In November of 1966, Pharoah Sanders was at the center of the burgeoning "New Thing"s scene-- blowing tenor next to the godfather of that music, John Coltrane and having just completed his first studio session with trumpeter Don Cherry, Sanders entered the studio for the second time to record an album, this time for Impulse Records. "Tauhid" was the result of that sessions.
Assembling a band of then-unknown guitarist Sonny Sharrock, pianist Dave Burrell, bassist Henry Grimes, drummer Roger Blank and percussionist Nat Bettis, Sanders recorded two lengthy suites (each around 15 minutes) and one brief piece. Both the influence of Coltrane and Cherry can be heard, and while Sanders' vision is not yet fully realized, the path to the future is clear.
"Upper Egypt & Lower Egypt", the suite on the first side, clearly shows the influence of Don Cherry. The first section is a building, bubbling theme, driven by swelling guitar before dropping into an arco bass solo and eventually a piccolo performance (from Sanders) over percussion. This folds into the closing section-- a fantastic, guitar and piano driven riff over which Sanders solos fiercely-- utilizing his overblowing technique to gain the most of his expressiveness before wordlessly singing the theme.
"Japan", a brief interlude, finds Sanders vocalising microtonally over an Eastern-tinged theme. It certainly works nicely enough and has the wisdom to end before it gets irritating.
The closing suite-- three pieces performed in medley, is frantic and explosive-- "Aum" finds Sanders railing away frantically on alto before switching to tenor for the more meditative "Venus", where Sanders growls his theme before the piece moves into a totally free improv with Sanders, Sharrock and Blank all wailing around Burrell's framework. A rather nonlinear pizzicato bass solo moves into the third movement-- "Capricorn Rising"-- a brief theme statement on tenor that finds itself equally meditative.
A final note-- this album seriously needs remastering-- the sound on this release sounds seriously dated. But this flaw aside, this is a fine, if somewhat derivative outing from Sanders.