Now in his late 70s, with 50 years of recordings and touring behind him, tenor saxophonist and composer Pharoah Sanders is one of the most revered and prolific names in the business. From his beginnings with bandleader Sun Ra (who gave him the sobriquet “Pharoah,” after his given name, Farrell), to his rise to fame with the Coltrane family on some truly genre-changing mid-’60s album collaborations including Ascension and Meditations with John Coltrane, and Ptah, the El Daoud and Journey to Satchidananda with Alice Coltrane (recorded at historic jazz club Village Gate in NYC), to his full blossoming as an astral traveling frontman throughout the ’70s on Impulse Records, Sanders has been an undeniable pivot point for the evolution of jazz over several decades. He is, in short, a legend.
The last time I saw Sanders live was his killer set at this past season’s BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn; he seemed a bit prone to getting winded and occasionally sat between solos, but his signature clarity of tone, strength of lung power, and finesse on the horn were still striking.
As one of the few remaining living legends of the post-bop era, a live set from Sanders—and at the iconic jazz club Birdland, no less—merits attendance if only to pay respect, but I can report that you’ll get much more than a museum show.
Why You Should Go: This reasonably priced four-night stand with the lion in winter at the house that Charlie Parker built is your best chance to catch him while you can. Pro tip: Seats at Birdland are first come, first served; consider getting there early for the best opportunity to sit down front.
315 West 44th Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues), Hell’s Kitchen
Tuesday, September 26–Saturday, September 30
Shows at 8:30 p.m. and 11 p.m.
$40 (with a $10 food and drink minimum)