PHAROAH SANDERS — Black Unity (review)

PHAROAH SANDERS — Black Unity album cover Album · 1972 · Avant-Garde Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
Sean Trane
Well by the rate Pharoah was releasing albums, by late 71’s Black Unity’s publication, he had quite an impressive 70’s discography already behind him. But in some ways, the present album is IMHO his apex, despite a slowly changing line-up, where Jarvis and Liston Smith were absent, the latter rather well-replaced with Joe Bonner. Furthermore, McBee shares the bass spot with the celebrated Stanley Clarke and the drum stool sees Hart as well as Norman Connors.

In some ways the sole (title) track spread over both sides of the vinyl can sound extremely excessive when you know Sanders’ antecedents, but it’s actually more accessible than the recent JoT album, especially the flipside. Indeed it opens on a rather fast 100 MPH tempo, driven by Clarke’s bass and seconded by Bonner’s piano, before Sanders’ sax, and Peterson’s trumpet for gentle round of observation before the two engage into a full battle, often bordering on the dissonant, but not going too far over the edge, thus barely allowing you to keep your sanity. The second part of the track (the vinyl flipside if you wish) is a calmer thing, allowing for some meditative moments, with soothing bowed bass lines. Black Unity is probably not Pharoah's most accessible work and I wouldn't recommend it to a newcomer, but IMHO, it's probably his creative apex.

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