Pharoah Sanders, one of our greatest musicians, passed on September 24. On October 1, Sistas’ Place, Brooklyn’s landmark jazz institution, held a salute, “The Creator Has a Master Plan – A Community Remembrance of Pharoah Sanders.”
Words alone cannot capture the energy of Saturday night’s gathering. Sistas’ Place’s musical director Ahmed Abdullah and WBGO’s DJ Rob Crocker hosted an audience of Black folks, young, old and in between, who literally stood up and applauded after viewing video performances of “The Creator Has a Master Plan,” “After the Morning,” and “You’ve Got to Have Freedom.”
Between videos Ahmed riffed about his experience with Pharoah and the Sun Ra Arkestra and read from a piece he had written on Pharoah’s contribution to the development of what he has come to call “Jazz—a music of the Spirit.” Rob regaled the crowd with stories about “Little Rock,” as his close friends called him, and conveyed a message from the great alto player Gary Bartz. City Councilman Charles Barron said, “I entered the Black Panther Party when I was a teenager. Pharoah was my favorite musician, even more than Stevie Wonder. I still have all of his albums.” WBAI’s Basir Mchawi, (an original member of The East, where Pharoah regularly played), spoke about Pharoah’s relationship internationally to Africa and nationally to local institutions like The East. The renowned bassist Stanley Banks was amazed that from watching the videos that evening, he had observed something new about Pharoah’s brilliance. Sistas’ Place founder and driving force, Viola Plummer summed up, “Pharoah embodied the symbiotic relationship between the Pan-African liberation struggle which demanded the music and the music which inspired the struggle. The music saved our lives.”
From indelible memories they collectively painted a portrait of Pharoah as an artist of the people, whose music ranged from melodic to free. On Saturday night, in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, Pharoah Sanders lived.