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David Sanborn Review – Impassioned and Bristling with Surprises

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Thursday September 25, 2014

From The Guardian
By John Fordham

David Sanborn Review – Impassioned and Bristling with Surprises

Hearing the imploring soul-sax of David Sanborn and the thundering Hammond organ of Joey DeFrancesco joined on record this summer suggested that, live in a small room, the pair would raise hairs on the neck and put a tear in the eye in rapid succession. Hard-grooving, blues-infused but soulfully confessional music has been pulling non-jazz fans to jazz clubs since the 1960s, a trend that no modern partnership could better exemplify than the experienced and impassioned Sanborn and the virtuosic DeFrancesco. Byron Landham, the Pennsylvania-born drummer, added the ideal fusion of languid backbeats and explosive commentary.

DeFrancesco set off with an onrushing bottom-register Hammond rumble, as if blowing a hole in a dam. The lean, grizzled Sanborn opened Comin’ Home Baby, the 1960s soul-jazz hit, with a light, keening theme statement, quickly accelerating to lightly-sketched, boppish double-time. Despite Sanborn’s pop-jazz CV (Stevie Wonder and David Bowie have been among his employers), he knows postbop and free-jazz well, and his improvisations bristle with surprises, telling understatements and elisions.

DeFrancesco was incandescent, both in support and on the break. He mixed intricate improv lines with tidal-wave chords on the opener, pedalled the bassline behind his own muted trumpet solo (he’s a fine, early-Miles trumpeter) on the ballad What Will I Tell My Heart, and punched out the hooks on fast blues number The Peeper as well as an uninhibited Let the Good Times Roll.

Marcus Miller’s Maputo was a newer piece, but right in the soul-jazz pocket, while Wayne Shorter’s Infant Eyes drew quivering, quietly ecstatic glimmers from Sanborn (who, as so often, seemed to be playing the connective tissues of the song more than its bone-structure). A swerve into Michael Jackson’s The Way You Make Me Feel had the crowd chanting. But for all the populist triggers, this was at heart an eloquent, personal and revealing performance from one of jazz’s enduring saxophone greats.