Influential jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders dies at 81

Pharoah Sanders performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2014. Photo: AP

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Pharoah Sanders performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2014. Photo: AP

Pharoah Sanders, the influential tenor saxophonist revered in the jazz world for the spirituality of his work, has died, his record label has announced. He was 81 years old.

Sanders, who launched his career alongside John Coltrane in the 1960s, died Saturday morning in Los Angeles, said the tweet from Luaka Bop, the label that released his 2021 album, “Promises.” He did not specify a cause. A phone message to Luaka Bop in New York was not immediately returned.

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“We are devastated to learn that Pharoah Sanders has passed away. He passed away 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,” the label’s Twitter post read, along with a heart emoji.

Among the saxophonist’s best-known works were his two-part “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” from the 1969 album “Karma.” The combined track is nearly 33 minutes long.

Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1940, Sanders began his musical life playing drums and then clarinet in church. In high school, he started renting the school saxophone. After high school, he moved to Oakland, California, where he intended to attend art school. But he soon moved to New York to join the city’s avant-garde jazz scene. He hitchhiked across the country, he told The New Yorker magazine in 2020.

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