Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009


Pharoah Sanders, passes away at 81. From OMN 2010, His Backstage Backstory with Devin Phillips and dinner with Nancy King

By TOM D'ANTONI // The backstage backstory on Pharoah Sanders and Devin Phillips. Nancy dines at Typhoon with Pharoah. From OMN coverage of the 2010 Portland Jazz Festival.

Composer/saxophonist Pharoah Sanders passed away this weekend.

Here is a story about this visit to the Portland Jazz Festival from OMN, March 1, 2010

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Devin Phillips introduced Pharoah Sanders from the Newmark Theater stage on Sunday. He was a little nervous as he explained that Sanders had been his idol since he was in his early teens. Phillips later played with Sanders' band during their set.

That much was evident to everyone in the audience.

Here's what happened backstage, according to Festival Artistic Director Bill Royston:

When Phillips arrived backstage before the concert, he was introduced to Sanders. Sanders took one look at Phillips and asked if he were a horn player. How Sanders knew that is one of those "Pharoah" things we may never understand...but he just knew it.

Phillips, somewhat astonished, said yes. Sanders asked, "Is your horn here?" No, but he could get it. "Go get it," said Sanders. Luckily, Phillips lives downtown and broke several Olympic sprinting records on route. When he got back to the theatre, Sanders said, "Just do what I tell you."

After the introduction, Sanders played a couple of tunes. He would walk off stage when his solos were over. One time he did not walk out, Phillips did. Backstage he just said, "Get out there," to Phillips. Out Phillips went...and wailed.

At one point, the two were on stage together but they never played at the same time. Sanders was asked why after the concert. He replied, "Coltrane and Dolphy never played together."

In the Art Bar/lobby after the concert, Phillips, still obviously on a cloud told me, "I'm going home and sit on my sofa and think about what I just did."

Shortly afterward, Sanders and Nancy King, along with Sanders' pianist William Henderson, singer Kelley Shannon, Festival Ground Operations Director Yvonne Lerch and several others took the back room for dinner at Typhoon on Broadway.

Sanders and King had been reunited after fifty years. They had been good friends in California in the 1960s. Sanders was a huge presence at the table even though, true to previous descriptions, he was a man of few words. Nancy, on other hand, is a woman of many words, most of them very entertaining.

They sat next to each other. She rubbed his hand. He said it was hurting. From signing autographs? Everyone laughed. Sanders ordered some crab fried rice and steamed broccoli, in case you're interested in what a Jazz titan and a legendary artist whose work will last forever likes for dinner.

It was a very warm setting. Later, Lerch said she thought it was a moment perhaps never to be repeated.


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