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John H. Armwood Jazz History Lecture Nashville's Cheekwood Arts Center 1989

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Pharoah Sanders - Thembi (Joined the ancestors at the age of 81)

Pharoah Sanders, Saxophonist Who Pushed Jazz Toward the Spiritual, Dead at 81

Pharoah Sanders, Saxophonist Who Pushed Jazz Toward the Spiritual, Dead at 81

"The Creator Has a Master Plan" legend was sideman on John Coltrane's landmark avant-garde journeys before embarking on a decades-long career that concluded with 2021's acclaimed Promises

THE HAGUE, NETHERLANDS - 12th JULY: Tenor sax player Pharaoh Sanders performs live on stage at the North Sea Jazz festival in the Congresgebouw, The Hague, Netherlands on 12th July 1990. (photo by Frans Schellekens/Redferns) Redfernsnone
"The Creator Has a Master Plan" legend was sideman on John Coltrane's landmark avant-garde journeys before embarking on a decades-long career that concluded with 2021's acclaimed Promises

Pharoah Sanders, the saxophonist who helped John Coltrane explore the avant-garde and pushed jazz itself toward the spiritual, has died at the age of 81.

Record label Luaka Bop, which released Sanders and Floating Points’ acclaimed collaboration Promises in 2021, announced the jazz legend’s death Saturday; no cause of death was provided.

“We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away,” the label wrote on Instagram. “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.”

The Little Rock, Arkansas-born Farrell Sanders first came up in the Bay Area jazz scene before moving to New York City, where he initially 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,” the saxophonist’s website said. However, Sanders soon found work alongside fellow innovators like Sun Ra (who told him to adopt the name “Pharoah” instead of Farrell), Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane, who after his landmark A Love Supreme was beginning to experiment with free jazz.

Sanders’ joined Coltrane’s group on tenor saxophone in 1965, a year that saw Coltrane record three of his avant-garde masterworks: AscensionMeditationsand Om. Following Coltrane’s death in 1967, Sanders briefly performed alongside his widow Alice Coltrane (including her classic Journey in Satchidananda) before embarking on his own path as leader.

In 1969, Sanders released what is considered his most revered work, Karma, which features his side-and-a-half-long opus “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” a recording that pushed spiritual jazz further skyward and one of the most influential tracks of its era.

The saxophonist continued his steady output over the Seventies and Eighties, both as leader and sideman for fellow jazz greats like McCoy Tyner, Sonny Sharrock, Idris Muhammad, Leon Thomas and many more.

While the saxophonist remained a fixture on the live jazz circuit, in 2021 Sanders returned from a nearly two-decade studio hiatus to record alongside electronic music producer Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra. The resulting work, Promises, has been hailed as one of the best jazz albums of the past decade.

“Consisting of a single, 46-minute work, the album is both startlingly minimal and arrestingly gorgeous,” Rolling Stone wrote of the LP.

“Only sparingly, such as one during brief, stunning episode about 35 minutes in, does Sanders break into the harsh sax ululation that he’s famous for, but overall, the piece feels like a loving sonic gift to a master from a disciple, and a worthy successor to Sanders’ foundational Sixties and Seventies epics.”

Floating Points paid tribute to Sanders Saturday following news of his death, “My beautiful friend passed away this morning. I am so lucky to have known this man, and we are all blessed to have his art stay with us forever. Thank you Pharoah.”

Monday, September 12, 2022

RIP Ramsey Lewis: May 27, 1935 - September 12, 2022

Sun Goddess The Late Ramsey Lewis and Earth Wind and Fire

Ramsey Lewis Trio The 'In' Crowd (The Late Ramsey Lewis)

Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died, age 87

Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died, age 87

“Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis has died

CHICAGO -- Renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, whose music entertained fans over a more than 60-year career that began with the Ramsey Lewis Trio and made him one of the country’s most successful jazz musicians, has died. He was 87. 

Lewis is revered in jazz circles for 1960s hits like “The In Crowd,” “Hang on Sloopy” and “Wade in the Water.” He earned three Grammy awards and seven gold records. The trio’s first record in 1956 was “Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing.” 

Lewis died Monday in his sleep at his Chicago home, according to his son, Bobby Lewis.

“He was just at peace,” Bobby Lewis told The Associated Press on Monday night. “Most people say when they met dad that he was a class act. He was that way even through his last breath.”

Ramsey Lewis described his approach to composing and performing in a 2011 interview with the AP.


“Life is a solo, and it continues,” Lewis said, sitting at the dining room table in his downtown Chicago home. “I just know that when I put my hands on the piano it’s going to flow.” 

Lewis first took piano lessons at age 4. He spent his early days in Chicago using his gospel and classical roots to create his own jazz style in the many neighborhood venues that hired young jazz musicians. 

“It gave us a lot of opportunity to try our ideas and learn what it means to perform in front of an audience,” Lewis said as he was named National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2007. He accepted the award from his mentor and fellow Jazz Master, pianist Billy Taylor.

During his career, Lewis performed with musical stars such as Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett, Al Jarreau and Pat Metheney. Lewis had more than 80 albums to his credit — three dozen of them with Chicago-based Chess Records. He toured around the world and performed at the 1995 state dinner that then-President Bill Clinton hosted for President Fernando Henrique of Brazil.

“I believe that my father — his love for the piano and his passion for the piano and how he coveted this love and how he protected it — that gave him longevity,” Bobby Lewis said. “He recognized the gift God had given him.”

The Chicago native began composing large-scale musical works later in his career. His first was an eight-movement piece for Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. He also completed a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln — “Proclamation of Hope: A Symphonic Poem by Ramsey Lewis.” 

Lewis also hosted radio shows in the 1990s and 2000, including “The Ramsey Lewis Morning Show, on WNUA-FM and the syndicated “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis.” In 2007, he hosted “Legends of Jazz with Ramsey Lewis,” a weekly program that aired on public television stations nationwide. 

The show’s creators said it was the first time jazz was featured on a weekly basis on network television in 40 years. It featured jazz greats and up-and-comers. 

Lewis also spent time working on behalf of charities that brought music to young people. 

“Ramsey’s passion for music was truly fueled by the love and dedication of his fans across the globe,” his wife, Janet Lewis, said in a Facebook post. “He loved touring and meeting music lovers from so many cultures and walks of life. It was our family’s great pleasure to share Ramsey in this special way with all those who admired his God-given talents.”

Brett Steele, whose Tampa, Florida-based Steele Management represented Lewis since 2011, said Lewis spent the last year of his life working on his memoirs which are completed and scheduled to be published next year.

In addition to his wife and son, Lewis also is survived by daughters Denise Jeffries and Dawn Allain; two other sons Kendall Kelly Lewis and Frayne Lewis; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


Former Associated Press writer Caryn Rousseau was the primary contributor to this report. AP writer Corey Williams contributed from Detroit.“