The Pharoah Sanders Floating Points Collaboration: Is It Any Good?

Whenever I have listened to the extremely minimalist music of composers such as Nils Frahm, Max Richter, or Olafur Arnalds I have often longed for a saxophone to come in to solo in a kind of call and response to the writing. In many ways, the collaboration between the DJ and sound sculptor Floating Points and saxophonist Pharoah Sanders realises that wish of mine. The piece titled Promises features Sanders playing over an electronic score by Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) and a contribution by the London Symphony Orchestra on two tracks. Overall there are nine movements with music running through without a break for 47 minutes.

The piece begins with a short motif which is repeated throughout the piece, either in its original form or modified in subtle ways by the electronics of Floating Point. Then Sanders enters on the tenor saxophone interacting with the ambient sounds in a gentle and contemplative style. This is the spiritual side of Sanders’ playing rather than the style based on extended techniques we hear in his recordings with John Coltrane. Sanders’ playing is beautiful throughout , but I feel that it could have communicated more strongly had Sanders been interacting with a rhythm section or just a drummer. He does interact with the electronics and in Movement 7 he builds up to a climax with something like the Pharoah Sanders cry that has always been a feature of his playing. He also goes into a gentle wordless vocal in Movement 4 which also fits well with the overall atmosphere of the piece. But overall I wanted more from him.

I agree with Richard Williams who in his review of the album, which you can read here, suggests that it is an album for Sunday morning listening. It is a pleasant listen that requires less concentration than the more ‘maximalist’ music that I prefer to listen to.

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