Pharoah Sanders, Pioneering Jazz Saxophonist, Dead at 8

Pharoah Sandersthe saxophonist who played with John Coltrane and helped pioneer the spiritual jazz movement, has died at the age of 81. The label Luaka Bop announced his death, saying in a statement, “He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning. Always and forever the most beautiful person, may she rest in peace.

Farrell Sanders was born on October 13, 1940 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His first instrument was the clarinet, but he started playing the tenor saxophone in high school, and even led his school’s band when they were between directors. After moving to Oakland, he met John Coltrane, and began playing in his band in New York City in 1965. He played on a dozen Coltrane albums in the 1960s. Around the same time, Sanders met Sun Ra, who nicknamed him Pharoah.

Sanders released his first solo album, First of Pharoah, in 1965. The following year he signed with Impulse! Records, where albums are preferred Karma, hOPE, rise, Black Unityand Love to Us All caught the attention of jazz musicians and critics. while Pharoah first a more straightforward record, over time Sanders’ music became more rooted in free jazz, and his interest in religious concepts such as Karma and Tawhid helped pioneer spiritual jazz. His experiments with different methods and use of overblowing and multiphonic techniques also shaped the direction of the genre.

Sanders was also a frequent companion of Leon Thomas and Alice Coltrane. Thomas lends his famous yodel to Karma, while Sanders played on Coltrane albums such as A Monastic Trio and Journey of Satchidananda. His last album, 2021’s Promises, Featuring Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra. Following the news of Sanders’ death, Floating Points wrote on Twitter, My beautiful friend passed away this morning. I was so lucky to know this man, and we are all blessed that his art will stay with us forever. Thank you Pharoah.”

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