fairly accessible, but if you’re into evolving pieces, rather than trance-induced grooves, you’re probably not going to find that much beef in Wendy’s hamburgers. Nest to that monster, the (much) shorter closing Colors is much calmer, and again calls on the Trane legacy.

Sanders’s definite step forward into his quest or drive for spiritualism and outlet for his revolt found some excellent grounds here, despite some repetitions, and he persevere in that direction a few months later with the almost-too-much Jewels of thought album, with the same frontmen (minus Spaulding’s flute), but a different “rhythm section”. In the meantime, it’s much safer to go down sanders’ route in a chronological manner and first discover the present album before proceeding to Jewels.

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