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14 Sep 2016

The Pharoahs "Awakening" 1971 US Private Afro Jazz. Soul Funk..classic









The Pharoahs  "Awakening" 1971  US Private Afro Jazz. Soul Funk..classic
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Horn-led, afrocentric, heavy funk from 1971. One of the great albums of all time. 

“The legend of The Pharaohs starts at Crane Junior College on the West side of Chicago. Under the tutelage of James Mack a student band is formed- The Jazzmen- which in 1962 wins the best band category at Chicago’s annual Harvest Moon Festival. The band featured a front-line of Charles Handy (trumpet) Louis Satterfield (trombone) and Don Myrick (alto sax) backed by Maurice White (trap drums), RAMANANA (Fred Humphrey) (Piano) and bassist Ernest McCarthy. At the time Chicago based Chess Records was fast becoming America’s premier forum for progressive Black music and Jazzmen White, Satterfield and Handy became prominent session players at the label joining an illustrious group which already featured guitarist Pete Cosey, arranger /pianists Phil Wright and the late great Charles Stepney. …..
It’s albums like Awakening that have kept Soul Jazz alive after all these years. Released in 1971, the album purely defines the term "rare groove” with blistering horn lines, African percussion and Jazz Funk. Their cover of Smokey Robinson’s ballad “Tracks Of My Tears,” proves they also know how to sing…..

Somewhere between the drug-infused madness of Parliament Funkadelic and more traditional 60s-era jazz and soul releases, resides The Pharaohs 1971 LP Awakening. The album is one of a pair of releases by a band whose members would go on to leave an indelible mark on popular music, both of which are currently available through Ubiquity Records. 

The story of The Pharaohs is forever intertwined with the establishment of the Affro Arts Theater on Chicago’s southside, in 1967. The venue doubled as a community center that served as a prominent outlet for black artistic culture of all kinds. The Affro Arts Theater was founded, in part by Phil Cohran, original cornetist in Sun Ra’s legendary Arkestra. Cohran’s presence began to attract a who’s who of session musicians from Chess Records, Crane Junior College and other hotbeds of the Chicago music scene at the time. The Pharaohs were the result of a merger between the Cohran-led Artistic Heritage Ensemble and a student band called The Jazzmen. 

Awakening begins with “Damballa”, a statement piece named for the voodoo Sky God that clocks in at just more than eight minutes. Imagine an up-tempo version of the jazz standard “Caravan” with Brazilian-tinged, Afrobeat underpinnings. It begins with the alarming punch of the horn section followed by relentless, rollicking play on percussion. The chanting that appears intermittently throughout “Damballa” points to an almost ritualistic element to the music. With that, the stage is set. 
The Pharaohs remain in this African motif for the second track “Ibo” before entering guilty pleasure territory on a lounge-like rendition of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears.” The cover and follow-up track “Black Enuff” serve as an accurate portrayal of popular black culture at the time, serving as a preview of the music that would supply the soundtrack to popular films like Superfly the following year. 

For my money, the real magic happens on the album’s latter half. Just two tracks, the b-side clocks in at just less than 20 minutes. “Freedom Road” and “Great House” feature The Pharaohs at their loosest, with trumpeter Charles Handy and trombonist Louis Satterfield offering alien riffs on horns. In 1971, jazz had yet to take on its professorial persona and performances still implied a raucous dance party.The Pharaohs released their lone follow-up in the form of 1972’s In The Basement. By 1973, Maurice White, original drummer for the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, poached much of the band’s brass section to form the foundation of The Phenix Horns – the widely celebrated horn section of the White-led Earth, Wind, and Fire. The rest as they say is history. The sound created by The Pharaohs, and Sun Ra before them, would be borrowed and imitated for decades to come. Fortunately, thanks to Ubiquity, we all have the opportunity to enjoy the original article. 

Written by Rob Peoni
“The Pharaohs were one of the forgotten treasures of ‘70s R&B, a freewheeling jazz-funk congregation heavily influenced by Chicago’s jazz avant-garde as well as on-the-one funk and African motifs. Unfortunately, they recorded only one album before Earth, Wind & Fire frontman Maurice White (who played in an early version of the Pharaohs) hired several of its members to form the Phenix Horns, the justly celebrated horn section for Earth, Wind & Fire during the '70s. 

The group was formed from several jazz bands active around Chicago’s Affro Arts Theater, a community educational collective. One of the bands, the Jazzmen, was formed in the early '60s around trumpeter Charles Handy, trombone player Louis Satterfield, and alto Don Myrick (along with three who didn’t survive later conglomerations: pianist Fred Humphrey, bassist Ernest McCarthy, and drummer Maurice White). The other main component of the Pharaohs was the Artistic Heritage Ensemble, who had already recorded one late-'60s LP with cornetist Philip Cohran, a veteran of Sun Ra’s Arkestra and AACM. By the time of the Pharaohs’ 1971 recording debut, Awakening, the group included Handy, Myrick, and Satterfield plus Big Willie Woods on trombone, Oye Bisi and Shango Njoko Adefumi on African drums, Yehudah Ben Israel on guitar and vocals, Alious Watkins on trap drums, Derf Reklaw-Raheem on percussion and flute, and Aaron Dodd on tuba. Though the album’s astonishing fusion of funk, jazz, and Afro-beat earned them an assortment of die-hard fans and critics, the group’s abstract inclinations hardly geared them for commercial success. 

Back in the '60s, before the Pharaohs were formed, Handy, Satterfield, and Maurice White had often contributed to sessions at Chicago’s Chess studios, so when White recorded a demo for a new band he wanted to form, both Handy and Satterfield appeared on it. After he signed to Warner Bros., they also began recording Earth, Wind & Fire material and eventually were officially hired by White as the Phenix Horns, with the addition of Pharaohs Yehudah Ben Israel and Rahm Lee, plus Michael Harris. The Pharaohs soldiered on until 1973, but called it quits without recording another studio album. Derf Reklaw became a respected world-jazz leader, while Woods and Dodd both appeared on many soul sessions around Chicago during the '70s. In 1996, the acid jazz label Luv 'N’ Haight reissued Awakening and also released the 1972 live outing In the Basement.”. 

allmusic.com. …..
A1 - Damballa 
A2 - Ibo 
A3 - Tracks Of My Tears 
A4 - Black Enuff 
A5 - Somebody’s Been Sleeping 
B1 - Freedom Road 
B2 - Great House 

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