2011 European CD collection.
The albums packaged in this Impulse two-fer -- Village of the Pharoahs and Wisdom Through Music -- were both released in 1973, but only the latter was recorded as an album. They share the same basic personnel -- pianist Joe Bonner, bassist Cecil McBee, drummer Norman Connors, and percussionist Lawrence Killian -- while Village, because it was recorded at three different sessions over three years, also contains numerous other players, including vocalist Sedatrius Brown, bassists Stanley Clarke, Jimmy Hopps, and Calvin Hill, percussionists Hannibal Peterson and Kenneth Nash, and flutist Art Webb. Wisdom Through Music simply adds Mtume and Badal Roy to the percussion section, with Killian and flutist James "Plunky" Branch (founder of spiritual jazz-funk pioneers Oneness of Juju). Historically, Village of the Pharoahs has gotten a bad rap because of its wide range of musical approaches.
The largest part of the former album is taken up with the three-part title track on which Sanders plays only soprano saxophone, percussion instruments, and sings. It's a cosmic, sprawling jam that seems to lead everywhere through Middle Eastern modalities, but is wonderfully accessible. Other highlights include "Memories of Lee Morgan," with gorgeous flute playing by Webb matching Sanders' soprano, and a wonderfully elliptical piano line by Bonner, and the closing "Went Like It Came," where Sanders pulls out his mighty tenor and makes his brand of vanguard jazz swing like mad. Wisdom Through Music, with its smaller lineup, consists of five tracks. Most notable is "High Life," on which Sanders emulates the West African style of music with roiling, celebratory drumming and singing, and killer flute playing. "Love Is Everywhere" is a shorter version of what is now a Sanders performance standard; it appeared in full on Love in Us All released in 1974. Its rawness and soulfulness simply burst from the musical frame with celebration before Bonner and the ensemble take over and rip it up.
The title track is a slow, meditative, drone-like piece with abundant percussion by Roy and gorgeous arco work from McBee. Bonner's "The Golden Lamp" is driven by McBee, Branch, and an uncredited instrument rreminiscent of kora and/or an oud. It closes with the nearly 11-minute "Selflessness," a jam that begins as a sung chant and sprawls out into another Sanders orgy of celebration with excellent tenor blowing, as well as spirited interplay with Bonner and the percussionists. These two recordings belong together, and create a compelling whole, revealing a compelling chapter in Sanders recorded history.
Thom Jurek ~ AllMusicGuide
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