"Izipho Zam (My Gifts)" is one of those albums that everyone but me seems to love. Recorded shortly before his Impulse! masterpiece "Karma", this album features more or less the same band, with contributions from a large number of musicians-- prominent among them vocalist Leon Thomas, alto saxophonist Sonny Fortune, Howerd Johnson (on tuba this time), guitarist Sonny Sharrock, pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, and a seemingly endless cast of basssists and percussionists, many of whom were associated with Sanders at this point.
Opener "Prince of Peace" is really the only piece I truly love on this one. Re-recorded a year later (in a superior arrangement and retitled "Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah") "Jewels of Thought", it is a melodic vocal feature for Thomas, where he sings his sort of meditative lyrics calling for piece before performing his unique yodelling improv. Sanders appears confined to percussion (of which there's a ton) on this piece, with no real contributuion on his part. Still, it's a lovely piece and certainly noteworthy.
But after that the album feels to come unglued to me. "Balance" fades in during what sounds to be the middle of the introductory statement to "The Creator Has a Masterplan", moves into a bluesy Monkish riff (it's interesting that only recently had I noted the compositional influence Monk seemed to have on Sanders' early work) and then into a frantic free improv section where Sanders wails away freely on top of the other horns with Johnson in counter on tuba. The problem is, I don't really feel much from the improv, some of the playing is exciting, but it just does nothing for me.
And speaking of doing little, the title track, a nearly half-hour long sprawling suite, slowly develops with Thomas yodelling and singing (wordlessly) until the piece settles into a groove irritatingly stated by Sharrock on clean-tone guitar (it seems fine until you realize the same riff gets aired and varied for the length of the piece), with Sanders occasionally showing up to air out some more of his "Creator Has a Masterplan" themes.
In the end, it all feels like a rehearsal-- even "Prince of Peace". It's not bad music, it's just that it can't stand up to the work Sanders did on Impulse. On the other hand, lots of folks enjoy this one immensely, start with "Karma" if you're new to Sanders, but this might sit better with you than me.