Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
Last time veteran saxophonist Pharoah Sanders played Edinburgh, it was by all accounts a lacklustre affair, and those expecting the spiritual firebrand of The Creator Has A Masterplan and his work with Alice Coltrane were left disappointed. This time out, in the newly swankified function room of The Café Royal, and with a superb trio backing him on a full European tour, there are brilliant flashes of that era and a renewed sense of purpose. Not that the poker-faced 67 year old has to prove himself anymore.
Things, however, don’t begin smoothly. Opening the first set with a thirty minute version of My Favourite Things, Sanders part prowls, part shuffles across the stage, not impressed either by what he’s hearing through the monitors, or the brightish lights. Once sorted, Sanders’ initial reticence gives way to a stylistic run through bop, swing and balladeering, and he cheers up considerably after a quick toilet break.
Playing well beyond his allotted time slot, Sanders really starts to blow in an extended duet with drummer Joe Farnsworth, before slipping into a Dollar Brand-ish African groove. The second set finds Sanders sitting on a chair at the side of the stage inbetween driving home more east/west exotica. If there’s any slack, it’s effortlessly picked up by pianist William Henderson and bassist Nat Reeves, whose solos are given plenty of space to breath, adding contemporary edges to Sanders’ John Coltrane era back catalogue. When Sanders starts to shimmy and holler on a closing electric piano led flight of 1980s airiness, it’s clear that, after almost three hours onstage, the spirit of old is willing indeed.
The Herald, January 31st 2008