Although introduced as a protégé of John Coltrane and touted by many as his heir apparent, reedman Pharoah Sanders quickly proved his own man. His shared interest in the "cosmic" music of Coltrane's final period belies the fact that Sanders frequently plays with an unhurried sense of peace and satisfaction rarely found in his mentor's music. His use of space, African and Asian motifs and instruments, and simple, repetitive melodies also pointed the way for jazz, rock, and new age musicians in the '70s and '80s, while his sometimes raucous use of harsh, shrieking runs influenced many of jazz's most adventurous saxophonists.
The centerpiece of Karma is the marathon half-hour octet recording "The Creator Has a Master Plan." Although the track features a warm vocal by Leon Thomas, its true feature artist for almost the entire length is Sanders, who carries the melody, feel, and improvisation firmly on his shoulders. All of Sanders's key elements--Afro-centric spiritualism, sweeping use of mood from long, relaxed intervals to frenetic cacophony, and a deep sense of melody and rhythm--are in evidence. The album's religious feeling is cemented by the album's closer, "Colors," which serves as a deeply felt invocation. --Fred Goodman