The Guest Room

A Hong Kong blog that does a lot more than blog

Griffin it: Great Gigs: #1 – Pharoah Sanders @ The Jazz Café, Camden Town, London (May, 5th, 2002)

Pharoah Sanders

We can all recall particular moments in life that, with hindsight, represent more than we could ever have thought they would at the time we experienced them. Only with accumulated years do such events take on that extra gravitas and poignancy.  For me, one example would be a Pharoah Sanders gig a few days after my 23rd birthday.

Sanders is a true jazz legend; one of the most versatile, experimental, and outright talented tenor players ever. He is noted for playing with John Coltrane on several key recordings, notably the experimental Om and Meditations albums of the mid-sixties. The man first came to my attention, though, on a Gilles Peterson compilation. The track was Rejoice, a free-jazz scorcher, and it was pretty much on the basis of this tune that three of my (still) dearest friends and I took the Northern Line from Hendon Central to Camden Town.

Pharoah descended (some 15 minutes late), down the spiral staircase of the Jazz Cafe and my first thought was that this did not look like a man with the breath required to manipulate a sax into the powerful, other-worldly sounds I had heard on Rejoice. Well into his 60s at this time, I guess one may have forgiven him, but as soon as he launched into a 30-minute (yep!) version of Feelin’ Good, it was quite evidence that there was plenty of puff left in this old timer. That night, he went on to mesmerize the packed venue with a 40-minute (count ‘em!) interpretation of the standard My Favorite Things, a 25-minute (lazy!) rendition of Body and Soul. And then, as an encore (I think), his classic, You’ve Got to Have Freedom.

As I say, I do not think any of us realized it at the time, and quite possibly I’m alone in feeling its added significance now. But, some eleven years later, as all four of us reside in different countries, spanning three continents, that moment and that tune, You’ve Got to Have Freedom, seems all the more poignant. We had recently graduated from university, and were all in the midst a transitional phase, on the cusp of new beginnings. I know all four of us count ourselves lucky to have had the freedom to continue on our individual paths.

Much love and Merry Christmas to the Park Road Massive!

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This entry was posted on December 20, 2013 by in Griffin it and tagged , , , , , , , .

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