Pharoah Sanders Quartet | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Pharoah Sanders Quartet


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Perhaps we should have foreseen the resurrection of saxophonist Pharoah Sanders here in the post-Wynton 90s, when so many young jazz musicians so desperately seek to re-create the past--but who could have predicted that the progenitor of such modal, multiphonic-filled epics as "The Creator Has a Master Plan" and the fire-breathing Black Unity (both from the early 70s) would someday find himself onstage at that mainstream bastion, the Jazz Showcase, in front of a standard quartet? In an interesting twist, Sanders, now 57, has re-created his own past: his albums from earlier this decade evoke the lyrical sincerity that marks the early-60s albums of his mentor and onetime employer John Coltrane. His most recent album, Message From Home (Verve), was produced by Bill Laswell, who for once got it right: while he used a modicum of modern tech wizardry and a few new dance beats to dress up the music for today, he clearly intended to return Sanders to the long-limbed spirituality of his 70s dates, and he succeeded. The band Sanders brings to Chicago should allow him to explore the full range of his history, and also to correct the biggest flaw in his recent club performances: the long-windedness of his sidemen. Pharoah tends to let his people go--on and on, with solos the length of his own, on every tune, and most players don't have the originality of concept to justify the space. But this band includes another giant melodist in the Brazilian-born bassist Santi Debriano and a crackerjack rhythm machine in the gifted Winard Harper, and both can turn any amount of solo space into solid gold. Sanders himself still plays with the vigor and serene intensity of his finest recordings, and he still launches an occasional screech that seems to issue from some primal Eden. But it's the maturity and organization he now brings to the stage that give his solos more substance than ever before. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, September 26 and 27, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, September 28, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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