Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra – Promises – New LP
Gatefold, die-cut sleeve, 180 gram vinyl.
"This cross-generational collaboration is more natural than it might seem; some of Shepherd's previous electric piano work has evinced an appreciation for the tranquility and restraint in Lonnie Liston Smith's use of the Fender Rhodes, heard first on Sanders' Thembi. To Shepherd's credit, his framework for Sanders is in the moment. There's no evident intent to evoke any point in the saxophonist's past, or even in maintaining continuity with the Floating Points catalog. Moreover, this is a fulfilling listen for those who hoped to hear more from Sanders the sideman on the 2019 and 2020 LPs led by Joey DeFrancesco and Bill Laswell.
In the main, Sanders' playing is soft and lyrical, not so much searching as observing, like he's strolling down a densely wooded path with Shepherd's recurrent arpeggio flickering like sunlight through gaps in trees. There's a gradual ebb and flow through the first four movements, the last of which is enhanced by Sanders' friendly vocal trills. His saxophone then becomes more active and clustered, yet tightly controlled, and early into the sixth movement yields to a mass of strings signifying a looming threat that dissipates before turning violent, seemingly cradled into silence. Up springs the arpeggio and Sanders' saxophone, placid until invigorated by swirling electronics. Sanders emits piquant beams, never quite blasts, and fades out by the end of the seventh movement. Droning organs and violins that whisk and wrench are centered in the two final movements, finishing the suite with a sense of uncertainty. The trip is well worth completing despite Sanders' early exit."