Thursday, April 26, 2007
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost
The chastisement will I hope be entirely aural, an unleashing of primordial chaos delivered with an Old Testament intensity that only Pharoah Sanders can muster. In the end it will be a holy deliverance as this saxophone Bodhisattva anoints those who chose to come in the river sourced in the heart of Africa which roles through city, the holy waters of jazz.
Jazz Fest has become a big music festival that could at the kindest be called eclectic. There is something for everyone, even the people who will come to hear Z.Z. Top or an Allman Brothers Band without Dickey Betts or Duane. The Allman Brothers and Z.Z. Top both figure prominently in the sound track of my youth, from the time before I started to take an interest in more complex forms of music, before I started to pick up jazz records I heard on WTUL and stumbled across a copy of a cutout record titled Love is Everywhere after hearing something by Sanders on that station.
It was a record that transformed my life, a bright sound on the road to Damascus that changed me from another kid in the 1970s listening to the same music as everyone else into a person who could find room in their head for just about everything, a person who was ready to sample everything that New Orleans and the wider world offered. It was not only a musical awakening, but also one to a spirituality not nailed to a cross, a universal spirit that moved through the entire world and could enter at the ear and pierce the heart.
There will be enough jazz at Jazz Fest, if you chose to seek it out. There will be no on else on the schedule that approaches Pharaoh Sanders. He is of the generation that produced John Coltrane and Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk. He is a disciple of Coltrane's who played in his last ensemble, an influence from which he inherited the profoundly lyrical spirituality of much of his own music and a setting in which he tempered his own ecstatic free jazz freneticism at the source fire.
While seeing him at Jazz Fest will be a tremendous personal experience, his appearance is more than that. He is one of the giants of jazz, and in a world not ruled by corporate sponsorships he would command the largest stage, and no one else would dare to play while he did. For me it is enough that he will be there in the Jazz Tent, and for one hour the Copernican universe will be set aside and all will whirl about that spot, where the leylines of American invention and African rhythms cross.
At his wildest, there is something in Sander's music of what I imagine Sunday afternoons at Congo Square were like hundreds of years ago, and he will carry us back to the place where the first Jazz Fest was held decades ago, on the grounds where African slaves first played music of their own on this continent. At his most lyrical you can imagine a world where tongues of fire descend onto the heads of men and grace them with new voices, with the ability to make sounds previously beyond their ken. You can not only imagine this world. You can enter into it. Saturday. Five forty-five. Be there.
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