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Pharoah Sanders: Out of this World

Review of performance by saxophonist at August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh on November 13, 2010

If anyone has a right to play the tenor saxophone with a tone and melodic approach that sounds like John Coltrane, it’s Pharoah Sanders. He only spent two years with Coltrane’s group, and that was over four decades ago. But that period of time was highly concentrated with musical activity. In a recent interview with this writer, Sanders was reticent to talk about his own musical self, but opened up when asked about Coltrane during the final, controversial period of the band leader’s career. Clearly, it should come as no surprise when Sanders says he approaches music as one, long continuing solo. After playing so purely with Coltrane, where else is there to go?

Accompanied by longtime band member William Henderson (piano), and a Pittsburgh rhythm section of Dwayne Dolphin (bass), Roger Humphries (drums) and George Jones (congas), the saxophonist’s intense overtones and shrieks weren’t as common as they were in the ’60s, but they shot out at the appropriate times. The evening might have had an unspoken degree of tribute to it, but Sanders clearly was the star.

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