Pharoah Sanders (1940-2022) – A Tribute by Oli Hayhurst

“I have truly been lucky.” Bassist Oli Hayhurst was a member of Pharoah Sanders’ European Quartet for over a decade, alongside pianist William Henderson then Benito Gonzalez from 2019 – and drummer Gene Calderazzo. Here (*), he remembers Pharoah Sanders, and expresses gratitude for the privilege of having toured extensively with him and having shared a stage so often…

Pharoah Sanders. Donostia/San Sebastian Jazz Festival 2013. Photo by Tim Dickeson

Oli Hayhurst writes: It seems obvious to say that playing with Pharoah was nothing like working with any other musician. He was a magician who you would realise, once everything had turned out well, had been guiding everyone safely through what seemed at the time like utter chaos, on a route only he could see.

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This applied to all of life as equally as music as there is no barrier where music and life meet for him. He had a sense of time where 10 seconds and 10 years were both an eternity and no time at all. Everything a contradiction and nothing impossible.

Always aware of everybody in a room and able to read people with one glance he would sit with a quietness I learned not to interrupt too much, occasionally broken by a comment which could have you howling with laughter.

When the subject came to food the conversation would never end. About music, nothing was said other than a couple of sentences of guidance after one of our first concerts that I will never forget, and a lot of encouragement to just keep doing what you are doing.

Aged 18, when I first saw Pharoah and William play, the idea that I would later work with them once let alone for 10 years and consider them friends would have been inconceivable. It still doesn’t make much sense now. I have truly been lucky.

Pharoah seems to have orchestrated his goodbye in the way only he could, choosing to treat us to a very rare unexpected encore in late August.

(*) This tribute first appeared on Oli Hayhurst’s Facebook page, and is reproduced here with his permission.

Pharoah Sanders (Farrell Sanders). Born Little Rock, Arkansas 13 October 1940.Died Los Angeles, California 23 September 2022

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