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David Sanborn, Saxophonist Who Defied Pigeonholing, Dies at 78

David Sanborn, Saxophonist Who Defied Pigeonholing, Dies at 78


David Sanborn, whose fiery alto saxophone thrives earned him six Grammy Awards, eight gold albums and a platinum one, and who established himself as a celeb sideman, lending indelible solos to enduring rock classics like David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” died on Sunday. He was 78.

He died after a protracted battle with prostate most cancers, based on an announcement on his social media channels. He had obtained the prognosis in 2018 however had maintained his common schedule of live shows till just lately, with extra deliberate for subsequent yr.

The assertion didn’t say the place Mr. Sanborn died.

Drawing from jazz, pop and R&B, Mr. Sanborn was extremely prolific, releasing 25 albums over a six-decade profession. “Hideaway” (1980), his fifth studio album, featured two instrumentals written with the singer Michael McDonald in addition to “The Seduction,” written by Giorgio Moroder, which was the love theme from “American Gigolo,” the ice-cool Paul Schrader movie starring Richard Gere.

“Many releases by studio musicians undergo from weak compositions and overproduction, together with some albums by Sanborn himself,” Tim Griggs wrote in a overview of that album on the web site Allmusic. In distinction, he continued, “Hideaway” had a “stripped-down, funky” high quality that confirmed off his “passionate and distinctive saxophone sound.”

Mr. Sanborn’s albums “Hearsay” (1994), “Pearls” (1995) and “Time Again” (2003) all reached No. 2 on the Billboard jazz chart.

While the data he made underneath his personal identify have been typically pigeonholed as clean jazz, Mr. Sanborn chafed on the description. So did lots of his fellow saxophonists, who discovered his tone and strategy something however mellow.

“The ‘Sanborn’ sound is extra of an excessive sound tone smart,” the saxophonist and educator Steve Neff wrote on his weblog in 2012. “It may be very uncooked, vibrant, edgy and difficult sounding. It’s proper in your face.”

“What Michael Brecker did for the tenor sound, Sanborn did for the alto sound. It’s not a center of the highway sort of sound,” Mr. Neff added. Mr. Brecker and his trumpeter brother, Randy, typically collaborated with Mr. Sanborn.

Mr. Sanborn had little use for labels. “I’m not so eager about what’s or isn’t jazz,” he mentioned in a 2017 interview with DownBeat, the jazz journal. “The guardians of the gate may be fairly combative, however what are they defending? Jazz has all the time absorbed and reworked what’s round it.”

“Real musicians,” he added, “don’t have any time to spend fascinated about restricted classes.”

While rising up in suburban St. Louis, Mr. Sanborn was influenced by the sound of blues in Chicago, and by 14 he was enjoying with Albert King and Little Milton. “I assume if push involves shove, I’d describe myself as popping out of the blues-R&B aspect of the spectrum,” he mentioned in a 2008 interview with NPR. “But I imply, should you play the saxophone, you definitely can’t escape the affect of jazz.”

Among the jazz musicians with whom Mr. Sanborn recorded have been the guitarists George Benson, Mike Stern and John Scofield, the bassist Ron Carter, and the arrangers and bandleaders Gil Evans and Bob James.

And his affect was hardly confined to recording. From 1988 to 1990, he hosted the tv present “Night Music” (initially referred to as “Sunday Night”), which introduced an eclectic mixture of music; its lineups featured jazz luminaries like Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Pharoah Sanders in addition to the likes of James Taylor, Leonard Cohen and Sonic Youth.

Starting within the Nineteen Eighties, he additionally hosted a syndicated radio program, “The Jazz Show With David Sanborn.” He had just lately begun producing the podcast “As We Speak,” which featured conversations with artists together with Pat Metheny and Mr. Rollins.

A onetime member of the “Saturday Night Live” band, he recorded or toured with a constellation of stars, together with Paul Simon, James Brown, Elton John, Steely Dan, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

“Anyone with a document assortment greater than a foot vast most likely owns a chunk of David Sanborn’s unmistakable sound however doesn’t understand it,” The Phoenix New Times, an Arizona newspaper, noticed in a 1991 article about Mr. Sanborn.

Mr. Sanborn was heard on landmark albums just like the Eagles’ debut and Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book” in 1972 and Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 smash “Born to Run.”

He had a memorable star activate Mr. Bowie’s “Young Americans” (1975), on which his sunny but sultry solo opens the memorable title monitor. “There was no lead guitar, so I performed the function of lead guitar,” he advised DownBeat. “I used to be throughout that document.”

He additionally joined Mr. Bowie’s tour for the album, a part of a crack supporting outfit that additionally included Doug Rauch on bass and Greg Errico on drums. “On the ‘Young Americans’ tour,” he recalled, “Bowie would generally let the band play for 20 minutes earlier than he got here on.”

David William Sanborn was born on July 30, 1945, in Tampa, Fla., the place his father was stationed within the Air Force. He grew up in Kirkwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.

His life took a fateful flip at 3 when he contracted polio, which ravaged his left arm, proper leg and lungs.

He was in an iron lung for a yr, and he took up saxophone at 11 on the recommendation of a physician, who thought studying a woodwind instrument would assist him construct respiratory energy.

The illness had lasting results, a few of them notably difficult for a horn participant. As an grownup, Mr. Sanborn nonetheless suffered restricted lung capability, and his left arm was smaller than his proper, with compromised dexterity on that hand.

“I don’t consider myself as a sufferer,” he was quoted as saying in 2005 by the Salt Lake City tv station KSL. “This is my actuality.”

After finding out music at Northwestern University and with the saxophonist J.R. Monterose on the University of Iowa, he headed to California and joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. He was 24 when the band performed earlier than lots of of 1000’s on the Woodstock competition in August 1969.

Mr. Sanborn went on to tour with Stevie Wonder in 1972 and launched his first solo album, “Taking Off,” in 1975. He earned his first Grammy, for finest R&B instrumental efficiency, for “All I Need Is You,” a monitor on his 1981 album, “Voyeur.”

His 2008 album, “Here & Gone,” that includes visitor appearances by Eric Clapton, Derek Trucks and Joss Stone, was a tribute to Ray Charles and his arranger and saxophonist Hank Crawford, who was a significant affect on Mr. Sanborn’s enjoying.

“That music was every thing to me,” he advised NPR. “It sort of mixed jazz, gospel, and rhythm and blues. It wasn’t any a type of issues, but it surely was all of them sort of blended collectively. And that, to me, is sort of the essence of American music.”

Information about survivors was not instantly accessible.

Mr. Sanborn continued to tour into his 70s. With all of the modifications within the music enterprise, he discovered, touring was a greater technique to make a residing than recording.

“You make a fraction of what you used to make,” he mentioned in a 2017 interview with The Tampa Bay Times. “There’s not a number of choices.”

He discovered life on the highway more and more taxing, however performing reside remained a ardour. Despite plans to chop again to about 150 gigs a yr from 200, he nonetheless launched into tour in 2017 that included Istanbul and Nairobi.

“I nonetheless need to play,” he mentioned, “and if you wish to play for an viewers, you’ve obtained to go the place the viewers is.”



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