Happy as a Sanborn

Is it jazz? Is it rock? Is it fusion? DAVID SANBORN plays it all, and he doesn’t care what you call it. Kenny Mathieson catches up with the saxman who jazzed up The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

David Sanborn’s position in the contemporary jazz hierarchy is an odd one. The critics tend to sneer dismissively. while the fans lap up his major-selling fusion albums as quickly as the record company can get them on the streets. Like Pat Metheny or Herbie Hancock. Sanborn has broken into a lucrative market usually denied instrumental music: unlike those two. however. he has not really picked up the critical brownie points en route. Whether Sanborn will be taken more seriously

with the release of his new acoustic jazz album

Another Hand remains to be seen. There is no

doubt he is a strong sax player with an exciting.

muscular tone and. if no great improviser. he is not

L_-_ . ,-

a. is

:3. \, V \ \\ t”... \ \\‘

short on ideas. constructing his solos and breaks with a pleasingly lucid logic. That formula has worked very well in the jazz-into-rock formats he has favoured to date but may be a little more exposed in an acoustic context.

Typically. Sanborn has surrounded himselfwith musicians of the highest quality for both the recording and the tour which now brings him to Glasgow. In the studio. he used two basic bands. one featuring Bill Frisell. Charlie Haden and Joey Baron (with guests Marc Ribot and Syd Straw). the other with Mulgrew Miller. Marcus Miller and Jack DeJohnette; on the road. the band will feature Kenny Kirkland. Don Alais. Charnett Moffett and Al Foster.

‘Yeah.‘ he acknowledges laughing. ‘I like to try to find players who are better than me. but I think I went a little overboard this time! I think the album came out of my experience doing the television show Night Music. Hal Willner produced both the show and the record, and one of the things we tried to do with Night Music was to demonstrate that people who were perceived as being in one specific area could play other kinds of music with players from other areas. and could find a common ground. a thread which connects all of it.

‘We tried to bring something of the same sensibility to the record. to create a kind of atmosphere which maybe people would not associate with my music. I wanted to try to explore elements of my sound and tone I hadn‘t really explored on previous records.‘

Night Music has never been screened here and is currently defunct. but Sanborn still hosts his syndicated radio programme. formerly TheJazz Show (‘I was never really comfortable with that title. because it wasn‘t exclusively music that I

would associate with jazz‘). but now simply The David Sanborn Show.

‘The idea initially was to try to get jazz and instrumental music onto stations which were usually heavily formatted to Top Forty or whatever. as most American radio is. We wanted to introduce people to other music. and maybe take the fear factor out ofjazz.‘ he says. slipping into a mock-horror ‘Oh. no. there‘s no words!‘ routine.

Both these projects are indicative of Sanborn‘s own wide—ranging musical interests. He began playing saxophone aged eleven. while recuperating from a bout ofpolio - an experience which has also made him into something ofa health fanatic now. observing a strictly monitored

vegetarian diet and avoiding all the usual pitfalls of .

life on the road. While his earliest influences came

from the pop and r'n‘b fields. it was jazz that was to ;

play a major role in his development.

‘I think jazz is pretty much unavoidable ifyou are an instrumentalist. and particularly it you are a saxophone player. because the saxophone really came into prominence as an expressive instrument in the jazz idiom.

‘When I began playing. most of the players I listened to were rooted in jazz and the blues. but I think most jazz players have those blues roots anyway— in fact. I consider it all to be rooted in the blues. For me. the great thing about the players I listened to. like Hank Crawford and David Newman with the old Ray Charles band. was that they combined r‘n‘b. jazz and gospel music. which to me are the three great contributions which America has made to music. and here they were combined into one coherent whole.‘

Sanborn evolved a style which drew deeply from

18The List 28June— 11 July 1991