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Tue, November 13, 2012
Pharoah Sanders possesses one of the most distinctive tenor saxophone sounds in jazz. Harmonically rich and heavy with overtones, Sanders' sound can be as raw and abrasive as it is possible for a saxophonist to produce. Yet, Sanders is highly regarded to the point of reverence by a great many jazz fans. Although he made his name with expressionistic, nearly anarchic free jazz in John Coltrane's late ensembles of the mid-'60s, Sanders' later music is guided by more graceful concerns. The hallmarks of Sanders' playing at that time were naked aggression and unrestrained passion. In the year after Coltrane's death, however, Sanders explored other, somewhat gentler and perhaps more cerebral avenues -- without, it should be added, sacrificing any of the intensity that defined his work as an apprentice to Coltrane. In the decades after his first recordings with Coltrane, Sanders developed into a more well-rounded artist, capable of playing convincingly in a variety of contexts, from free to mainstream. Some of his best work is his most accessible. As a mature artist, Sanders discovered a hard-edged lyricism that has served him well.