Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra


(Luaka Bop/Inertia)


It’s one thing to have a 60-year career; quite another to be a force for that time. But here is Pharoah Sanders in 2021, still searching for truth, reaching for beauty and questioning the limits of his art. Electronics maestro and composer Sam Shepherd (aka Floating Points) induced Sanders back into the studio after a long hiatus dotted with live concerts and newly released material from earlier in his illustrious career. This collaboration with Sherpherd and the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra offers a stunning re-contextualization of Sanders’ titanic tenor saxophone.

Shepherd’s nine-movement suite mostly wreathes the instrument in halos of misty electronics and sparse, elegiac strings, so the breadth, soulfulness and invention come into greater focus than can sometimes be the case amidst a storming rhythm section. So much was made of Sanders’ overblowing and shrieking in the wild and woolly ’60s that many people missed what was happening behind that veneer of in-your-face radicalism: one of the most sumptuous tenor saxophone sounds of all time. Here you can fully immerse yourself in that, plus some ingenious electronics and gripping string writing (notably in the dramatic 6th movement).