It's hard to rate Pharoah's Impulse albums. They are all supreme examples of spiritual depth in music. But Deaf, Dumb and Blind may be the greatest in my opinion...perhaps even better than the superb Karma, and that's saying alot.
First of all, the percussion groove on this album really kicks! Sometimes, both on Karma and on Jewels of Thought, the percussion sounds more like a collection of colors, rather than a propelling force. On this CD the percussion is out front, and deeply African in spirit. Propelled by marvelous conga playing from Anthony Wiles and African percussion from Nathaniel Bettis, great trap work by Clifford Jarvis, along with the rest of the ensemble on small percussion, the pieces really cook. Second, the horn section is stellar; Woody Shaw and Gary Bartz. Third, you have the first large scale appearance of Pharoah on soprano, which is every bit as beautiful as his tenor playing. Fourth, (and this may not pertain to everyone) there's no yodelling, or at least very little. I actually like Leon Thomas' contributions to Karma and Jewels, but I know that it puts many people off. This album is all instrumental.
Both cuts on the album are stellar. Summun, Bukmun, Umyun (Deaf, Dumb and Blind) is one of Pharoah's long two chord jams. With the wonderful percussion behind it, the track is both tied to the earth and wandering in the heavens all at once. The second track, Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord is a sublime, out of tempo modal chant. It moves me to tears.
In their time, Pharoah's Impulse albums never got the credit they deserved. Critics either dismissed him as just revamping old Coltrane ideas, or as too involved with the 60s rock ethos. Conservatives felt he was too free and had no traditional chops, and the progressives felt that the unrestrained modalisms of the albums represented a betrayal of the avant-garde energy school and a step back from Pharoah's ground breaking work with Trane. Both sides got Pharoah all wrong. Pharoah was trying to speak peace in a world that just didn't want to hear it...and that meant following his muse, no matter where it led him. It still does mean that for Pharoah, and he still leaves fans confused. Those who want him to retain his fire from the Trane period are disappointed with the ballad albums and the Bill Laswell produced things. Those who want a more mellow Pharoah are shocked by the fire of albums like Spirit. The true mark of Pharoah's genius is that he goes his own way always, no matter what anyone else says.
So snap up this album soon. Word is that the company who owns the Impulse catalogue is thinking of discontinuing the series again, so who knows when you may have the chance again. Work this beautiful needs to be heard.