If you have to pick one Pharoah record, this is unquestionably that one, a textbook definition of spiritual jazz perfection, equal parts healing and challenging. I came to this album looking for a Photek sample and stuck around for the transcendental cosmic vibes, frolicking jazz-funk, stirring free jazz freakouts and thorny bass solo madness (Cecil McBee’s “Love”). This was supposedly Lonnie Liston Smith’s first time touching an electric piano, and that sense of awestruck realization beams through in the sublime Rhodes playing on “Astral Traveling,” the album’s opening track (which Smith also composed). Thembi has been in serious need of a reissue for a while now (30 years since the last pressing), and this one was well worth the wait, with clean replica gatefold artwork and gorgeous sound. After having to endure pointless, unwanted catalog drudges from the major labels year after year (we’ve increasingly had to rely on labels like Superior Viaduct, Be With, Light In The Attic et al for decent sounding reissues of no-brainer jazz essentials like this), it’s nice to see them come correct every so often. Recommended.
- black vinyl pressing
- first time on vinyl in over 30 years
- tip-on gatefold jacket
- music label: Impulse! 2018
reviewed by nick nightingale 10/2018
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