The great Pharoah Sanders, a pioneering spiritual and avant-garde jazz saxophonist who first gained great acclaim in John Coltrane's 1960s bands, has died at age 81.
"If you're in the song, keep on playing," he said in a 2020 interview with The New Yorker.
Farrell Sanders was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, eventually moving to Oakland, California and then New York City where he played with Sun Ra who nicknamed him Pharoah.
Sanders also played a key role in the spiritual jazz movement and helped popularize overblowing and multiphonic techniques. He was additionally a key player in defining the 1960s sound, thanks to his 1969 album Karma [listen below], playing on Alice Coltrane's 1968 album A Monastic Trio, and beyond. addition to his work with Sun Ra and John Coltrane, Sanders collaborated with jazz luminaries like Don Cherry (on 1966's Symphony For Improvisers and 1969's Where Is Brooklyn?) and Ornette Coleman (on 1966's Chappaqua Suite). He collaborated numerous times with Alice Coltrane, too, including on her iconic 1971 album Journey in Satchidananda, as well as with fellow jazz staples Kenny Garrett, Norman Connors, Tisziji Muñoz, McCoy Tyner, and Randy Weston.
While he is well known for his run of albums for Impulse! Records in the 1960s and 1970s—Karma, Thembi, Elevation, Black Unity, and Love in Us All—Sanders continued recording into the 1990s and 2000s. His most recent album, the collaborative LP Promises with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra, came out in 2021.