Happy Birthday Pharoah Sanders

October 13, 1940

A tribute to the adventurous tenor-saxophonist

Farrell Sanders was born October 13, 1940 in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Sanders first played music on clarinet at church.

He switched to tenor-saxophone while in high school and as a teenager he played with many of the traveling acts who were passing through Little Rock including r&b bands such as that led by Junior Parker.

Sanders spent some time in Oakland, moving to New York in 1961 where he struggled for a few years and, other than some work with Sun Ra, he was in obscurity.

That began to change during 1963-64 when he recorded with Don Cherry, Paul Bley, and Sun Ra in addition to his own album for ESP where he shows a John Coltrane influence.

In 1965, Sanders began to play with his idol John Coltrane, displaying his own radical style on tenor which included screams, shrieks, roars and honks; he first recorded with Coltrane on his monumental Ascension album.

Sanders was a regular with Coltrane’s group during the second half of 1965 and in 1966 became a member of the new John Coltrane Quintet, often starting his solos where Coltrane left off and raising the intensity level to a remarkable level.

After Coltrane’s death, Sanders led his own records and had a surprise hit with “The Creator Has A Master Plan, a 30-minute performance that co-starred the yodeling of singer Leon Thomas.

While always showing a Coltrane influence within his own sound, Pharoah Sanders led a series of adventurous yet rhythmic recordings through the mid-1970s were popular.

He has since been heard in many settings, sometimes playing standards conservatively and at times taking the music completely outside.

This fascinating clip from 1968 features Pharoah Sanders along with pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, bassist Sirone and probably drummer Greg Bandy.

-Scott Yanow