Personnel includes: Pharoah Sanders (tenor & soprano saxophones, alto flute, fife, bailophone, brass bell, bells, maracas, cow horn, percussion); Michael White (violin, percussion); Lonnie Liston Smith (bailophone, piano, electric piano, claves, ring cymbals, percussion, background vocals); Cecil McBee (bass, finger cymbals, percussion, sound effects); Clifford Jarvis (drums, maracas, bells, percussion); Roy Haynes (drums); Chief Bey, Majid Shabazz, Anthony Wiles, Nat Bettis (percussion); James Jordon (ring cymbals).
Producers: Ed Michel, Bill Szymczyk.
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Recorded at The Record Plant, Los Angeles, California on November 25, 1970 and The Record Plant, New York City on January 12, 1971.
Digitally remastered by Erick Labson at MCA Music Media Studios.
This is part of Impulse's The New Thing series.
Brimming with innovation, positivity and a pervasive sense of wonder, THEMBI may become your favorite Sanders album. These tracks represent a landmark confluence of many elements: Avant-Garde chaos, static harmony and a cultural revaluation of West African instrumentation, to name a few. Omnipresent, of course, is the unmistakable tempest of Pharoah blowing his tenor out to sea. It's 1971, and this is a simultaneous celebration of the past and future of jazz set to the jingling bells of a Sunday afternoon be-in. THEMBI floats to a start with the ethereal Fender Rhodes musing of "Astral Traveling," courtesy of Lonnie Liston Smith. Though Sanders has described the melody as an impromptu thread for the changes, his plaintive long tones are as charged as ever with wisdom. In the lower register is Cecil McBee, laying down the groove with entrancing vamp lines. The title track seems like an afterthought to the classic "The Creator," replacing the traditional "head, solo, head" structure with something more closely resembling "mantra, solo, mantra." Like much of Sanders' other work, these recordings are simple in form, yet vast in content.
Rolling Stone (9/2/71, pp.43) - "...the best album in a long while from the man who can legitimately claim to have 'greened' jazz almost singlehandedly, not with merchandising techniques but with music alone..."