Pharoah Sanders: Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt


Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt


Pharoah Sanders (tenor & alto saxes, piccolo flute, voice)


Tauhid (Impulse GRD-129)

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Pharoah Sanders (tenor & alto saxes, piccolo flute, voice), Sonny Sharrock (guitar),

Dave Burrell, piano; Henry Grimes, bass; Roger Blank, drums; Nat Bettis, percussion


Composed by Pharoah Sanders


Recorded: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, November 15, 1966


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

In what is perhaps the most beautifully moving piece of spiritually influenced music of this era, on a par with his mentor John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, Pharoah Sanders has created a magical piece of music. The pastel of Henry Grimes's rumbling bass backed by Roger Blank's drums and Nat Bettis's intuitive percussion create the perfect intro for a throaty Sanders chant through his piccolo flute. Once this musical sound-feast has set the offering table, Grimes's solo bass starts the drone-like bottom of this chant to the Creator. A McCoy Tyner-like carpet of sound is added by the piano and guitar of Dave Burrell and Sonny Sharrock, respectively, as the intensity of this haunting prayer creates an almost mystically psychedelic mood. The song is accentuated brilliantly by the percussive skills of Bettis, who enhances the otherworldly quality with his rattles, gongs and bells. At about the 12-minute mark, a soaring Sanders breaks the hypnotic trance with a banshee-like cry from his emotional tenor. The throaty Sanders sound is both gut-wrenching and exhilarating, especially his piercing yet poignant use of the horn's upper register. His expressiveness at once lyrical and eerily speech-like in its cries suggests a self-supplicating animal in sacrifice at the altar of his Creator. Surely Sanders reached the pinnacle of spiritual expression with this mood-evoking ode. Multiple listening of this work can transport the listener to a trancelike state that defies imagination with no pharmaceuticals required. This is a sonic masterpiece.

Reviewer: Ralph A. Miriello

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