the nickname Pharaoh by his grandmother for his African heritage. Playing clarinet in church during his youth, he began playing tenor sax at high school. In 1959 he moved to Oakland, California, where he played with rhythm and blues bands and befriended John Coltrane.
Moving to New York in 1961, he drifted into Sun Ra's Arkestra and gained kudos upon joining Coltrane's band in 1965 (the same year he issued a self-titled debut on ESP Disc),
where his discordant solos formed a strong contrast to Trane's melodiousness, though each had strong impact on the other. In 1977, Sanders cut another set called Pharaoh for the New York-based underground jazz label India Navigation, with the excellent laid-back epic, "Harvest Time," featuring Pharaoh's wife Bedria on harmonium, as Ohio-born double-bassist Steve Neil and former Mongo Santamaria guitarist Tsiji Munoz and former Joe Thomas keyboardist Jiggs Case craft subtle melodic backing; on side two, percussionist Lawrence Killian and drummer Greg Bandy drive the rhythm, as Sanders himself sings.