When this one-off show at the Hollywood Bowl was originally booked, the LA-based legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders was still with us. After his passing in September of last year, this special event became a celebration of his life, nearly a year to the day after his death.
Although the critically acclaimed Promises was very much a Floating Points (Sam Shepherd) record, Shepherd does not take centre stage at the Bowl; instead he is, along with Kieran Hebden (Four Tet) and Dan Snaith (Caribou) merely a piece in the expansive Los Angeles Studio Orchestra led by conductor Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.
The real star here is arguably Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet), who has the honour and giant task of filling in on sax for the late Sanders. If it’s a task that weighs heavily on his shoulders, it’s not noticeable. He flourishes throughout, as does everyone behind him.
The 50-minute set is exactly what it’s billed as, a live re-creation of Promises, played from front-to-back, in order. Like the record, the show is performed as one continuous body of music, split into nine movements. At times earth shatteringly loud, and at others little more than a murmur – think Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden – the ensemble cast led by Atwood-Ferguson thread together a beautiful moving reenactment of one of the decade’s best records with painstaking precision – and love.
A special mention has to go to the camera crew on hand tonight whose close up work fascinatingly captures the finesse of musicians like Hinako Omori on the celesta and sub bass and Shepherd himself on the therevox. If the names of those instruments are alien to you, imagine Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of how he thought instruments from the future would look if they were designed in the sixties.
If this is to be the only performance of this record – and it likely will be – it is hopefully one that all those in attendance will remember as a special event and a heartfelt tribute to a pioneer and legend.