Pharoah Sanders, seminal jazz saxophonist dies, aged 81

Pharoah Sanders
(Image credit: Peter Van Breukelen / Getty)

Legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders has died aged 81. The news was announced over the weekend by Luaka Bop, the label that released the jazz giant's 2021 collaboration with Floating Points. 

"We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away," the label's statement confirmed. 

"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."

Sam Shepherd, aka Floating Points, led tributes from many of the music world's great and good. "I am so lucky to have known this man," he wrote, "and we are all blessed to have his art stay with us forever. 

"Thank you Pharoah"

Pharoah was born Farrell Sanders in Arkansas in 1940. His career began in California, and he rose to further prominence after moving the New York in the '60s, working with Sun Ra and joining John Coltrane's band.

He became a central figure, along with Coltrane, in what became known as spiritual jazz - his 1969 Karma LP fused traditional Asian and African influences with modern jazz and is considered a foundational cornerstone of the movement.

Sanders continued his career as a bandleader in the '70s and beyond, but it was his recent collaboration with Floating Points that introduced him to a new generation of fans. 

He approached Floating Points as a potential collaborator in the mid-2010s, and the eventual result was Sanders' first release in over a decade. 2021's widely acclaimed Promises album, recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Will Groves

I'm lucky enough to be MusicRadar's Editor-in-chief while being, by some considerable distance, the least proficient musician on the editorial team. An undeniably ropey but occasionally enthusiastic drummer, I've worked on the world's greatest music making website in one capacity or another since its launch in 2007. I hope you enjoy the site - we do.