THE PHARAOHS

Funk Jazz • United States
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The Pharaohs were one of the forgotten treasures of '70s R&B, a freewheeling jazz-funk congregation heavily influenced by Chicago's jazz avant-garde as well as on-the-one funk and African motifs. Unfortunately, they recorded only one album before Earth, Wind & Fire frontman Maurice White (who played in an early version of The Pharaohs) hired several of its members to form the Phenix Horns, the justly celebrated horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire during the '70s. The group was formed from several jazz bands active around Chicago's Affro Arts Theater, a community educational collective. One of the bands, the Jazzmen, was formed in the early '60s around trumpeter Charles Handy, trombone player Louis Satterfield, and alto Don Myrick (along with three who didn't survive later conglomerations: pianist Fred Humphrey, bassist Ernest McCarthy, and drummer Maurice White). The other main component of The Pharaohs was the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, who had read more...
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THE PHARAOHS The Awakening album cover 3.67 | 2 ratings
The Awakening
Funk Jazz 1971

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THE PHARAOHS In The Basement album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
In The Basement
Funk Jazz 1996

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THE PHARAOHS The Awakening

Album · 1971 · Funk Jazz
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Sean Trane
This is drummer Maurice White’s previous group to the better-known Earth Wind & Fire, and Awakening is their sole album, but this writer finds it superior to anything EW&F ever did. Indeed this excellent fusion of funk and jazz is one of the genre’s best, but it shouldn’t be mixed with stuff like Hancock’s Head Hunters or Miles’ On The Corner album, because Pharaohs’ works is somehow closer to brass funk rock than to real jazz-derived fusion. Well they sound like an ethnic African or world version of Chicago or early Kool & The Gang stuff, but Mombassa albums are not sonically far away either. With as much as eight wind players and some five percussion beaters (some are thankfully combining the two), you’ll easily understand just how rhythmic their 18-men music can be.

Fast and furious percussions, funky bass and enthralling jazzy horns are opening the outstanding 8-mins Damballa, which also features some short tribal chants interventions between spell-binding trumpet and sax solos for added drama. AWESOME!! No less impressive is the almost exclusively percussion track Ibo, but unfortunately the following Tracks Of My Tears is a sappy soul Motown affair ala future Commodores, which is out of the album’s context, if you ask me. The interesting ultra-funky Black Enuff is unfortunately a little short for my tastes, but can these guys rawk, dude!!

On the flipside, only two tracks, the first of which is the 6-mins Freedom Road, which could find space on an early Chicago album, probably where the guitar sweats out most from the group’s pores. The 13-mins+ closer Great House is the second real highlight of the album, a mainly-instrumental funky groove that allows a superb series of interplay between all concerned, but the band is really tightly bound into the given direction.

Sonically, if you can see EW&F’s debut or K&tG’s debut, you won’t be far away from reality, but with a little extra African touch (there are at least five Africans in the group) for added measure. Actually I find Awakening better than both the albums I just mentioned

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