Jazz Trotter: Pharoah Sanders – Live at Fabrik, Hamburg 1980

This release from a series of concert recordings à la “Fabrik” in Hamburg, is one of those hidden treasures of the NDR archives and was meant to bring to life the revolutions that occurred in the jazz world more than four years ago. decades. It turned into an obituary: at the end of September 2022, the saxophonist

Pharoah Sanders died at the age of 81. This recording of his quartet on June 6, 1980 is to date the oldest of the “Fabrik”. A time that Thomas Engel, the first programmer of the “Fabrik”, still describes today as a very special time for culture in Hamburg and far beyond. In addition, this concert was part of the fifth edition of what was then called the “New Jazz Festival”, a top gathering of German, European and American musicians.

jazz legends


It was only thanks to the NDR Big Band that high-level jazz could be produced on the former industrial site on Barnerstrasse in Altona, a district of Hamburg. In the mid-1970s, the orchestra had the courage to leave its usual recording studio to give high-profile concerts à la “Fabrik”. Since 1976, the “New Jazz Festival” organized by Wolfgang Kunert, the big band programmer, has installed jazz music in this exceptional place.

In 1980, the fifth year of the young festival, Pharoah Sanders toured Europe and performed in the fall of the same year at the Deutsches Jazzfestival in Frankfurt, among others. Obituaries dedicated to this saxophonist from Little Rock, Arkansas (the state of jazz) rightly pointed out that he had explored new paths during these years: for example by including songs from the Great American Songbook in his directory. Previously, the young Pharoah Sanders had his first experiences with the eccentric space utopian Sun Ra. It was Sun Ra who, in exchange for his real first name Ferell, had given him the somewhat enigmatic honorary title of “Pharoah”. Since performing in John Coltrane’s band in the 1960s, Pharoah Sanders has remained in Coltrane’s orbit, also alongside his widow Alice – even in this June 1980 recording. Of course, there also has the scent of free jazz. With a very particular technique on the harmonics of the tenor saxophone, Pharoah Sanders overcomes the often very narrow limits of compositions.

Naturally, his eternal hit is included, The Creator has a MasterplanPharoah Sander’s invocation of a divine creator, whose human life must follow the master plan : the great political and social objectives of the time prevail, love, peace and happiness. However, the world really hasn’t improved since those years of hope…

Over time and within the timeless framework of the visionary Pharoah Sanders, the cultures of Africa have taken center stage in his desire to explore. Both spiritually and instrumentally, Pharoah Sanders discovered the essence of his approach in the sounds of Africa. Those who listen carefully can already perceive traces of this evolution in this concert à la “Fabrik”. This concert was also followed by a few others in the mid-1980s, in this same hall. In 2018, Pharoah Sanders traveled to Hamburg for the last time to take part in the “Überjazz” festival at the Kampnagelfabrik. Even during this last meeting, the energy with which this not easy-going and somewhat reserved musician could radiate an entire concert was noticeable: magical, mythical and human.


55 mins

The musicians of the June 1980 quartet were sublime – on drums, we find Idris Muhammadwho died in 2014, an artist originally from New Orleans and deeply rooted in the soul and rhythm’n’blues scene. Curtis Lundy is on the bass. He was only 25 at the time and has since established himself as a composer, arranger and solo bassist. On the piano we have John Hicks, who had previously worked with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and was one of the most sought-after accompanying pianists of the time. Until his death in 2006, John Hicks toured with many American stars.
Michael Laages (excerpt from the press release in English – translation E. Lacaze / A. Dutilh)


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