[27 July 2008]
We’ve had the tribute (2006’s Big M), so here’s the keepsake, a reissue of a Pharoah Sanders hook-up from the not-so-distant past, when the late Malachi Favors was still anchorman in Kahil El’Zabar’s trio. It’s a veritable gathering of the elders to be sure, driven by such a bellyfull of fire you’d never guess the sum of their respective ages. The sleevenotes wheel out the old AACM talisman: “Great Black Music—Ancient to Future”, and why not-as a mission statement it assumes more gravity with each passing decade, deepened by the kind of performances youth can’t buy. Showtimes brings a standard—“Autum Leaves”—and it’s all sinew and no sentimentality, Favors and pianist Ari Brown knotting the Joseph Kosma ballad from the outside-in. Cue Sanders’ entry and a tenor retort that’s lost none of its swarming revelation, blazing forebearance or sheer physicality over the years. After screaming in spiritual morse, Sanders drops a gear or two—and a dimension or three—as the piece reaches its resolution, dropping out completely for “This Little Light of Mine”, as Zabar’s ecstatic grunts stoke the swing and Favors steadies the ship with a calloused hand forever caught in time.