Along with Alice & John Coltrane, and possibly Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders is behind the evolution of the cosmic jazz style, deeply spiritual in an ineffable way yet utterly entrancing.
“Astral Travelling” is a cool name, no doubt about it, but you could say it’s not a particularly creative choice; it’s like naming Moonlight Sonata “sad and serene song”. That is to say, the song does what it says on the tin!
The percussion is incredibly diverse and engaging, adding various rattles and exotic flares to the ordinary jazz drum set. The drumming is naturally of a very high standard.
The bass pretty much does its own thing, swaying between a couple of notes harmoniously. Of course, it always matches Lonnie Liston Smith’s shimmering rhodes piano, so that the two instruments create a beautifully lush soundscape between them.
When Pharoah Sander’s saxophone flits into the scene, the other elements accomodate it perfectly, then the track becomes warm, sultry and mellow.
The song is the first on the 1971 album Thembi, which was recorded in two parts, with roughly a year in between sessions.