Thursday, December 22, 2005

Izipho Zam

Izipho Zam (My Gifts)
Strata East SES-19733 (Dolphy Series 2)
Recorded 1969

Side One

1. Prince Of Peace
2. Balance

Side Two

1. Izipho Zam


Nat Bettis; percussion
Chief Bey; african drums
Sonny Fortune; alto sax
Billy Hart; drums
Howard Johnson; tuba
Cecil McBee; bass
Pharoah Sanders; sax and percussion
Majeed Shabazz; drums
Sonny Sharrock; guitar
Sirone (Norris Jones); bass
Lonnie Liston Smith; piano
Leon Thomas; vocal and percussion
Tony Wylie; percussion

Pharoah Sanders was in a very far-out place in 1969, and this album is proof of that. If you consider that the albums currently available Sanders catalogue represent the erm... commercial end of his late 60s/early 70s activities (Tauhid? Thembi? Commercial? I don't think so), and then consider that 'Izipho Zam' has never been released on CD...

I hope you see where i'm going with this. It's free jazz. Proper, loud, passionate, intense free jazz. I'm not going to say a lot about it tonight, as you all know by now what I think of Pharoah Sanders, just make sure you listen to tonight's track, the frankly amazing 'Balance'. While 'Prince of Peace' is spiritual in it's approach and 'Izipho Zam' is a bit freer, with layer after layer of intensity stacking up over it's 28 minutes, 'Balance' is not quite what it claims to be. Sure, it starts balanced, with alternating passages of Sanders' trademark funky rhythms alternating with moments of sheer abandon, but with about 4 minutes to go all attempts to stay balanced are given up and you are subjected to possibly the most intense, most violent music ever committed to disc. Two players stand out in this wall of sound - Sonny Sharrock's guitar and Howard Johnson's tuba are remarkable - less for the actual notes that they play than the sheer sound they make. The tuba is an unusual instrument to hear in a free jazz setting anyway, and it's simply remarkable here, going from high register runs to contrabass grunting in an instant. Sharrock turns everything up to 11 and creates a wall of feedback that any self respecting death-metaller would be proud of. It's a relief when it finishes, I can tell you. That last 4 minutes makes tohe 40 or so minutes of Coltrane's 'Ascension' sound like 'The Best of George Shearing' in comparison.

Abrasive stuff, but mesmerising. No wonder it hasn't had a reissue. Make sure to read my entry on another album from Strata East's Dolphy Series, Charles Brackeen's 'Rhythm X'.


Alexander said...

i just bought it on cd. it was a 1500 limited edition released by sunspots. the year says 2003. it's digitally remastered. awesome stuff. i like your review but nevertheless i'd say that this is more listenable than ascension. there is a great flow to it and the occasional burst-out as in balance doesn't last long. this is spiritual cosmic world music.

Anonymous said...

My CD is on Strata East, 1993.