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Pharoah Sanders, Vilnius Drama Theater,Nov.19 2017

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    Posted: 21 Nov 2017 at 1:07am
I've never saw legendary sax player Pharoah Sanders playing live - till now. First of all, I was born too late and in a wrong part of the world to see him playing with Coltrane (John or Alice). Later he became too obscure and on his rare European tours we were always in a different part of the continent. So now when Pharoah Sanders,77, came to play in my hometown first time ever I needed to use my chance for sure.

Sanders was stated as annual Vilnius Jazz Fest headliner and played Sunday night (closing festival concert) in overcrowded National Drama Theater hall right after rock-hard British power trio led by pianist Neil Cowley who induced few hundred listeners stand up and shout as if they were on stadium rock concert. What Sanders will be able to offer next to grab their dreams?

I didn't expect another "new thing" for sure from veteran playing more than half of a century. Sanders started as free jazz young star and did his name as leader playing "spiritual jazz", later he changed the direction more than once playing everything from tuneful mainstream to Afro-beat and dub with Bill Laswell.  Few years ago Pharoah surprisingly successfully participated in youth beloved huge open air Baltic beach festival Positivus in neighborhood Latvia playing back to back with pop stars and DJs. 

 Here on Vilnius scene Pharoah bring us his classics though - leading an excellent post-bop rooted quartet he played mostly best known songs from his early years. Prior to Vilnius concert he played two nights in UK (incl. London Jazz Fest gig) and seasoned musician didn't look all that enthusiastic. To say true, he looked quite ailing and tired when he stepped on the scene first (obviously having health problems with legs, he hardly moved on scene all the night). His band all were aces though - besides of Sanders regular piano player William Henderson this new band has been completed with  UK-based rhythm section of bassist Oli Hayhurst and American-born drummer Gene Calderazzo, and them did one hell on scene all night long.

Main part of one and half hour program consisted of longish spiritual jazz pieces incorporating evergreen tunes to mostly post-boppish band's engine. Pharoah spent bigger part of the night sitting on the chair in the center of the scene, standing up just for not so often soloing. His playing,still soulful was obviously far not so strong as we all know from the recordings, he obviously couldn't take the highs and renown circular breathing soloing he demonstrated once or twice during the concert sounded more like short techniques examples demonstration than real part of the music. Excellent band (with really fantastic drummer) pushed Pharoah ahead, but at lest at the first half of the concert  all the show looked more like technically perfect no-name band brings a legendary veteran with same mostly because his sound name can gather the public.  One could see listeners leaving the hall - all like in mid 60s again :). 

Using an old school formula "one soloist in time" band still returned the control on situation on the second half of the gig. Pharoah's solos became longer, he even used a dissonance more often and the band's mastership musicianship impressed bigger part of the public. At the very end of the night (which from very beginning contained no any form of verbal communication with people in hall) Pharoah presented band's musicians and even sung a few words. 

People who came to see the legend were happy they saw him, others (there really were many of them   in a hall) found excellent band playing great music and evidenced a piece of the world that already doesn't exist in modern reality.  I was happy I was there... 

Edited by snobb - 14 Nov 2018 at 2:35pm
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