Pharoah Sanders – Clear Out of This World
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Pharoah Sanders (born October 13, 1940) is an American jazz saxophonist.
Saxophonist Ornette Coleman once described him as “probably the best tenor player in the world.” Emerging from John Coltrane’s groups of the mid-1960s, Sanders is known for his overblowing, harmonic, and multiphonic techniques on the saxophone, as well as his use of “sheets of sound”.
Sanders is an important figure in the development of free jazz; Albert Ayler famously said: “Trane was the Father, Pharoah was the Son, I am the Holy Ghost”.
Early life and career
Born Farrell Sanders in Little Rock, Arkansas, he began his professional career playing tenor saxophone in Oakland, California. He moved to New York City in 1961 after playing with rhythm and blues bands.
He received his nickname “Pharoah” from bandleader Sun Ra, with whom he was performing. After moving to New York, Sanders had been destitute: “[H]e was often living on the streets, under stairs, where ever he could find to stay, his clothes in tatters.
Sun Ra gave him a place to stay, bought him a new pair of green pants with yellow stripes (which Sanders hated but had to have), encouraged him to use the name ‘Pharoah’, and gradually worked him into the band.”
Sanders came to greater prominence playing with John Coltrane’s band, starting in 1965, as Coltrane began adopting the avant-garde jazz of Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and Cecil Taylor.
Sanders first performed with Coltrane on Ascension (recorded in June 1965), then on their dual-tenor recording Meditations (recorded in November 1965).
After this Sanders joined Coltrane’s final quintet, usually performing very lengthy, dissonant solos. Coltrane’s later style was strongly influenced by Sanders. Amiri Baraka lays claim to naming him Pharaoh in an early sixties Down Beat review upon hearing him introduce himself as Farrell Sanders and thinking he said “Pharaoh Sanders”.
Although Sanders’ voice developed differently from Coltrane, Sanders was strongly influenced by their collaboration. Spiritual elements such as the chanting in Om would later show up in many of Sanders’ own works.
Sanders would also go on to produce much free jazz, modified from Coltrane’s solo-centric conception. In 1968 he participated in Michael Mantler and Carla Bley’s Jazz Composer’s Orchestra Association album The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, featuring Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Larry Coryell and Gato Barbieri.
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