06th Nov2012

David Sanborn ‘The again. The anthology’ 2CD (Warners) 4/5

by ukvibe

To some alto saxophonist David Sanborn represents a form of smooth easy listening radio jazz that is anathema to the spirit of jazz innovation. However, that would be to seriously misread a musician whose personal listening tastes take in Bill Evans and Jim Hall, Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and Me’Shell N’dege Ocello to name but a few. In fact Sanborn has anothjer side to his repertoire that would flumux many a jazz purist, performing regluarly at the avant garde Kintting Factory in New York with the likes of Pheeroan Aklaff, Tim Berne and John Zorn while to take just one album, the debut for Elektra, ‘Another hand’ featured musicians of the calibre of Bill Frisell, Jack de Johnette and Marc Ribot. On this new anthology of David Sanborn’s work, there is something to appeal to all kinds of jazz fans, though it is fair to say that the 1980s period was one of consolidation rather than major exploration. For those new to the saxophonist’s music, arguably the strongest album of all on this offering are the cuts from the 1992 album ‘Upfront’ where Sanborn fused his natural love of the blues with some gritty, funky grooves that stand the test of time. His long-term arranger, bassist and producer Marcus Miller (Luther Vandross and Miles Davis among his other production duties) is on fire here and ‘Snakes’ is a fine’ illustration of the album’s burning hues while a reworking of the Latin soul classic from Joe Cuba, ‘Bang Bang’ will surely thrill. Elsewhere the early 1980s were a time of Sanborn combining his fiery alto with acoustic instrumentation and this works particularly well on ‘It’s you’ and is a deeply lyrical piece with a Stevie Wonder style synth bass. Likewise the 1978 track ‘Lotus blossom’, a Don Grolnick composition, shows another aspect to Sanborn’s craft with guitar and acoustic piano to accompany the leader. That David Sanborn can play beautiful melodies is beyond question with the 1983 Marcus Miller collaboration on ‘A tear for Crystal’ a fine example. Slow burning funk ditties are never too distant, though, and ‘So far away’ illustrates this to perfection. Where the anthology does very into muzak territory is on the collaborations with Bob James who pioneered his own form of fusion jazz (and has been heavily sampled by rappers in the process) and thankfully these cuts are best avoided with Al Jarreau lending some much needed variation on ‘Since I fell for you’. In general one might question whether this anothology fully reflects the more eclectic approach and diversity of styles adopted by Sanborn in recent years and the answr, perhaps, lies in record companies happy for him to retain his loyalty base. A live recording of his more adventurous material is thus in order. In the meantime this anthology provides a pretty accurate overview of his career to date. Tim Stenhouse

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