Sam Shepard (aka Floating Points) - keyboards & electronics / Pharoah Sanders - tenor sax & voice / London Symphony Orchestra - strings
Recorded: Sargent Recorders, Los Angeles & Air Studios, London; 2020
I will admit that I was reticent on this one when I first saw it. I love Pharoah Sanders and have for several decades now (that's possible, because I'm old). For those of you who saw him play Celebrate Brooklyn a couple summers ago, I mean, right? What an amazing show! For those of you who have not seen him... try to do so soon, it's an experience. Floating Points, who I was not familiar with (perhaps because I am old: see above), is an English producer/DJ who has worked with Gilles Peterson among others and is known for his fusion of R&B, house, avant garde jazz, techno, funk and more... incorporating them into sparse sonic soundscapes. Take those two and add in the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra and, well, who know what that adds up to? The seemingly disparate combination left me wary.
The album kept floating (no pun intended) around my radar and people kept singing its praises, so I dove in. I should have done so sooner. This is a stunningly gorgeous recording. Promises is a single composition in 9 movements. The three elements, if you will (Sam, Pharoah & the symphony's strings), intertwine seamlessly riding along and propelling the composition. Sanders playing is so soft and gentle (no need to worry for those of you who fear the Pharoah squawks), but never loses his spiritual intensity. Floating Points has done some remixes of Sun Ra's music and some of those cosmic-futuristic elements are apparent here, but the interplay between Sam and Pharoah is much closer to Pharoah's work with Alice Coltrane (to my ears, at least).
The disclaimer here is that, while this album is beautiful in the shop - and has been on plenty - it really excels where a deeper listen can be had (i.e. headphones or hiding away in your favorite listening spot).