Pharoah Sanders, The Legendary Jazz Saxophonist, Died At The Age Of 81.
Pharoah Sanders, the legendary tenor saxophonist who shared the stage with John Coltrane in the mid-1960s, has died. He was 81.
Sanders’ death was announced by his record label, Luaka Bop, on Saturday (Sept. 24), the day after the release of his 2021 album, Promises, a collaboration with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra. The cause of death was not given.
“We are heartbroken to inform you that Pharoah Sanders has died,” Luaka Bop wrote on Twitter. “He died peacefully this morning in Los Angeles, surrounded by loving family and friends.” May he rest in peace, as he was always and forever the most beautiful human being.”
Sanders, who was born on Oct. 13, 1940, in Little Rock, Ark., moved to the Bay Area in the late 1950s before relocating to New York City, where he met fellow jazz artist Sun Ra, who encouraged him to take the name Pharoah.
Sanders initially struggled to make a name for himself in New York. “Unable to make a living from his music, Sanders resorted to pawning his horn, working non-musical jobs, and occasionally sleeping on the subway,” according to the late saxophonist’s website.
Sanders rose to prominence after performing alongside jazz greats such as Don Cherry and Billy Higgins. Sanders joined John Coltrane’s band on tenor saxophone in 1965. Coltrane released several avant-garde masterpieces during this period, including his 1966 album Ascension. Sanders worked with John Coltrane until his death in 1967. Sanders briefly performed with Coltrane’s widow, Alice Coltrane, after his death before forging his own path as a key figure in the spiritual jazz scene.
Sanders’ best-known album, Karma, was released in 1969, and it included the nearly 33-minute track “The Creator Has a Master Plan.” In August 1969, the album peaked at No. 188 on the Billboard 200. Over the next two decades, Sanders continued to release music as a leader and sideman, collaborating with musicians such as McCoy Tyner, Sonny Sharrock, Idris Muhammad, and Leon Thomas.
Sanders returned to the recording studio after a lengthy hiatus in 2021 with the critically acclaimed album Promises, a collaboration with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra. The album debuted at number one on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Albums chart.
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