In Review: Floating Points, Pharaoh Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra - Promises

Promises, a spiritual collaboration, proves that when virtuosos unite music knows no bounds.
Posted: 19 April 2021 Words: Georgia Spanos

Ferrell ‘Pharoah’ Sanders – an American saxophone legend and member of John Coltrane's jazz group – once famously stated: "I may be a man of few words to some, but the music I’ve produced says it all". After exploring his latest collaboration, Promises, with British electronic artist Sam Shepherd aka Floating Points and The London Symphony Orchestra, it’s clear why he needn’t say much.

Promises isn’t something to pop in and out of – its emotional 46-minute arrangement invites you to an intimate space for only you to explore. The gloriously messy album, split into nine ‘movements’, is an exhilarating mix which equally celebrates the talents that make up the sum of its parts. From distinctive Sanders structures as the driving force, to soft electronic undertones by Shepherd, and The London Symphony Orchestra bridging it together with tender-textural arrangements, Promises has much to offer.

A twinkling melody is recognised almost instantly as the album begins, and is consistent throughout its duration – it becomes a comfort of sorts. Slowly and gently is how the artists introduce themselves, but it’s not long until the musical masterstrokes make themselves known; mostly led by Sanders’ iconic improvisations. The smooth and silky saxophone introduces itself with confidence, and we quickly learn to rely on its grace. Nostalgic, lullaby-like chimes are sprinkled haphazardly through ‘Movement 3’, and Sanders mumbles wordless sounds in ‘Movement 4’, which accompanies the liberation of his music.

The heartening melody is explored on various instruments across the album, which is dynamic and enjoyable, with ‘Movement 6’ feeling more dramatic and extraordinary than the rest. Shepherd’s talents shine the brightest in ’Movement 7’, with futuristic-type sounds merging intricately with those of classical. It’s at this point where a true, spiritual embrace between the artists is appreciated most.

Promises offers musical arrangements that make you wonder where you are – but you quickly realise it doesn’t matter. Sanders’ horn leads this story, but with Shepherd and The London Symphony Orchestras’ stunning musical arrangements, genres and generations are well and truly pushed to the back, with the purity of music at the fore. Promises makes known that no matter what you represent – beautiful music will always prevail.

Promises is out now via Luaka Bop.

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