The album ASCENSION played a profoundly important role in John Coltrane's final period. Recorded in June 1965, almost exactly two years before his death, this session marks Coltrane's final stepping off point into free jazz. The album also marks a division for Coltrane's fans, as there are some that applaud his final escape from jazz tradition while others simply couldn't follow him into the great unknown.
Reed player Vidar Johansen's arrangements for John Coltrane's iconic Meditations (Impulse!, 1966) were recorded live at the Nattjazz festival in Bergen in May 2007. Johansen's arrangements stress Coltrane's melodic themes over the intense and sometimes violent sonic explorations of the Coltrane quartet that was augmented with Pharaoh Sanders on second tenor saxophone and Rashied Ali on drums. His arrangements, appropriately reverential, still call for spirited and passionate conviction from all the musicians, as befits such a monumental work.
By 1971, Pharoah Sanders had taken the free thing as far as he could and still live with himself. He was investigating new ways to use rhythm – always his primary concern – inside his music and more tonally strident ways of involving the front line in extrapolating tonal and harmonic diversions from the melodic framework of his music. To that end, he entered into a more groove-laden arrangement with himself and employed some funkier players to articulate his muse. Along with Cecil McBee and Billy Hart, who were frequent Sanders sidemen, a young Stanley Clarke fills the second bass chair, and Norman Connors fills out the second drum seat.
This exceptional live document finds legendary free jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders collaborating with cornetist Rob Mazurek and members of the Sao Paulo Underground and Chicago Underground Duo. Mazurek takes a leading role for the most part, joined by Sanders in his regular volcanic, spiritual state of playing and supported dutifully by percussionist Maurício Takara, drummer Chad Taylor, bassist Matt Lux, and multi-instrumentalist Guilherme Granado. The disc tends toward the more experimental and tumultuous side of things, with processed synth sounds clashing with the explosive organic instrumentation in a way that brings to mind Sun Ra's rudimentary synth experimentation on his early-'70s Saturn Records output.