Pharoah Sanders

Print
As the world reels from a series of natural disasters and powerful international leaders dither dangerously on the issue of climate change, many jazz artists fear for the safety of the planet. Kevin Le Gendre hears how the legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders is both concerned for the future of Mother Nature yet continually inspired by the environment while the adventurous trumpeter Byron Wallen explains how the earth provides magical sounds that are beyond the reach of man-made instruments.
Katrina destroyed sounds as well as sights, homes, welfares and lives. When the hurricane swept through New Orleans in August many musicians found their recordings catching wreck. Jhelisa Anderson, an Atlanta native who had settled in the Crescent City after a decade in Britain, lost her studio. The bulk of tracks she’d laid down over the last few years was drowned by the dramatic, destructive force unleashed by nature. And yet when I spoke to the singer a week or so after she’d left New Orleans, Anderson, whose collaborators include a string of star saxophonists such as Greg Osby, Steve Williamson and Courtney Pine, was philosophical about the wider ramifications of her misfortune. The singer contends that Katrina was not so much destructive as restorative.
" Maybe it’s the earth cleansing itself, healing herself," Anderson told me. "Maybe she’s saying something is wrong and we need to put it right. Things have gotten out of hand, the planet now has a great imbalance and it needs to be redressed."
If the last year is anything to go by then we may well have reached a critical point in the purging. We’ve seen the devastation of the tsunami in Asia, the hurricanes in the Americas and just recently, and perhaps most tragically the earthquakes in the Indian sub-continent. Now avian flu threatens worldwide. Natural disasters compound fears for nature. In October, The Independent produced a supplement called Disappearing World: 100 Things Your Grandchildren May Never See. Among the species and habitats that we are in danger of losing in Britain are wildcats, Marsh fritillary butterflies, The Cairngorm wilderness, "a once pristine Scottish mountain being compromised by the demands of an ambitious tourist industry" and the swallow. Due to global warming we could also forfeit the sight of snow. By 2050.
In the meantime scientists are debating the exact causes of Hurricane Katrina. And while there is no clear evidence to substantiate the claim that the frequency of storms has increased with global warming, several experts such as Gary Yohe of Wesleyan University argue that climate change is increasing the power of storms. Katrina was category 5.
What is beyond dispute in any case is the strain being placed on the earth’s resources by a variety of factors. The rising sea level and a global population of 6 billion are major causes of concern along with vegetation depletion and pollution.