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David Sanborn

One of the most influential saxophonists of the past 20 years, not only in jazz but also in pop and R&B, David Sanborn has an immediately recognizable sound and has never played a passionless note. Born in Tampa, Florida in 1945, he grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri. Sanborn was stricken with polio when quite young but started playing saxophone on his doctor’s advice to improve his breathing. Influenced by Hank Crawford’s sound, Sanborn started his career when he was 14, playing with Albert King and Little Milton. In 1967 he worked with Paul Butterfield, playing with the Butterfield Blues Band at Woodstock. Sanborn also played with David Bowie, the Brecker Brothers and Stevie Wonder, and his sound was admired by Gil Evans, who used him on several memorable occasions.

By the early 1970s, Sanborn was an extremely busy session player and through the years he has appeared on recordings with Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, Little Feat, James Taylor, Donny Hathaway, Elton John, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Steely Dan and the Eagles, among many others. In the jazz field, Sanborn worked with Bob James, Jaco Pastorius, Al Jarreau and George Benson, but most important was his string of solo recordings, beginning in the mid-1970s. Most of his recordings are quite funky, R&B-oriented and melodic. Sanborn has also made occasional departures, including Another Hand, his set of ballads (Pearls) with Johnny Mandel’s string orchestra, and a collaboration with avant-garde altoist Tim Berne in 1993 on an album featuring Julius Hemphill compositions (Diminutive Mysteries). In the late 1980s Sanborn co-hosted a now-legendary and very eclectic syndicated television music series called Night Music, which featured his favorites from many musical genres, often playing together.