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The music of Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Paul Simon, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones all has a similar tone running throughout. It’s no coincidence that saxophonist David Sanborn has played with all of them.
The model for a generation of jazz-fusion alto saxophonists
—Los Angeles Times
Among the great saxophonists of the past four decades, David Sanborn has earned an identity all his own. He’s jazz, he’s funk, he’s soul, he’s pop, he’s blues, he’s rock. Most remarkably, he excels in each of these genres with a voice that is forceful and tender, sensuous and subtle.
David Sanborn has won six Grammy Awards and released twenty-four albums, including eight gold albums and one platinum. Having inspired countless other musicians, Sanborn has worked in many genres which typically blend instrumental pop, R&B, and traditional jazz.
He released his first solo album Taking Off—still considered a classic—in 1975 but has been playing the saxophone since before he was in high school, when he was inspired by the great Chicago blues artists near his hometown of St. Louis. His 1979 release Hideaway became a popular hit and further propelled his ascent. Veteran bassist and composer Marcus Miller joined Sanborn on the 1981 album Voyeur. The single “All I Need Is You” won Sanborn his first Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. In 1983, he released the hit album Backstreet that included Luther Vandross as a featured guest vocalist. Later albums have included guest artists such as Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Wallace Roney, Kenny Barron, Christian McBride, and Eric Clapton.
Sanborn hosted the show Night Music from 1988 to 1990, which featured films of jazz legends like Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, and Billie Holiday, as well as banter and memorable music jams by a remarkable list of musicians including Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Joe Sample, Pharoah Sanders, and many others. During the 1980s and 1990s, he hosted a syndicated radio program, The Jazz Show with David Sanborn. He has also recorded many shows’ theme songs as well as several other songs for The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder. In 2017, Sanborn teamed up with his nephew and brother-in-law to create a new show called Sanborn Sessions.
Sanborn continues to be one of the most highly active musicians of his genre. He is an artist who pushes the limits and continues to make music that challenges the mind and goes straight to the heart.