Born: July 30, 1945 Primary Instrument: Saxophone
Renowned and revered the world over as one of the greatest saxophone players of all-time, David Sanborn is an artist whose music has inspired countless other musicians while creating a body of work that spans the genres of rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, pop and jazz. A naturally gifted performer, David has helped defined the saxophone’s modern sound while influencing a generation.
Born July 30, 1945 in Tampa, Florida, David William Sanborn contracted polio when he was only 3 years old. As a part of his rehabilitative therapy, David was introduced to the saxophone. It was an introduction with consequences quite beyond the imagination of his parents, doctors - or anyone else. The selection of the alto sax - a favourite from David’s days spent listening to the radio - would prove to be a pivotal moment in the development of his sound.
Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, David was tremendously inspired by the rich legacy of great Chicago blues artists who would play their way through town. Before he was finished high school, David had played with names such as Albert King and Little Milton. When I was 17 or 18,” David has said, And it was time to figure out what to do with my life, I realized that I didn't enjoy anything as much as I enjoyed playing music. I felt that I had no choice, that I HAD to become a musician. Either that or steal cars.
David studied music for a year at Northwestern University before transferring to the University of Iowa. By 20, he was married and the proud father of a son - Jonathan Sanborn - for whom each of David’s records have been dedicated. A phone call from an old friend in San Francisco - drummer Teddy Steward - convinced David to head for California. It was while in San Francisco that another old friend - Phillip Wilson - who had recently joined the Butterfield Blues Band, invited David to Los Angeles to sit-in on recording sessions with the band. “I got on a Greyhound bus from San Francisco to LA, took a bus into Hollywood, slept on the floor of Phillip's hotel room and went to the studio with him.” David has said. “Just had my horn. I think it was because I looked so pathetic, standing there with my horn, Paul Butterfield said, Why don't you just come and play on a tune? I sat in and I did okay. And I was with Butterfield for almost five years.”
Those five years saw David -with the Butterfield Blues Band - play Woodstock, among many other classic gigs. But the demise of that band only brought David new opportunities and within a week he was touring with another legend - Stevie Wonder. David played on Wonder’s remarkable “Talking Book” LP, rocked briefly with rock and roll heroes The Rolling Stones then toured with David Bowie, eventually performing his famous solo on Bowie’s 1975 recording “Young Americans.”
It was also in 1975 that David released his first solo album Taking Off. The record enjoyed respectable sales and while David continued working with other performers such as Paul Simon and James Taylor he also continued flexing his considerable muscles as a solo artist, eventually scoring massive popular hits with 1980’s Hideaway and 1981’s Grammy winning Voyeur.
1983 saw David branch off in a new artistic direction with his first acting roll in the Italian film Stelle Sulla Citta for which he also scored the soundtrack. It was also in ’83 that David released his landmark Backstreet album which proved a major hit in the world of contemporary jazz.
David was awarded his second Grammy in 1986 for the album Double Vision and in the late 1980s hosted one of the most remarkable musical television programs of all time - Night Music. Offering up old films of jazz legends, music talk and incredible jams by an increasingly eclectic roll call of musicians from different fields, Night Music is fondly remembered among music fans as a groundbreaking and genre-bursting show. Produced by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, Night Music brought artists as diverse as Sonny Rollins, Leonard Cohen, Hank Crawford, Conway Twitty, Sonic Youth, Al Green and the Pixies together on one program.
Throughout the nineties and into the present, David has continued to tour and record, having amassed a wide and enthusiastic fan base around the world. The albums Pearls, Songs From The Night Before and Essentials reflect the essence of an artist at peace with his own sound and development, yet still hungry - eager to explore the possibilities of his instrument and his abilities.
David Sanborn is both musician and artist - that rare breed of popular recording star as eager today as he was in his youth to continue pushing boundaries and to continue making music that challenges the mind as it rewards the heart and soul.