July 2006

Pharoah Sanders Quartet with special guest Kenny Garrett
at the Toronto Jazz Festival
July 1, 2006Main StageToronto
Afro Modern
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
The full-throated tenor of Pharoah Sanders.

Sometimes gruff, then sweet and motivating, Pharoah is one of our master players.

'This night only', Pharoah shared the stage with alto firebrand Kenny Garrett. Along with pianist William Henderson, bass player Doug Dezron, and Joe Farnsworth on drums, the two horns played in the modal, incantatory style that Pharoah's fans have come to love.

Three of the tunes were basically extended vamps. The tunes encourged the band to play beyond themselves, and in the case of altoist Kenny Garrett, nearly play himself right through the roof of the tent.

The rapidfire Garrett kept stringing sonorous fragments into long lines which at one point resolved into a sparring session with the drums for several driving choruses. Like at last year's festival, Garrett is clearly committed to reaching a point of ecstasy, and this again played well with the crowd.

For his part, Pharoah clearly rejoiced in the (Afro Modern) long form tunes. Vibrant and calm, his solo statements came from his spiritual core.

"Say it (Over and Over Again)" was Pharoah's wonderfully tender ballad statement. His keening, lead-in phrases, and his total grasp of the tune's form, confirmed his greatness.

Pharoah Sanders
The rhythm section acquitted themselves well this evening. They maintained the flow of the music and soloed capably, still, they weren't on the same level as the two horn players.

This was a simple matter of fact.

Kenny Garrett, Doug Dezron and Joe Farnsworth
Blown Away on Canada Day
by Paul J. Youngman with photos by Roger Humbert
Pharoah Sanders opened the show with an immediate tenor solo, he has a deep, bold tone that pierced the humid night air. The bass player Doug Dezron and drummer Joseph Farnsworth were in full gear from the outset. The sound mix was dreadful, the drums were very low in the mix, and the piano was non- existent. Kenny Garrett seemed to survey the scene and reported to the sound engineer. Conferences were held between the drummer, Garrett, the soundman and eventually the sound improved. Sanders completed his solo to a delighted audience, he had produced some of his signature tenor sounds. Sanders mixes in grunts, howls, groans and harmonic distortions to create a flowing lyricism.

Garrett took his place at the front of the stage to solo and you knew from the first bar that he was in a take no prisoners mode. The excitement blasted from his alto, rich, fluid tones, non-stop energy and each progression climaxed to a blistering fast run. At one point, I had to look up at the roof to see if it was still intact, that is the power of Kenny Garrett.

The sound was much better for the second song, the crew having had three quarters of an hour to get it right during the first extended song. The second song was a beautiful extended ballad. Sanders took the lead and performed some smooth lines and created a nice build to a faster tempo, building in excitement and making way for Garrett to work his magic. Garrett’s playing on the song was fresh, inventive and simply outstanding.

The most memorable moment of the concert for me was a trading off of licks between the drummer Joseph Farnsworth and altoist Kenny Garrett in the third song. The battle of spirits in this piece was wondrous, Garrett played some complex lines and Farmsworth replied with an innovative technique, incorporating every component of his standard kit.

The solo that Farnsworth performed was masterful. He works his brushes in a manner that allows him to sound like two drummers, performing a couple of bars with brushwork and quickly trading up to sticks and performing a bar or two. The switching is strategically accomplished by placing the unused brushes or sticks under his arms. His use of dynamics and silence is incorporated into his playing to great effect. He also takes great care in the set up of his drums, creating a nice resonance and tone. The snares are turned on and off, providing him with an extra tom-tom when the snare is in the off position. Farnsworth is an imaginative and innovative drummer who is not concerned with time; he has a style that is soft, fast and technically precise.

Pianist William Henderson is a long time associate of Sanders. He is a gifted player who has a light and intricate style. He performed solo in the third song and pulled off some beautiful lines. He is very sensitive to the horn players and is the perfect accompanist, never overbearing and always guiding and supporting the direction of the songs.

Pharoah Sanders

Kenny Garrett
The final number of the evening started with Henderson soloing, Sanders introduced the players and made sure to take note of the fact that Kenny Garrett was here for this performance only. I am not sure if Sanders or his band could handle playing with Garrett regularly. When someone brings that level of energy to an event, it is transmitted to everyone. The other players stepped up to the plate and performed at a new level.

Garrett was in the presence of greatness, I could just imagine him going to the back of the stage where Sanders was resting between solos and asking, "so how was that sir". Sanders would reply, "not bad".

The band
Doug Dezron – bass
Joe Farnsworth – drums
William Henderson – piano
Kenny Garrett – sax
Pharoah Sanders – tenor sax
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
• •
Paul J. Youngman
The Live Music Report

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