Here’s a record that’s destined to be all over 2021’s end-of-year-lists: Floating Points’ collaboration with Pharoah Sanders, the spiritual jazz master who has worked with both John and Alice Coltrane extensively and is responsible for some of the most memorable masterpieces in jazz history - cornerstone compositions like ‘The Creator Has A Master Plan’ and ‘You’ve Got To Have Freedom’. To name just a few.
Now 80, the maestro who was once described by fellow jazz giant Ornette Coleman as ‘probably the best tenor player in the world’ is now well beyond his wilder years, but he certainly hasn’t lost any of his rich, meditative aesthetic. The awesome power of his younger years is still there, but he chooses to use it more wisely, playing in a more subdued and introverted fashion most of the time - and it’s absolutely beautiful.
Centered around a brilliant little seven note melodic theme that turns into a mantra over time, Sam Shepherd (Floating Points’ real name) paints a subtle yet rich backdrop both in pastel and brighter colours that’s augmented by the strings of the London Symphony Orchestra. A backdrop that varies from sparse and delicate to dense and mesmerising without ever being overpowering, giving ample space to the master who can even be heard when he’s not playing here. It’s this thoughtfulness on Shepherd’s part and Pharoah Sanders’ unrivalled level of mastery that makes ‘Promises’ one of the best albums of the years so far. (RO)