Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
HOLY SHIT, you guys. This is ridiculous. Sometimes, when listening to albums for this column, I press play and immediately feel like I'm on an episode of Punk'd, and Ashton Kutcher is going to pop out from behind my bookcase, peel off his convincing Dave Segal mask, snap a quick Polaroid of me, and go, "HA-HA! Gotcha! Look at your face!" This was one of those times.
The first track is 32 minutes long. Hey, did you know saxophones can scream at you? They can and will, if you listen to this album. At first, Pharoah Sanders is just tickling the sax until it giggles. But then it gets really, really pissed. (Which is fair.) Also: "The Creator has a working plan: peace and happiness for every man." You will hear that phrase a lot of times, followed by the phrase "the Creator makes but one demand: happiness through all the land" another, oh, three thousand times. And also a lot of "yeahs." "Yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah-ye—" (I'm stopping there, but only to save ink.)
Then at some point, vocalist Leon Thomas reaches down inside his own throat and starts wiggling his vocal cords (I assume). It's kinda... jazz-yodely. You have to listen to it; I cannot describe it. But I think doing an impression of those vocals may replace fake-Tuvan-throat-singing as a funny audio joke in my circle of friends.
I've done a little research, and one thing I've learned is that Sanders is a major developer of "free jazz." This is a term I know only from being dared by a friend to go into a record store's free jazz section and ask the proprietors if "these records are actually free?" (I did not do this.) From the short introduction that is Karma, I can only assume that free jazz is partly about making fun of jazz. Like, hey! Here's some jazz to go with those beaded curtains you have separating your kitchen from your living room. TENOR SAX, TO THE MAX! You're welcome.
Trying to figure out what/who this music is for, I asked the internet, and the internet responded with a resounding "This is for super-awesome people who really understand jazz and the multiverse." Which I guess is not me? But I will say this: I've listened to this album maybe four times now, and it does get better each time. You should try it. Suggested activities: lying on the couch, cooking, ingesting illicit substances, astrally projecting.
I give this an "I feel like an idiot, but what else is new" out of 10.