Jazz saxophonist whose razor-sharp style and sense of groove pushed him to the forefront of the smooth jazz field.
David Sanborn has been the most influential saxophonist on pop, R&B, and crossover players of the past 20 years. Most of his recordings have been in the dance music/R&B vein, although Sanborn is a capable jazz player.
His greatest contributions to music have been his passionate sound (with its crying and squealing high notes) and his emotional interpretations of melodies which generally uplift any record he is on. Unlike his countless number of imitators, Sanborn is immediately recognizable within two notes.
While growing up in St. Louis, Sanborn played with many Chicago blues greats (including Albert King) and became a skilled alto saxophonist despite battling polio in his youth.
After important stints with Paul Butterfield (he played with the Butterfield Blues Band at Woodstock), Gil Evans, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, and the Brecker Brothers, Sanborn began recording as a leader in the mid-'70s and he racked up a string of pop successes. Over the years he has worked with many pop players but he has made his biggest impact leading his own danceable bands.
Occasionally Sanborn throws the music world a curve: his eccentric but rewarding Another Hand, a guest stint with avant-gardist Tim Berne on a 1993 album featuring the compositions of Julius Hemphill, and a set of ballads (Pearls) on which he is accompanied by a string orchestra arranged by Johnny Mandel. For a couple years in the early '90s, Sanborn was the host of the syndicated television series Night Music which had a very eclectic lineup of musicians (from Sonny Rollins and Sun Ra to James Taylor and heavy metal players), most of whom were given the unique opportunity to play together.
It displayed David Sanborn's wide interest and musical curiosity even if many of his own recordings remain quite predictable. ~ Scott Yanow.