Legends never disappear, but they might slow down a little. Saxophonist David Sanborn is showing no signs of going down that road. In fact, on Dec. 4th — the same day the David Sanborn Electric Band performed at the The Carolina Theatre of Durham — a new version of the Chuck Berry classic “Johnny B. Goode” was released, featuring Sanborn on sax and Michael McDonald taking the lead on vocals.
After 40 years major jazz recording artist, David Sanborn is still going strong; and his latest CD, Time and the River, has received excellent reviews since its release in April. On an extensive tour to promote that CD, he came to The Carolina Theatre on Friday night, with his six-piece band to share a few hours of both classic Sanborn singles, as well as some samples from the new CD.
A low-key performer, Sanborn arrives with no fanfare, simply following his fellow musicians onstage and launching into “Comin’ Home Baby” from his 2003 album, Timeagain. It is an upbeat song with extended notes that Sanborn takes liberty interpreting. He is a thin man, almost fragile-appearing, with short gray hair that he wears cut closely to his head. In between solos, he holds his sax sideways with both hands, simply nodding his head and tapping the fingers of his left hand against the sax as he listens to his fellow musicians.
Those musicians are immediately credited when David Sanborn says his hello to the audience. On keyboards and vocals is Ricky Peterson, a Minnesotan who has had a 20-year working relationship with Sanborn, and has also worked live or on recordings with dozens of other well-known musicians. Marcus Baylor, on drums, from Missouri was the former drummer for the jazz groups The Yellowjackets. On bass, Andre Berry is another seasoned professional whose resume reads like he’s worked with everyone who’s who in the world of jazz. Nicky Morach, on guitar, has sat in on sessions with a number of luminaries, including David Bowie. And on percussion is Cuban musician Javier Diaz, whose work on the CD gave the music a distinctly Afro-Cuban feel.
Throughout the concert, David Sanborn’s sensual sax wails and moans, both on classics from albums such as Double Vision, as well as new songs, such as “Ordinary People” from the current CD. Sanborn’s sax is the star, and it’s strong, deliberate, and statement-making on that song. He is constantly reaching, interpreting, and innovating with the swells and valleys of his music.
The six-time Grammy Award winner has carved inroads for himself as a crossover artist with many credits as a session artist, soloist, and composer. During his long and illustrious career, he has worked as sideman for such musical greats as Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, George Benson, David Bowie, The Eagles, Billy Joel, Elton John, and many others; but critics agree that his best work has been produced in the later periods of his life as the front man and returning to his jazz roots.
Though known by most for his smooth jazz style, he eschews that definition, preferring instead to be associated with free jazz. At 70 years old and suffering for years with post-polio syndrome, Sanborn has his struggles; but his career is not slowing down, as this latest tour reveals.
When the band starts its fifth tune, “Spanish Joint,” written by R&B/soul songwriter D’Angelo, Sanborn has hit his stride, his sax strong and clear. The tune has a distinct rhumba beat, robust and nonstop. The music makes you want to get up and dance. Sanborn’s “dancing” is not a physical movement, except for his fluttering fingers. Instead, his sax does the dancing for him. In this song, the piano solo is other-worldly, almost like the music of Pink Floyd.
Each of the band members has a moment in the spotlight, but none is more of an audience pleaser than Andre Berry, whose guitar solo on “Run for Cover” is one of the show’s highlights. He dances across the stage with his bass, creating a danceable solo that rouses the crowd and brings them to their feet.
David Sanborn’s work spans several genres: soul, jazz, and pop and, now, Afro-Cuban. If one is to put him in a category, the word ‘fusion’ comes to mind, since there are so many influences to the music that comes out of his alto sax. Sanborn can become a chameleon, depending on who he plays for; but at this point in his career, he is more likely to create music that says who he is; and he is one of the foremost jazz musicians in America today.
At the end of the show, Sanborn appears ready to break, though the rest of the band seems to have just gotten warmed up. There was no encore, which was a disappointment; but the new CD and its stellar “Ordinary People” (written after Sanborn listened to political debates) and “Spanish Joint” will keep fans satisfied for a long time to come.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 3rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Craig D. Lindsey: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/music-news-reviews/article47352190.html; and Dec. 2nd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Chris Vitiello: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/david-sanborn-electric-band/Event?oid=4875618. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 4th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/12/isabella-rossellini-will-present-green-porno-live-at-8-p-m-on-saturday-dec-5th-at-the-carolina-theatre/.)
DAVID SANBORN ELECTRIC BAND (The Carolina Theatre of Durham, Dec. 4 in Fletcher Hall).
SHOW: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/events/david-sanborn-electric-band and https://www.facebook.com/events/467445003417764/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.davidsanborn.com/video.html.
THE TOUR: http://www.davidsanborn.com/dream.html.
PRESENTER: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/, https://www.facebook.com/CarolinaTheatreDurham, and https://twitter.com/CarolinaDurham.
David Sanborn (New York City saxophonist): http://www.davidsanborn.com/ (official website), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0760824/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Sanborn-Official/163020563760607 (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/davidsanborn (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sanborn (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.