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Pharoah Sanders

Pharoah Sanders possesses one of the most distinctive tenor saxophone sounds in jazz. Harmonically rich and heavy with overtones, Sanders' sound can be as raw and abrasive as it is possible for a saxophonist to produce. Yet, Sanders is highly regarded to the point of reverence by a great many jazz fans. Although he made his name with expressionistic, nearly anarchic free jazz in John Coltrane's late ensembles of the mid-'60s, Sanders' later music is guided by more graceful concerns. In the free-time, ultra-dense cauldron that was Coltrane's last artistic stand, Sanders relied heavily on the non-specific pitches and timbral distortions pioneered by Albert Ayler and further developed by Coltrane himself. The hallmarks of Sanders' playing at that time were naked aggression and unrestrained passion. In the years after Coltrane's death, however, Sanders explored other, somewhat gentler and perhaps more cerebral avenues -- without, it should be added, sacrificing any of the intensity that defined his work as an apprentice to Coltrane.

Pharoah Sanders (a corruption of his given name, Ferrell Sanders) was born into a musical family. Both his mother and father taught music, his mother privately and his father in public schools. Sanders' first instrument was the clarinet, but he switched to tenor sax as a high school student, under the influence of his band director, Jimmy Cannon. Cannon also exposed Sanders to jazz for the first time. Sanders' early favorites included Harold Land, James Moody, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane. As a teenager, he played blues gigs for ten and 15 dollars a night around Little Rock, backing such blues greats as Bobby "Blue" Bland and Junior Parker. After high school, Sanders moved to Oakland, CA, where he lived with relatives. He attended Oakland Junior College, studying art and music. Known in the San Francisco Bay Area as "Little Rock," Sanders soon began playing bebop, rhythm & blues, and free jazz with many of the region's finest musicians, including fellow saxophonists Dewey Redman and Sonny Simmons, as well as pianist Ed Kelly and drummer Smiley Winters. In 1961, Sanders moved to New York, where he struggled. Unable to make a living with his music, Sanders took to pawning his horn, working non-musical jobs, and sometimes sleeping on the subway. During this period he played with a number of free jazz luminaries, including Sun Ra, Don Cherry, and Billy Higgins. Sanders formed his first group in 1963, with pianist John Hicks (with whom he would continue to play off-and-on into the '90s), bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Higgins. The group played an engagement at New York's Village Gate. A member of the audience was John Coltrane, who apparently liked what he heard. In late 1964, Coltrane asked Sanders to sit in with his band. By the next year, Sanders was playing regularly with the Coltrane group, although he was never made an official member of the band. Coltrane's ensembles with Sanders were some of the most controversial in the history of jazz. Their music, as represented by the group's recordings -- Om, Live at the Village Vanguard Again, and Live in Seattle among them -- represents a near total desertion of traditional jazz concepts, like swing and functional harmony, in favor of a teeming, irregularly structured, organic mixture of sound for sound's sake. Strength was a necessity in that band, and as Coltrane realized, Sanders had it in abundance.

Sanders made his first record as a leader in 1964 for the ESP label. After John Coltrane's death in 1967, Sanders worked briefly with his widow, Alice Coltrane. From the late '60s, he worked primarily as a leader of his own ensembles. From 1966-1971, Sanders released several albums on Impulse, including Tauhid (1966), Karma (1969), Black Unity (1971), and Thembi (1971). In the mid-'70s, Sanders recorded his most commercial effort, Love Will Find a Way (Arista, 1977); it turned out to be a brief detour. From the late '70s until 1987, he recorded for the small independent label Theresa. From 1987, Sanders recorded for the Evidence and Timeless labels. The former bought Theresa records in 1991 and subsequently re-released Sanders' output for that company. In 1995, Sanders made his first major-label album in many years, Message From Home (produced by Bill Laswell for Verve). The two followed that one up in 1999 with Save Our Children. In 2000, Sanders released Spirits -- a multi-ethnic live suite with Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph. In the decades after his first recordings with Coltrane, Sanders developed into a more well-rounded artist, capable of playing convincingly in a variety of contexts, from free to mainstream. Some of his best work is his most accessible. As a mature artist, Sanders discovered a hard-edged lyricism that has served him well. ~ Chris Kelsey, Rovi
full bio

