Pharoah Sanders, the American jazz music legend, has died at the age of 81, according to his label Luaka Bop. The label announced on Twitter that the spiritual saxophonist has passed away at his home in Los Angeles. The statement read, “We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away. He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning. Always and forever the most beautiful human being, may he rest in peace.”

Who was Pharoah Sanders?

Born on October 13, 1940, Pharoah Sanders (who was born Ferrell Sanders) hails from Little Rock, Arkansas. While his mother was a school cafeteria cook, his father worked for the city government. Sanders showed musical talent from an early age when he started playing the saxophone for the Scipio Jones High School band. Here he was introduced to jazz by band director Jimmy Cannon.

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After graduating from school, Sanders shifted base to Oakland, California where he started playing music as a professional. Here he met another jazz icon, John Coltrane, and began performing in the latter’s band.

Sanders is widely considered one of the most important figures of spiritual jazz. Karma, his 1969 solo effort, blended jazz with African and Asian music. Some of his other notable albums include Ascension (1965), in which Sanders collaborated with Coltrane for the first time, Tauhid (1966), Deaf Dumb Blind (1969), and Black Unity (1971). Sanders is considered to have produced some of his best works during his years with the record label Impulse!

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Sanders ended his relationship with Impulse! in 1973, after which he worked with Arista as well as India Navigation. In the 1980s, he released some projects with the label Theresa.

The final album of this legendary musician’s career was released in 2021. He collaborated on the project, titled Promises, with English electronic music producer Sam Shepard. The album was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra.