This four-CD set features unreleased recordings of tenor horn player Pharaoh Sanders as he plays sets with Paul Bley and Don Cherry, plus two sets of Sanders with Sun Ra at Judson Hall, December 30 and New Year’s Eve, 1964. Also included in this set are recorded interviews with the players, in which Sanders recalls landing in NYC with a tenor sax held together by rubber bands, living on the street until trumpeter Don Cherry stumbled across him and helped him get on his feet. To make ends meet, Pharaoh donated blood for “something like five dollars.” It makes one wonder what became of the folks transfused with that iconic Pharaoh blood. The interview segments make clear the plight of the musician, especially the free-blowing musician, on the streets of NYC, and I suspect that little has changed.

In the session recordings, the Cherry set finds Sanders following, far more than spearheading, and the Bley set highlights that pianist’s tricky fingers skirting the tonal centre which free-jazzers, inspired by Cherry’s boss Ornette Coleman, avoided in large part. But the Sun Ra material, and especially the long songs with Pharaoh calling the shots, show the saxophonist working the median between noise and notes, working a tone cluster until it sprouts, stretches, and rises towards the sun. From messy seeds sprouts the lotus.