Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah Sanders: Summun, Bukmun, Umyun

COMPOSERS: Pharoah Sanders
LABELS: Impulse!
WORKS: Pharoah Sanders: Summun, Bukmun, Umyun
PERFORMER: Pharoah Sanders


TS Eliot pointed out that no artist can work outside the tradition, because the tradition will stretch to accommodate anything artists do. That is certainly true of the ‘New Thing’, a term associated with a small movement of black jazz musicians associated with freer forms of jazz expressionism in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

For many, the ‘New Thing’ became the musical corollary of civil rights protest. Thus it has earned a rather formidable reputation over the years, with listeners and even some critics ready to acknowledge the music’s historical significance without actually engaging with the music. This has not been helped by the increasing rarity of these albums, which is now being rectified by an impressive reissue campaign by Impulse!

The albums come in gatefold digi-packs that retain the original artwork, and wherever possible additional material from the sessions is included. The sound is exceptionally clear through the whole frequency range revealing detail and nuance hitherto buried in the analogue microgrooves. Thirty years after the event, it is remarkable how ‘New’ this music still sounds, how fresh and original it seems having just endured almost two decades of tedious virtuosic recapitulation.

More especially, it is fascinating how many of the techniques of the New Thing musicians, once considered so radical to be virtually beyond the pale, have crept into the mainstream. Not least is how an artist such as David Murray has absorbed the lessons of Ayler, or how Sun Ra’s wonderful space anthems showed how accessible the avant-garde could actually be.


There are other connections to be made: how Pharoah Sanders’s Third World modal jams actually appeared to be an acoustic equivalent of what Miles Davis was doing with electric instruments, or how Cecil Taylor’s playing has become an important reference point for exciting, yet diverse, young players of today such as Gerri Allen, Marilyn Crispell and Myra Melford. Important reissues, indeed, that anticipated the future so accurately. Stuart Nicholson