Legendary jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders dies aged 81

Jazz legend and award-winning saxophonist Pharoah Sanders has died at the age of 81.

The news was revealed in a statement yesterday (September 24) from the musician’s label, Luaka Bop, who wrote: “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.”

Across a career spanning six decades, Sanders – who was born Farrell Sanders but nicknamed Pharoah by Sun Ra – collaborated with a host of cutting-edge artists, including joining John Coltrane‘s band and being a part of the ensemble until Coltrane’s death in 1967.

More recently, Sanders was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2021 for ‘Promises’, his collaborative album with Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Leading tributes to Sanders, Floating Points – aka Sam Shepherd – said: “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.”

Others to pay tribute to Sanders include the Sun Ra Arkestra, who tweeted: “Pharoah Sanders Sun Ra Arkestra alumnus has departed this planet. Oct 13 1940 – Sept 24 2022 Deepest Condolescences to all family and friends… He will be greatly missed.”

Nigel Godrich also commented on the “sad news,” while Canadian jazz band BADBADNOTGOOD said: “Rest in peaceful paradise Pharaoh Sanders.”

Low also paid tribute to Sanders, sharing a recording of his song ‘Olé’ and writing: “This moment has been such a secret treasure to me for many years. Pure transcendence. I cannot think about Pharoah Sanders without thinking of Liz and Dan from Ida, who played him for me and showed me the deeper magic.”