It takes about 10 minutes to read Adam Shatz’ searching, incisive piece about the late Pharoah Sanders’ only-just-rereleased 1977 album, Pharoah—in other words, half the length of the album’s opening number, “Harvest Time.” Read the first few paragraphs, then cue up the song so you can experience them together. One of the most pleasing multimedia experiences you’ll have this week.
When Sanders reappears, he explores the range of his instrument, sometimes letting out cries that suggest the falsetto leaps of a soul singer, at others descending, with a quietness bordering on secrecy, into the lower registers of the horn—all the while never losing the thread of the melody. Halfway into the piece he plays his signature flutter, but it’s unusually understated for Sanders, and instead of rising to a scream he descends, accompanied by Muñoz and Neil, into the softest of whispers, until we hear nothing but his mouthpiece—something a more “professional” recording might have corrected, but which only adds to the music’s sensuousness. After the sounding of a gong, Bedria Sanders enters on harmonium, producing a drone that moves toward us and recedes, a sound that Pharoah mimics with long, undulating tones.