Pharoah Sanders, Legendary Jazz Saxophonist, Dead at 81

Artist collaborated with everyone from John Coltrane to Floating Points in 60-year career
Pharoah Sanders
Dimitri Hakke/Getty Images

Legendary jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders has died at the age of 81, according to his record label Luaka Bop. “He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning,” the statement reads. “Always and forever the most beautiful human being, may he rest in peace.”

The artist was born Farrell Sanders in Little Rock, Ark., on Oct. 13, 1940. He first picked up the tenor saxophone in high school and spent time sneaking into local African-American clubs to play with the bands touring through Little Rock. After high school, Sanders moved to Oakland, Calif., where he befriended John Coltrane.

In 1965, he became a member of Coltrane’s band. He went on to record 12 albums, both studio and live, with Coltrane, including Ascension, Om, Mediations, and Expression. After Coltrane’s death in 1967, Sanders continued playing with the latter’s wife Alice Coltrane and is featured on three of her albums, including Journey in Satchidananda.

Sanders spent his life collaborating with other artists and also released more than 30 albums as band leader, including 1969’s Karma, 1970’s Jewels of Thought, and 1972’s Black Unity. His last release was a collaboration with electronic musician Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra called Promises.

“My beautiful friend passed away this morning,” Floating Points wrote on Twitter. “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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