Comments

I had a chance to see a live show ...Great!!!! !
ASTRAL TRAVELING takes me back to summers of my teenage yrs, WRTI & North Philly. Grooving with MR SANDERS & hanging out with my brothers, Frank & Joe x
Pharoah! LET MY PEOPLE GROOVE!.
tpoe9life
Pharaohs Music, Hummmmm He's and inspirationa l
King . May Our God continue to allow US to GO are
Let us go into the House of the Lord
I love Pharaoh's music, his saxophone tone and his spirit. He is an inspiration!
slimsista
Summun Bukmun Umyun... Nuff said.
Sanders music soothes my mind and musical soul... ahhhh
He give you a spiritual wake up call
lafarinas
I saw Him at the Blue Note in the Village a few years ago. I traved from Philly to NYC to hear and touch the hem of his garment.
If you feel that you don"t 'get' Sanders, definitely listen to Elevation, Thembi, The Creator or Black Unity....Tho s e works are on par with Coltrane's best from the Impulse years.
Hey bobonnit smoke a joint u mike like Pharoah Sanders more, just joking; this is America u can like or dislike anything here. Peace
I saw Pharoah in Chicago in a small club----1968 . I levitated.
It's just some guy playing notes with no melody and a bunch of people sitting around listening and nodding their heads and saying cool daddy-O. This kind of music bores me to tears.
miguel011275
This is a spiritual journey simply amazing
I really love jazz and I had the distinct opportunity to witness Mr. Sanders backed by a Mr. Lonnie Liston Smith.Baker' s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit is rather small and intimate. We also were seated quite close to the stage like William Schmidt. When they began Upper and Lower Egypt we burt out laughing hysterically . Y o u see this was the late 60s and lsd was accessable to us back then.The waitress kept coming over and we kept ordering drinks. We were blasted.
What a classic African name... Pharoah! Deep
not having heard the original record I'm having a hard time attributing this to Pharoah, seems a little too much like Coltrane to be anybody else. Took my new bride to see Pharoah years ago. 6 foot brunette in a black leather mini-skirt, The maitre' d' put us in a front table about 2 feet from Pharoah's chair Before he started his set he asked me if I didn't have some place to go...like downtown.
awesome!
I like the Creator has a Master Plan
mcatroppa
Ah Pharoah, what a great record this is.
The Man
elevation-th e best
dorndiego
I feel like I can call him Pharoah because he led a conga line at the old Cortez Hotel in San Diego 25 years that had everyone in the room, of every description, loving him. He was at the front, making his music.
Truely genius, no other way to express or explain my man's music
w14431339
The master, profundity in every note. Without knowing him I know him.
Raw power,genuin e soul,above all heart and love.
There seems to be a lot of important albums that Pandora doesn't have.
michaelram
Always time for Pharoah
Pharoah Sanders is truly a master of melodic energy. In 1978 his song "As you Are," with Phylis Hyman, was my wedding song. He has a special place in our hearts and minds.
ewill65
Pharoah Sanders is an extraordinar y sax player. Fortunately, I learned about him in one of my Black History classes at UCSB - I've been hooked every since. I've caught him live at Catalina Bar & Grill in Hollywood several times over the years... This man is no joke live - He's amazing!
pgilfillan
I believe Thembi is his most creative and original album
Who's Franklin Kiermyer?
misterjo0
Why, when one asks about Pharoah Sanders, does one get a bio and picture of Franklin Kiermyer? Surely someone at Pandora could write a thumbnail bio of Pharoah. Is this asking too much?
Fire up the incense!
This is just right for my mood tonight. Thanks-great stuff.
Pharoah Sanders embodies the sound of divinity in jazz music. At times like a Sufi dervish, at others deeply contemplativ e , one senses heaven smile though Sanders' horn. I've listened to him live and on recordings since the early 1970's; my life's soundtrack is peopled by his hymnody.
grateful
Of all the music,Pharoa h speaks to the longing of my soul. As a sax player myself i've gone way beyond my skill jamming along.Saw him in concert in L.A. his eyes were rolled back the whole time
I had the Pleasure of hearing Pharoah and Leon Thomas do Karma "live" at the Smiling Dog Saloon in Cleveland Ohio,in 1973.I will always cherish those moments.Supu r b is putting it mildly.
jim maddox; excellent;
He has a sound all of his own
he has a sound that's out of this world.
An artist par excellence.. . . c ' e s t magnifique, fantastic, tres bon.....
A richer timbre I've never heard....... . .

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