The Creator Has A Master Plan

"There was a time, when peace was on the earth,
And joy and happiness did reign and each man knew his worth.
In my heart how I yearn for that spirit's return
And I cry, as time flies,
Om, Om.

There is a place where love forever shines,
And rainbows are the shadows of a presence so divine,
And the glow of that love lights the heavens above,
And it's free, can't you see, come with me.

The creator has a master plan,
peace and happiness for every man
The creator has a working plan,
peace and happiness for every man
The creator makes but one demand,
happiness through all the land."

(music and lyrics copyright 1968 by Pharoah Sanders and Leon Thomas)

A kind of sequel to Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," "The Creator Has A Master Plan" is, in its original form, an extended 32-minute distillation of its authors' musical and cultural ideas. It first appeared on Sanders' 1969 album KARMA, with co-author Thomas on vocals, keyboard player Lonnie Liston Smith, flautist James Spaulding, french-horn player Julius Watkins, Coltrane veteran Reggie Workman on bass; second bassist Richard Davis, drummer Billy Hart, and percussionist Nathaniel Bettis. While later versions were shorter and more lyrical, this original version is full of avant-garde fire with extended free instrumental sections. Full of the optimism and spirituality of the era, it became a kind of anthem for those exploring the peace, love and happiness vibe through music. Critics have called it the only "hit" generated by the avant-garde jazz movement, and indeed its perennial popularity has resulted in a number of new interpretations by acid jazz and hip-hop artists.

The Recorded "The Creator Has A Master Plan"

The song has recorded many many times by many different artists. Following is a discography of the song, to the best of my knowledge.

Pharoah Sanders: KARMA
Impulse! Records 1969/MCA 1995. AS-9181. Produced by Bob Thiele.

Capsule Info: The original extended version, nicely remastered for the digital age and restored to a single, uninterrupted track. A shorter, 9-minute edit of this track appears on many recent anthologies, including the CDs PHAROAH SANDERS: PRICELESS JAZZ, RED HOT ON IMPULSE! and THE ROOTS OF ACID JAZZ (Impulse!),

Flying Dutchman 1969. Produced by Bob Thiele.

Capsule info: The version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan" is more vocally and lyrically developed (and much shorter) than the version sung with Pharoah Sanders, and much more mellow. Pharoah, credited here as "Little Rock" is featured on several cuts. (This version of "The Creator" is anthologized on the long out of print Thomas LP anthology FACETS and on the new compact disc LEON THOMAS ANTHOLOGY, Soul Brother Records 1998).

Flying Dutchman 1970. Produced by Bob Thiele.

Capsule info: When Larry Nai told me about this album I thought one of us was hallucinating. But there he is, Satchmo, singing in duet Leon Thomas' transcendental lyrics to "The Creator Has A Master Plan". And then as he starts growling those throaty mucousy noises he makes, Leon Thomas starts to yodel. Sheer, divine madness. It's actually very very beautiful, from one of Louis Armstrong's last albums. Bob Thiele and Oliver Nelson must have had an amazing laugh when they figured out they could do this. (On CD available as RCA/Bluebird CD WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD, 1970/1988.

Don Cherry: THE SONET RECORDINGS: Eternal Now/Live Ankara
Sonet 1969/1973; Verve 1996 Produced by Keith Knox.

Capsule Info: Cherry's trajectory away from the Ornette Coleman mode and into third-world and spiritual explorations is revealed in clear and fascinating way in this two-disc set of obscure recordings now released on CD in Europe. In the earliest, Cherry performs with Turkish jazz musicians (yes, they exist) and sings a heartfelt rendition of "The Creator Has A Master Plan." His trumpet dominates, and although it sure doesn't sound like an Ornette record the link is plain to hear. By the later recording, bells and gongs predominate and Cherry has broken all the rules of his old rule-breaking mentor.

Caprice (Sweden) 1972. Produced by Jan Bruer, Keith Knox and Rita Knox.

Capsule Info: Talk about obscure. While living in Sweden and making "serious" avant garde records with European jazz heavies for international consumption, Don Cherry hooked up with Swedish hippies and expatriates of various stripes to let their hair down in a very cosmic fashion and cut this 2-lp set which seems to have sunk off into obscurity. Much more fun than his serious avant garde work, this record is also full of third world influences and an amazing document of a world gone by. Thanks to Bob Bannister for letting me hear his copy. The version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan" is lovely: compare to that produced by American hippies in a similar mode by Zephyr, below.

Tommy Bolin Archives, 1997. Produced by Mike Drumm.

Capsule Info: Recorded live in Boulder, Colorado in 1973, this is a fascinating document of its time. It illustrates the crossover of primarily African-American alternative-consciousness music to the more European-American counter culture. Here a briefly reconstituted psychedelic blues/rock band Zephyr, one of the groups of the late and legendary guitarist Tommy Bolin, performs a live, jam-filled set including an 11 minute jazz-rock treatment of "The Creator Has A Master Plan." According to one of the band's former members, the tune had become a staple of their concert performances for a while: one concert is recounted where the band played nothing but an hour-long version of the song. Picture Miles Davis on organ (bringing along one of his guitarists), Pharoah laying back on percussion, and Janis Joplin on vocals, and you've some approximation of the sound. Wild.

