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ESP-Disk's second jazz release captured Pharoah Sanders before most of the jazz world had any idea who he was, a year before he started playing with John Coltrane. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1940, Sanders moved to California after high school and played in R&B bands. He moved to New York in 1962 and fell on hard times; he met Sun Ra while working as a chef. He made one session in '63 with Don Cherry (for Savoy, still unreleased), and the next year performed in the Sun Ra Arkestra. With Coltrane, Sanders would become known for extremely atonal blowing using extended techniques, but on his September 20, 1964 ESP session (as on most of his work as a leader) he does not go to those extremes. That's not to say that Pharoah's First is easy listening or not forward-looking for its time; the LP consists of two side-long tracks over 26 and 23 minutes. While the other musicians mostly work in an advanced bebop style with occasional nods to modality (mostly pianist Jane Getz's comping behind the leader), Sanders is clearly the most progressive player, overblowing and using other coloristic effects, unleashing flurries of notes outside the chord progressions, and basically sounding as intense as the other four players combined. It's an important historical document of a major player.