felser Posted December 18, 2005 Report Share Posted December 18, 2005 (edited) This gem, recorded in January of 1972, was Tyner's first work released on Milestone following a series of distinguished albums on Blue Note. While the Blue Note albums featured renowned musicians such as Joe Henderson, Bobby Hutcherson, Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Gary Bartz, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Alice Coltrane, and Elvin Jones, the band on 'Sahara' was by comparison much more obscure. Drummer Alphonse Mouzon had played on the inaugural Weather Report album, but alto/soprano sax player Sonny Fortune had most recently been with Mongo Santamaria for a number of years, and had not been recorded in his stay with Elvin Jones. Bassist Calvin Hill had played with Joanne Brackeen in Boston, but Tyner was his first major gig. And yet, together, they recorded an album for the ages, truly a masterpiece of masterpieces in Tyner's catalog. 'Sahara' consists of four cuts on side one, and the extended title track on side two. "Ebony Queen" starts the album with a pronouncement that Tyner had taken his playing to a new level, with a rhythmic power and beauty unmatched then or now. Mouzon is superb in his playing here and throughout the album, lifting Tyner into flight. What a loss for the music when he chose to pursue the brass ring of fusion. Fortune more than holds his own in this context, laying down the most successful saxophone playing ever done on a Tyner recording. Azar Lawrence was able to cut through the torrent on 'Enlightenment' and 'Atlantis' without going under, but shortly thereafter, such strong players as George Adams and Gary Bartz were being steamrolled by the power of Tyner's playing. Fortune's playing on this album, which sounded so good at the time, has gained in significance over the years as no one other reed player has been able to approach his success playing with Tyner. "A Prayer For My Family" is a beautiful, spiritual solo piano piece. Tyner would successfully revisit this turf on his 'Echoes of a Friend', a fantastic solo piano album recorded later in '72. "Valley of Life" is an early example of world music, shades of the Orient with Tyner on koto instead of piano, and Fortune on flute. "Rebirth" is a modal burner, with Fortune's only alto sax appearance on this album and a strong solo by Tyner over inspired drumming by Mouzon. "Sahara", running over 23 minutes, is a remarkable work which is relentless in its power and majesty. The main theme from this cut will stay in your head for the rest of your life after you experience it. All of the musicians are given great space to stretch out, and in one fascinating sequence, Tyner lays out to allow Fortune to play with just bass and drum accompaniment. The bass and drum solos are beautifully integrated into the music, so they do not become boring at all (this from someone who often fast forwards through drum solos!). World Music influences are found throughout, with simple reed instrument and pecussion sounds entering from the players at intervals. Rarely has a 23 minute cut justified its length the way 'Sahara' does. It is an organic whole, and editing out any piece of it would damage the work. Overall, Tyner truly established himself as a visionary musician on this work. This was the turning point in his career where he would no longer be thought of just as Coltrane's pianist, but rather as the giant in his own right he had become. Edited December 18, 2005 by felser Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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