Buddah 1975,1976 / Sequel 1992 CD reissue. Produced by Skip Drinkwater & Dennis Willen.

Capsule Info: The Norman Connors production machine comes into full steam on these two albums, one of which featured his only real hits, the songs that made careers for Phyllis Hyman and Michael Henderson. But there's some nice pop jazz on the second album (including the "Creator Has A Master Plan" brought to earth), and interesting arrangements on the first album.

Norman Connors: THIS IS YOUR LIFE
Buddah 1977/Sequel 1993. Produced by Skip Drinkwater.

Capsule Info: Glossy but fun Norman Connors album includes a pleasant rewrite of Pharaoh Sanders' "The Creator Has A Master Plan" featuring solos by Pharoah himself but substituting new lyrics for Leon Thomas' original ones.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma: MUSIC WORLD
Gramavision 1986. Produced by Jamaaladeen Tacuma.

Capsule Info: Well it was the mid-1980s and this album frankly suffers from that era's fascination with sequencers and drum machines, but Tacuma brings in Leon Thomas to sing a mellow, gently sunny, 9-minute version of his classic and that's worth the price of admission.

Bobby Matos & Heritage Ensemble: COLLAGE---AFRO CUBAN JAZZ
Night Life Records 1993. Produced by Bobby Matos and Tom Regis.

Capsule Info: Amidst a variety of other sacred and secular tunes with Afro-Cuban jazz arrangements, Pharoah Sanders' and Leon Thomas' "The Creator Has A Master Plan" is given a wonderful treatment, complete with added Lucumi invocations to the Orishas. ("The Creator..." also appears on a compilation CD of Matos' work issued by Cubop/Ubiquity in 1998).

Talkin' Loud/Polygram 1994. Produced by Mick Talbot.

Capsule Info: When Polygram tried to market England's Acid Jazz/Rap/Jazz poetry group Galliano to US audiences (quite unsuccessfully I suspect) they put together this compilation of material from their English albums. God bless these multi-racial English hipsters, who manage to cover not one but two Pharoah Sanders tunes in between some great grooves and righteous preaching. Hey, it's the 1990s: how come Pharoah is cool over there and not here?

Red Hot Org/GRP Impulse! 1994. Produced by Earle Sebastian.

Capsule Info: The Red Hot Organization produces annual creative musical anthologies to raise funds and consciousness for AIDS treatment, prevention and research. Each compilation has focused on a different genre of music and is created in cooperation with a specific record label renowned for work in that genre. Other compilations have focused on pop, dance, latin rock, country and Brazilian music. Its 1994 compilation focused on jazz, marrying an older generation of established jazz musicians with a younger generation of up-and-coming singers and instrumentalists, many in the "acid jazz" and hip-hop traditions. Pharoah is featured prominently in the anthology, indeed his trademark white billy-goat beard adorns the CD cover. "The Creator..." is given a trip-hop remix with mixed success; Pharoah's sax gives depth to the emotional "This Is Madness" by former members of the pioneering pre-rap ensemble The Last Poets; and samples from TAUHID's "Upper Egypt And Lower Egypt" are used in "The Scream" by rappers/remixers Us3 with Joshua Redman and Tony Remy. A companion anthology cd RED HOT ON IMPULSE! featured edited versions of the two remixed Sanders tracks plus such rarities as Alice Coltrane's reinterpretation of "A Love Supreme".

Howard Johnson's Nubia: ARRIVAL---A Pharoah Sanders Tribute
Verve 1995. Produced by Brian Bacchus.

Capsule Info: Pharoah doesn't appear here but his songs do, in a European tribute. Is there irony here?

Brooklyn Funk Essentials: COOL STEADY AND EASY
Groovetown/RCA 1995. Produced by Lati Kronlund.

Capsule Info: NYC Acid-jazz ensemble here tackles "The Creator Has A Master Plan" (also available on a 5-version remix EP CD single), turning it into a multi-cultural danceable fusion. Who would have thought it was funky: surprisingly interesting horns and flute over electronic beats, with dub toasting and a female vocal.

Jeri Brown With Special Guest Leon Thomas: ZAIUS
Justin Time Records 1998. Produced by Jeri Brown and Jim West.

Capsule Info: After a long hiatus from records, former Sanders collaborator Leon Thomas appears on a co-starring spot on Canada-based singer Jeri Brown's sixth album. The two duet on tunes including teh Sanders/Thomas standard "The Creator Has A Master Plan". The combination of Brown's high feminine airiness to Thomas's deep masculine foundation is engaging. With David Murray or Don Braden sitting in for the Pharoah parts on "The Creator" it clocks a nice 8:26. Leon yodels, Jeri soars.

Others: A version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan" appears on Jessica Williams' solo piano album ARRIVAL. A version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan" appears on Jimmy Ponder's 1996 release. "The Creator" was performed by the New Santana Band featuring Leon Thomas regularly during its 1973 world tour; however the subsequent album recording this tour omitted that and several other numbers so these are preserved today only on bootleg tapes. Please contact me with information about any other recordings of this tune.


A Jazz Supreme