David Sanborn Alto Sax Icons Pt. 1

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Saturday February 29, 2020

From Oregon Music News

David Sanborn Alto Sax Icons Pt. 1: 2020 Portland biamp Jazz Festival / Review

“t would be hard to overstate the influence of David Sanborn on alto saxophone players in the modern era. His soulful, amplified sound graced and spiced hits by a panoply of pop artists such as James Taylor, David Bowie, Paul Simon, and Carly Simon, among many other big names, starting in the 1960s with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Many critics and sax players alike have tried to put a finger on his signature sound.

I find it difficult to pin down as a saxophone player myself. Commonly described as ‘bright and edgy’, I find that an inadequate, overly simplistic descriptor. Yes, it is bright, even dry, yet there is vibrato. It’s ‘hot’ but not ‘warm’, ‘cool’ yet not ‘dark’, it’s attenuated, yet pungent! He’s smooth, but with plenty of grit. He definitely emphasizes certain parts of the sound a saxophone makes, and this seems designed to cut through modern instrumentation, by which I mean the sound of electronically reinforced instruments.

This sax tone definitely cuts through the mix of electric guitars, electric basses, and mic’d-up drum sets that defines much of popular music since the 1950s. But it also seems to dramatically limit the tonal spectrum of the saxophone. I would relish an opportunity to hear him play without the mic clipped to the bell of the horn and the requisite EQ. “

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