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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

David Sanborn R.I.P.

Well, David Sanborn won’t be down for breakfast. He died of cancer a couple of days ago. He was an interesting, and very influential musician. Even if you don’t know his name, you’d recognize his saxophone playing on any number of pop, R&B, and jazz recordings. Like this one:

Sanborn was playing for money with Albert King when he was only fourteen years old. He did lots of session work, anonymous except for other musicians. For about twenty years after Young Americans, everybody making a record wanted someone who sounded like David Sanborn. In many cases, the quickest way to get someone who sounded like David Sanborn was to simply get David Sanborn. Here’s an in incomplete list of sessions from the Wikiup:

James Brown, Bryan Ferry, Michael Stanley, Eric Clapton, Bobby Charles, Cat Stevens, Roger Daltrey, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Jaco Pastorius, the Brecker Brothers, Michael Franks, Kenny Loggins, Casiopea, Players Association, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren, Bruce Springsteen, Little Feat, Tommy Bolin, Bob James, James Taylor, Al Jarreau, Pure Prairie League, Kenny G, Loudon Wainwright III, George Benson, Joe Beck, Donny Hathaway, Elton John, Gil Evans, Carly Simon, Guru, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Kenny Garrett, Roger Waters, Steely Dan, Ween, the Eagles, Grateful Dead, Nena, Hikaru Utada, The Rolling Stones, Ian Hunter, and Toto.

I remember him very kindly. I was a working musician in the late 1980s, and I was often awake at odd hours. Or more accurately, I was rarely asleep. Sanborn was the co-host and house band impresario of an after hours teevee show called Night Music that was about the only show I’d ever watch. The show was always jam-packed with interesting, often offbeat musicians, and sometimes assembled in unusual groupings. They had Conway Twitty, Miles Davis, and everybody in between.

Eclectic? How’s this for one night’s lineup: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Pharoah Sanders, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, The Platters on video tape from 1955, Van Dyke Parks, and Maria McKee. That’s out there, man.

Speaking of crosstown traffic and six degrees of separation, Stevie Ray Vaughn was friends with Albert King, who was friends with David Sanborn. Stevie also played on a David Bowie record. The music world is like that, sometimes. I remember Stevie doing that interstellar take on Albert King’s playing style when the show was first broadcast.

Sanborn got a rep as a smooth jazz dude, but he didn’t like it. He was good at it, but he was good at everything. He didn’t like the pigeonhole. He had plenty of heavy jazz dudes on the show, and he held his own with all of them, include guys like Wayne Shorter.

Sanborn had a serious bout of polio when he was a kid. One of his arms was kind of withered, and he had trouble breathing properly. A doctor suggested that he should take up a wind instrument, instead of playing the piano, to build up his lungs.


I ain’t no doctor, but I think it helped.

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