Jazz great Pharoah Sanders dies at 81

ABC News reports that Pharoah Sanders, the influential jazz saxophonist, has died at the age of 81. 

Sanders’s passing was announced on Saturday by Luaka Bop, his record label.

The news has since been confirmed by Sanders’s representative, Anna Sala. No further information about Sanders’s cause of death, however, has been provided.

Who was Sanders?

Pharoah Sanders, whose birthname was Farrell Sanders, was a jazz tenor saxophonist, who is associated with so-called spiritual jazz. From Little Rock Arkansas, Sanders’s jazz career would really take off in New York in the 1960s when he joined the band of John Coltrane, another jazz great.

This collaboration would continue until Coltrane’s passing in 1967. From there, Sanders would play for a period with Coltrane’s wife, Alice, before going his own way.

In total, Sanders released more than 30 albums throughout his career. One of the best known of these albums is Karma, which contained, The Creator Has a Master Plan. More recently, in 2021, Sanders released Promises, which had been his first album in a decade.

Sanders won a Grammy Award in 1989 for best jazz instrumental performance. This was for the album Blues for Coltrane: A Tribute to John Coltrane. 

Sanders, in 2020, talked about how he goes about creating music, saying:

So I just start playing, and try to make it right, and make it join to some other kind of feeling in the music. Like, I play one note, maybe that one note might mean love. And then another note might mean something else. Keep on going like that until it develops into — maybe something beautiful.


Many have taken to social media to offer condolences, tributes, and remembrances of Sanders following the news of his passing.

Sala, Sanders’s representative, called the passing, “a huge loss for the music world,” noting that Sanders’s “work influenced many generations of artists.”

Floating Points, the British electronic producer who had collaborated with Sanders in the past, wrote, “My beautiful friend passed away this morning. I am so lucky to have known this man, and we are all blessed to have his art stay with us forever. Thank you, Pharoah.”

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