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Studio album by Pharoah Sanders
Released 1971
Recorded November 1970/January 1971
Genre Jazz
Length 41:12
Label Impulse!
Producer Ed Michel, Bill Szymczyk
Pharoah Sanders chronology
Black Unity
(1971)Black Unity1971
Wisdom Through Music
(1972)Wisdom Through Music1972

Thembi is the seventh album by free-jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, released in 1971.


The album is named after Sanders's son. Sanders moved away from the long, intense compositions of his solo albums and produced an album of shorter tracks. He and other musicians played a large variety of instruments. Sanders played tenor, alto, and soprano saxophone, bailophone (African thumb piano), small percussion instruments, and a cow horn.

Sanders's other major collaborator, pianist and composer Lonnie Liston Smith, performs on Thembi (though this would be the last time they recorded together). Also featured are violinist Michael White, bassist Cecil McBee, and percussionists Chief Bey, Majid Shabbaz, and Nat Bettis. "Thembi", "Astral Travelling' and "Morning Prayer" were included on the two-disc anthology, You've Got to Have Freedom, on Soul Brother Records. ' Lonnie Liston Smith began experimenting with electric keyboards while recording this album.

On Thembi, that was the first time that I ever touched a Fender Rhodes electric piano. We got to the studio in California — Cecil McBee had to unpack his bass, the drummer had to set up his drums, Pharoah had to unpack all of his horns. Everybody had something to do, but the piano was just sitting there waiting. I saw this instrument sitting in the corner and I asked the engineer, 'What is that?' He said, 'That's a Fender Rhodes electric piano.' I didn't have anything to do, so I started messing with it, checking some of the buttons to see what I could do with different sounds. All of a sudden I started writing a song and everybody ran over and said, 'What is that?' And I said, 'I don't know, I'm just messing around.' Pharoah said, 'Man, we gotta record that. Whatcha gonna call it?' I'd been studying astral projections and it sounded like we were floating through space so I said let's call it 'Astral Traveling.' That's how I got introduced to the electric piano.[1]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic4/5 stars[2]

Thembi has been criticized for its somewhat cut-and-paste feel (it was compiled from two sessions, recorded in 1970 and 1971); the Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, written by Richard Cook and Brian Morton, offers a particularly harsh assessment. However, Ashley Kahn, author of The House that Trane Built: The Story of Impulse Records, describes it as "a career high-point: [it was] co-produced by Michel and rock producer Bill Szymczyk, who together introduced Sanders's music to advanced studio techniques of the day — close miking, overdubbing, and effects like reverb, echo, and phasing."[citation needed] Allmusic gave the album a four-star rating (of a possible five), and reviewer Steve Huey described the album as offering "an intriguingly wide range of relatively concise ideas, making it something of an anomaly in Sanders' prime period.… Some fans may gripe that Thembi isn't conceptually unified or intense enough, but it's rare to have this many different sides of Sanders coexisting in one place, and that's what makes the album such an interesting listen."[2]

Track listing[edit]

  1. Astral Travelling (Lonnie Liston Smith) - 5:48
  2. Red, Black & Green (Sanders) - 8:56
  3. Thembi (Sanders) - 7:02
  4. Love (Cecil McBee) - 5:12
  5. Morning Prayer (Sanders/Liston Smith) - 9:11
  6. Bailophone Dance (Sanders) - 5:43


Recording details[edit]

Tracks 1–4 were recorded at the Record Plant, Los Angeles, California, on November 25, 1970. Track 4 is an unaccompanied bass solo. Tracks 5–6 were recorded at the Record Plant, New York City, on January 12, 1971. The assistant engineer was Lillian Davis Douma.


  1. ^ "Interview With Jim Newsom". 2007-04-03. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  2. ^ a b Huey, Steve. Thembi at AllMusic