Only Everything picks up where David Sanborn’s previous release, Here & Gone, left off—literally. From its opening track, Hank Crawford’s “The Peeper,” the album continues along the bluesy path of its predecessor, paying tribute to the Atlantic Records R&B era of Ray Charles and, especially, the recently departed Crawford, the alto saxophonist who got his start with Charles in the late 1950s. There are other holdovers: Drummer Steve Gadd makes an encore appearance, as do producer Phil Ramone, arranger Gil Goldstein and vocalist Joss Stone, who lends her increasingly powerful pipes to a sweltering take on “Let the Good Times Roll.”
But Only Everything isn’t strictly a part two, and what largely sets it apart is the presence throughout of Joey DeFrancesco on the Hammond B3. DeFrancesco’s lively musings on the organ permeate the set with an even deeper soulfulness than exhibited last time out. Where Here & Gone, even with such high-profile guests as Eric Clapton, Sam Moore and Derek Trucks, often felt like the homage it was, Only Everything stands on its own, approximating the sweat of a steamy late-night soul-jazz set in some long-ago roadhouse.
Sanborn’s beefy alto tone is reliably sturdy and, in places, inspired—as on the closing Arlen-Mercer standard “Blues in the Night” and Charles’ “Hard Times,” which doubles as a tribute to another recently departed Charles alum, saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman—but too often he holds back. On more than one occasion, just as he appears poised to break out of form and transcend the inherent limitations of the material, Sanborn checks himself and lowers the temperature a few degrees. Oddly enough, on Charles’ “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” it’s left to guest vocalist James Taylor, whose history suggests he’s better at emasculating classic R&B than pumping life into it, to give the arrangement the boost it’s looking for. Nonetheless, Only Everything succeeds in its goal of giving due props once again to some of Sanborn’s key influences.