Friday, August 3, 2012

Pharoah Sanders @ Ronnie Scott's

My visit to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club was a wonderful experience.  It had the flavor of a pilgrimage.  I arrived in England around noon, after many hours in the air and only a bit of sleep.  Coming up out of the Underground station into the smeared colors of Soho pavement later that day, we were a bit dazed.  We walked around in circles looking for the venue.  

Fortunately Soho has a staff of charming people sitting on the sidewalk with paper cups beside them.  Their dress is the basic uniform of the San Francisco homeless, but these Brits have a business model.  Seeing the look of confusion on our faces, one fellow asked "What play are you looking for?"  I am guessing he knew everything that was showing in the theater district.  I blurted out "Ronnie Scott's" and he gave me very explicit directions.  I am not sure if there was a going rate, but I dropped a two pound coin in his bank.  

You can get some idea of the interior from the photo above.  After all the travel and a martini, I wasn't in the best shape to review Pharaoh Sanders' performance, but I will say that I felt as though I had stepped into one of his live albums.  Sanders has two basic speeds: heartfelt ballad and tear the fabric of reality lion's claw.  I didn't hear the second, but I got a very delicious helping of the first.  Sanders opus also a pronounced spiritual dimension.  That was very evident in the several of the pieces his small band played.  

The Pharaoh is the real thing.  If you get a chance to see him, don't miss it.  I am glad to say that I did not miss it.  I just acquired Journey To The One, a "club classic," as the Penguin Guide calls it.  This 1979 recording sounds a lot like what I heard.  

I am playing the first two cuts: 'Greetings to Idris,' and 'Doktor Pitt'.  This is the basic band.  
It's all wonderful.  John Hicks shines especially bright and sparkly on piano.  Carl Lockett plays guitar on the first piece and Eddie Henderson plays flugelhorn on the second.  

Oh, and if you're in London and like jazz, pay Ronnie Scott a visit.  They make it easy to purchase tickets online.  Don't worry about finding it.  My friend on the street will direct you.

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