Pharoah Sanders Quartet: Live At Fabrik 

1980 set from Germany has the saxophonist in his post-radical stage, playing crowd-pleasing modal grooves, still with plenty of jazz soloing


In the 1970s, saxophonist Pharoah Sanders began to move away from his iconoclastic and often scorching free jazz and diversify his sound, bringing in elements of R&B, world music and modal jazz. His albums at this period were diverse, with a varied cast of players, but by the end of the decade he had assembled a touring quartet based around the groove-based trio of John Hicks, Curtis Lundy and Idris Muhammad. This live set from the Fabrik club in Hamburg–Altona shows their worth.

The five tracks – four by Sanders and It’s Easy To Remember by Richard Rodgers (a mainstay of his live sets at this period) – are all crowd-pleasers, the 18-minute opener You Gotta Have Freedom setting a rousing pace as Sanders milks the main theme for all it is worth. Behind him the rhythm section keeps up a tumultuous, propulsive groove, Hicks turning in a dynamic solo.

Some of Sanders’s music at this time was aimed directly at the dancefloor, and You Gotta is the best example of that approach. In contrast, It’s Easy To Remember is read as a tender tribute, Sanders in relaxed, nostalgic mood as Hicks disrupts the mood with another vivid solo.

The pace picks up again with the glorious rollercoaster that is Dr Pitt, which had only recently entered Sanders’ repertoire, having been recorded for the Journey To The One set in December 1979. At more than 20 minutes long, it never flags, Sanders and the rhythm section pushing forward at every stage.

After such excitement, The Creator Has A Masterplan is a bit of a let-down, an eight-minute reprise of the famous theme with a talk-over by Sanders as he introduces the band. Greetings To Idris, another recent track from Journey To The One, restores the good mood, Sanders rolling out the joyous theme with warmth and abandon.

Pharoah Sanders died, aged 81, in September last year. This is a fine way to remember him at his popular best.

You’ve Gotta Have Freedom; It’s Easy To Remember; Dr Pitt; The Creator Has A Masterplan; Greetings To Idris (70.19)
Sanders (ts); John Hicks (p); Curtis Lundy (b); Idris Muhammad (d). Live, Fabrik, Hamburg–Altona, West Germany, 6 June 1980.
JazzLine Classics D77123