I used to lay on the floor of our second story apartment in Parkchester, the complex adjacent to the St. Bernard projects in New Orleans. Late one night as I meditated in the dark, Pharoah’s heavy sound swirling in the air, Tayari (to whom I was newly married), inched down the long hallway. She was hugging the wall, frightened by the noise erupting from our front room. I assured her, I was alright. Don’t worry. Go back to bed. Since then, she loves Pharoah.
Half a century later, Pharoah has a new recording with an Englishman whose stage name is Floating Points combined with the London Symphony Orchestra. I’m not a big fan of classical music and was a bit skeptical of what this collaboration would sound like, until I heard it all. Swam in it. Immersed myself there-in. I was surprised by how warm I found these sonic waters.
This was not the Pharoah I remember knowing. The Pharoah for whom I once stood in a New York street blocking a parking space while my friend drove around the block to get across the street to it–another person drove up and I refused to move, he told me “brother, you know you’re wrong”. And I was. But I had been instructed by my up-south friend to post myself there and not give up the space while he rushed though the Manhattan traffic to get to this coveted parking spot.
I obstinately stood my ground, not simply because I had been instructed to do that but, rather, because we were going to see Pharoah. I was willing to pay the cost of knowingly being wrong.
That was in the way-out late seventies. This new record was some Covid-era stuff. It is both different and surprisingly affective. Pharoah is Pharoah, of course. But rather than jazz, this is a new age recording of an eighty-year-old former enfant terrible from way back when, who is not afraid of today’s modernistic, completely (and pandemically) surprising future.
I cried when Coltrane died and am deeply thankful that Trane’s compatriot follower and subsequent sonic titan, who carried forward Trane’s aural torch, remains active with us decades, and decades, later. This recording is actually more than a promise, it is a fulfillment of the wonderful world of sound envisioned way back in the day.
There are some people and experiences, once we have been touched by them, we remain changed forever.