b. Farrell Sanders, 13th October, 1940, Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.A.
Pharoah Sanders possesses one of the most distinctive tenor saxophone sounds in jazz.
He is highly-regarded to the point of reverence by a great many soul and jazz fans.
'Pharoah' (an interpretation of his given name, Ferrell) Pharaoh was born to a musical family.
Both his mother and father taught music, his mother privately and his father in the public schools.
His first instrument was the clarinet, but he switched to tenor sax as a high school student, under the influence of his band director, Jimmy Cannon.
Cannon also exposed Sanders to jazz for the first time.
Pharaohs' early favorites included Harold Land, James Moody, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane.
As a teenager, he played blues gigs around Little Rock, backing such blues greats as Bobby 'Blue' Bland and Junior Parker.
After high school, he moved to Oakland, California where he lived with relatives.
He attended Oakland Junior College, studying art and music.
Known in the San Francisco Bay area as 'Little Rock', Sanders soon began playing bebop, rhythm & blues, and free jazz with many of the region's musicians, including fellow saxophonists Dewey Redman and Sonny Simmons, as well as the pianist Ed Kelly and the drummer Smiley Winters.
In 1961, Sanders moved to New York, where he struggled. Unable to make a living with his music, Sanders took to pawning his horn, working non-musical jobs, and sometimes sleeping on the subway.
During this period he played with a number of free jazz luminaries, including Sun Ra, Don Cherry, and Billy Higgins.
Sanders formed his first group in 1963, with the pianist John Hicks (with whom he would continue to play off-and-on into the '90's), bassist Wilbur Ware, and drummer Higgins.
The group played an engagement at New York's Village Gate.
A member of the audience was John Coltrane, who apparently liked what he heard.
In late-'64, Coltrane asked Sanders to sit in with his band.
By the next year, Sanders was playing regularly with the Coltrane group, although he was never made an official member of the band.
Pharaoh made his first record as a leader in 1964 for the ESP label.
After John Coltrane's death in 1967, Sanders worked briefly with his widow, Alice Coltrane.
From the late-'60's, he worked primarily as a leader of his own ensembles.
From 1966-71, Sanders released several albums on Impulse, including 'Tauhid' (1966), 'Karma' (1969), 'Black Unity' (1971), and 'Thembi' (1971).
In the mid-'70's, Sanders recorded his most commercial effort, 'Love Will Find a Way' (Arista, 1977), which was enhanced by the presence of Norman Connors along with the vocal skills of the late Phyliss Hyman.
From the late-'70's until 1987, he recorded for the small independent Theresa label.
From 1987 Sanders recorded for the Evidence and Timeless labels. The former bought Theresa records in 1991 and subsequently re-released Sanders' output for that company.
In 1995 Sanders' made his first major-label album in many years, 'Message From Home' (produced by Bill Laswell for Verve).
The two followed that one up in 1999 with 'Save our Children'.
In 2000, Pharoh released 'Spirits' a recorded live album with Hamid Drake and Adam Rudolph.
Pharoah's First (Esp - Disk 1965)
Tauhid (Impulse! 1966)
Izipho Zam (Strata East 1969)
Karma (Impulse! 1969)
Jewels of Thought (Impulse! 1969)
Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) (Impulse! 1970)
Thembi (Impulse! 1970)
Village of the Pharoahs (Impulse! 1971)
Black Unity (Impulse! 1971)
Live at the East (Impulse! 1971)
Wisdom Through Music (Impulse! 1972)
Elevation (Impulse! 1973)
Love in Us All (ASD 1973)
Voyage to Uranus (Capitol 1974)
Pharoah (India 1976)
Love Will Find a Way (Arista 1977)
Beyond a Dream (Arista 1978)
Journey to the One (Evidence 1980)
Rejoice (Evidence 1981)
Heart Is a Melody [live] (Evidence 1982)
Live (Theresa 1982)
Shukuru (Evidence 1985)
Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong (Doctor Jazz 1987)
A Prayer Before Dawn (Evidence 1987)
Quartet Africa (Timeless 1987)
Africa (Timeless 1987)
Moonchild (Timeless 1989)
Welcome to Love (Timeless 1990)
Crescent with Love (Evidence 1992)
Message from Home (Verve 1996)
Save Our Children (Polygram 1999)
Spirits (Meta 2000)