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David Sanborn: Here and Gone

David Sanborn

David Sanborn has had a career most horn players would kill for. Catapulted from sideman to superstar in the mid-1970s, Sanborn has always made crowd-pleasing music while managing to escape the scorn heaped on fellow smooth saxophonists by the jazz cognoscenti. But even superstars can’t escape the fickle ways of the record business, and Sanborn has watched each recent release sell successively fewer copies. Rather than call up the consultants and pollsters to determine the radio-worthiness of his next career move, Sanborn has turned instead to the music that inspired him to begin with: the gutsy, bluesy soul-jazz sounds pioneered by saxophonists Hank Crawford, Gene Ammons and Illinois Jacquet.

The story has been told enough times to become a part of the jazz lore. David Sanborn was diagnosed with polio as a child and took up the saxophone on the advice of his doctor, who suggested it might strengthen his lungs. Shortly after that, Sanborn’s dad took him to a basketball game where Hank Crawford was the halftime entertainment, and David was instantly smitten. While still in his teens, he put in time playing with Albert King and Little Milton, listening and learning as he went. It wasn’t long before he had distilled his influences down to his own signature sound.

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