Pharoah Sanders

Getting his start in John Coltrane’s band in the mid-60’s, Pharoah Sanders released his first solo album in 1964 (aptly titled “Pharoah’s First”).  By the early 70’s he was releasing albums rich in African percussion, Asian influences, and free jazz, all underscored by spiritual themes.  He released 9 (!) albums on the Impulse label between 1969 and 1973 alone, and they’re among his best work. You’d think with that amount of output in so short a time, there’d be lapses in quality, but there really isn’t.  Sanders can play very beautiful, melodic passages on his saxophone and then turn around and play wild, freakout skronking the next.  The freakout stuff, while I appreciate it for what it is, isn’t what I come back to when I listen to his works.  It’s the exotic, flowing, cosmic music I like best.  The multi-layered percussion, the interplay of master musicians at work.

John Martyn was inspired to use the echoplex on his guitar when he heard Sanders’ 1969 album “Karma” (good interview with Martyn about Pharoah Sanders in a 2000 issue of Mojo Magazine).  There were plans for Martyn to record with Sanders before Martyn’s untimely death in 2009.

Not only was/is Pharaoh Sander’s music exceptional (he’s still recording and performing), he had some great album covers.  How can you not want to hear the music contained in albums that looked like this?:

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