A Fireside Chat With Pharoah Sanders
FJ: Just a few years ago, you gave equal time to the soprano saxophone and the tenor. I noticed lately, the soprano saxophone has disappeared from your sessions.
PS: Well, I have had my problems with the soprano. I always felt that I didn't have a good sound on my soprano and I was waiting, trying to find a righteous mouthpiece that I could play that I really like. It was a problem for me, playing soprano and then switching to tenor. Most of the time, you find me playing soprano on albums and things and not in person. So I had problems taking my instruments on the plane. I got tired of them hassling me and so I stopped bringing my soprano. I just bring my tenor. But now, I am thinking that maybe I should bring all of them. I just need to get a case made for them to go underneath because the plane gets full, it doesn't matter once you are on the plane. It is not their fault. I just have to do something about it and I don't like to make problems for me. I just need to find somebody to make me a case that I can put up underneath. I just haven't got around to it. That is all that is. I just haven't got around to getting somebody to make me a metal case or something.
FJ: You have received your share of Coltrane questions.
PS: They always do. A lot of times, they don't know that we talked just like anybody else. We'd ask how we were doing. It wasn't no big thing. There wasn't anything concerning about the music. It was just general conversation. He treated me just the way he treated anybody. I didn't talk that much and John, he didn't talk that much.
FJ: I would have liked to be a fly on the wall for that conversation, or lack there of.
PS: (Laughing) I would sit right next to him and not say a word and wouldn't think about saying nothing and he would sit and never say anything either. He was just one of those kind of people. He is very, very quite. It seemed like when he picked up his horn, it was a whole different story then. Then I would listen (laughing). I would definitely listen. I remember one time, he gave me a rhythm thing to practice on and that was really helpful to me. That was really telling me something, rather than just what he had written down. The rhythm he gave me was something that we were musically involved with and something he wanted me to do. When he gave it to me, he just gave it to me. He didn't say nothing. He would just do things. He never said nothing or explained nothing. He just would do it and that was it. You were on your own. You had to be very independent being around John. Then I started buying drumsticks and started working on my rhythm a little bit more. Maybe he saw something in me and thought that I should practice my rhythm instead of running around with my horn. That is how I looked at it. Maybe he was trying to tell me something and I better go and practice on my rhythm (laughing).
FJ: Have you lost the fire and brimstone in your playing from those days?
PS: I don't know. Sometimes, things get very unseen to the public. You might see me working with the band right now, but I am working with this band right now because I had to break up another band that I was with because of personal problems. You just can't have that when you are playing. You have to have guys that are straight. I may have lost a lot by looking at it that way. Before, I think I had like John Hicks and Idris (Muhammad) and some personal problem happened that don't have anything to do with no music. I said that I was tired of it now and I have to find somebody that is going to do it now and be on time for the gigs and don't give me any problems. I don't want nobody on my gig drunk or doing some other drugs or whatever it may be. I've been knowing William Henderson for a long time, since 1959. I knew William before I met John Hicks. I met William in Oakland, California. He is a very clean person, vegetarian and all. I can really use that around me. I find that in California, I can't find guys that have enough energy. They play a little bit and that's about it. They play less. If I start a tune and then the pianist has to solo, I am looking to everybody to get to a certain climate and then I come back in while the energy is up high. Somehow that doesn't happen.