Pharoah Sanders - Izipho Zam (My Gifts)
Farrell Sanders is one of the key artists in the development of the jazz avant-garde into its spiritual and truly experimental period. Sun Ra must have known he would ascend to cosmic heights, (it was his doing dubbing him Pharoah), when he was a part of his Arkestra in the early 60’s. After being the featured saxophonist on many of Alice and John Coltrane’s standout LPs, (Journey In Satchidinanda, Meditations, Kula Se Mama, Om), he began leading his own sessions for a series of excellent records for ABC/Impulse.
His first for the highly collectible boutique label Strata East is on another level altogether. The sound of Izipho Zam can be likened more to a tribal gathering akin to the psychedelic underground celebrated by the likes of The Godz, Moolah or the Red Krayola than anything in contemporary jazz. Sanders’ “yodeling” vocal is in check here but it’s the fantastic contributions of guitarist Sonny Sharrock and Lonnie Liston Smith who’s tone at the keyboard sounds both primitive and free. Smith’s middle solo on “Prince of Peace” is simply majestic and beautifully complements Sanders vocal leads. Things get more chaotic as Howard Johnson’s tuba takes a dissonant turn in full lockstep with Sanders and alto-man Sonny Fortune. The final 5 minutes is a full-on scraping, skronk burnout with Sharrock practically pulling his guitar apart amidst sax caterwaul and thunderous drumming. It is most certainly the apex of the LP.
The title track is the ultimate statement of loose beauty with Sherrock leaning into clean guitar chords while Fortune’s flute takes on the appearance of a synthesizer. This morphs into an extended percussive workout for Leon Thomas and Chief Bey that becomes an epic collision of saxes, upright bass, wooden percussion and drumming.
Having not hear Izipho Zam until now, I am simply stunned by how extreme, cathartic yet enchanting these pieces of music are. This is way-up there on my list of favorites in the avant-garde jazz era and certainly one of the best reissues of the year. (Dom)
Check out a track here.