Pharaoh Sanders, a well-known jazz saxophonist, passed away on September 24 at the age of 81, according to his label Luaka Bop, which announced the news on Twitter. Pharoah’s cause of death is unclear and more information is expected to be released soon about where he died and his burial.

Pharoah Sanders’ career as a jazz saxophonist

Born on October 13, 1940, Pharoah Sanders was part of John Coltrane’s ensembles in the 1960s and made more than 30 recordings. He worked with musicians such as Leon Thomas and Alice Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman, a saxophonist, recognized him as the best tenor player in the world. Sanders’ mother worked as a school cafeteria chef, while his father worked for the city of Little Rock. Pharoah started playing the tenor saxophone while attending Scipio Jones High School. Jimmy Cannon, a saxophonist, introduced him to jazz. In 1959, the pianist graduated from high school and enrolled at Oakland Junior College, where he performed in both black and white clubs.

Sanders began his professional saxophone career in Oakland, California, before moving to New York City in 1961. In 1965 he joined John Coltrane’s band and recorded with him on albums such as Ascension and Meditations. In 1968 he created additional free jazz and appeared on the Jazz Composer’s Orchestra album of the same name. Pharoah Sanders’ debut album, Pharoah’s First, was not well received and he signed with Impulse! in 1966. He continued to record and collaborated with Alice Coltrane on her album, Journey in Satchidananda.

Most of his popular pieces were released on Impulse Records and he began experimenting with many styles of music, including R&B, modal jazz and hard bop. He stopped Impulse! in 1973 and went to work for several labels. He appeared on the album Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool and collaborated with percussionist and composer Franklin Kiermyer on Solomon’s Daughter. He even worked on records with Laswell, Jah Wobble and other well-known musicians. Sanders has performed at a number of events, including the 2004 Byron Bay Bluesfest, the 2007 Melbourne Jazz Festival and the 2008 Big Chill Festival.

Pharaoh Sanders

In 2016, he received an NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship and was recognized at a memorial performance in Washington, DC. In 2020 he will record a collaboration with music producer and DJ Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra. In March 2021, he released Promises, an album that received critical acclaim.

Twitter users pay tribute

Pharoah Sanders has established himself over the years as a gifted saxophonist. As word of his death spread, Twitter was flooded with tribute. Pharoah’s survival includes relatives, although details about his personal life and family are unclear.


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