Pharoah Sanders has been shadowed throughout his career by his affiliation with John Coltrane, but as his latest album, Crescent With Love (Evidence), a double CD of ballads either written by or associated with Trane, proves, he hasn't exactly fought against it. Sanders joined Coltrane in the mid-60s to produce some of the latter's most probing, intense music: on searing, spiritually harrowing classics like Ascension, Om, and Kule Se Mama Sanders's fearsome tenor sax offered a beautiful foil, blowing white-hot streams of sound and continually threatening to break free from the loose constructs of the tune. Other stunning outward-bound performances include his three and a half minutes of relentless caterwauling in "Preview" on the Jazz Composer's Orchestra debut album, which stands as one of the most awe inspiring and exhausting bouts of troubled expression ever recorded. As his new recording affirms, however, this master of distorted harmonics and overblowing is also a sensitive balladeer with a very human, Coltrane-like tone, which is probably the mode he'll be performing in this weekend at the Jazz Showcase, his first Chicago gig in a decade. It's hard not to yearn for his more explosive style, shades of which have surfaced in his role as sideman on 90s albums by Sonny Sharrock and Randy Weston and on drummer Franklin Kiermyer's scalding 1994 album Solomon's Daughter (Evidence), where Sanders played with the ferocity of his Coltrane days. But that intensity still manages to come through in his more straight-ahead playing, even on the most serene ballads. Friday through Sunday, Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4846.
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