Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yes, some respect for David Sanborn

Playing up until a few minutes ago: Disc 6 of The Complete Arista Recordings of Anthony Braxton
What can I say about it? Nothing right now. I have to review it, so you can read all about it later.

Instead, I'm going to weigh in on something that's been around the house for a while now. But since this fellow is on the cover of the new JazzTimes, I suppose I can opine and not seem too behind the times.

David Sanborn
Here and Gone

I've developed a level of respect for David Sanborn ever since he hosted Night Music in the late '80s and early '90s. Many people have probably said as much, but there was one particular instance that made me rethink my original position on the frizzy-haired (now shorn off) alto man. Tim Berne was on the show once with his group and Sanborn sat in with them on Berne's "Hong Kong Sad Song." In the middle of the piece, it wasn't Berne but Sanborn who took the first alto solo. He cut loose with a shriek that rivaled the bandleader and drew on Dave's early years, hanging out with the pre-AACM guys in St. Louis.
Then, a few years later, Sanborn appeared on Berne's Diminutive Mysteries album, where they played the music of Julius Hemphill. Somewhere around that time, he also released Another Light which featured Charlie Haden in the band and covered the Velvets' "Jesus." Kind of made you think there was more to this guy than just smooth stuff. If Pat Metheny ever had a chance to really beat Kenny G to a pulp, Sanborn might've been the one holding that chump down.
Which brings us to Here and Gone, Sanborn's latest, which pays homage to Hank Crawford, who played alto with Ray Charles and released numerous r&b sides of his own. For starters, he doesn't try to take Crawford's style and transpose it into some limp, electric context. There aren't any moist keyboards here.
The first thing that struck me on the opening "St. Louis Blues" was how much Sanborn's tone sounds like John Zorn: they both have that pungent, reedy quality. (As Mort Sahl would say, is there anyone I haven't offended yet?) It's not exactly gutsy or down and dirty, but the arrangement puts Sanborn in the presence of a group that sounds like a good, modern day swing band.
Among the guests on the album, Eric Clapton plays and sings on "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town," which he pulls off because he pulls back. He doesn't try to be Louie Jordan, or whoever else did the song, and he focuses on the old time lyrics without trying to make them cute. Joss Stone on the other hand really does the little-chick-trying-to-sound-big-and-sassy shtick and while she has the pipes, it still sounds a little forced.
Guitarist Derek Trucks appears on "Brother Ray" and his leads, the call and response of the horns and Sanborn's attack all sound pretty tight.
The only problem is the record is mixed in the frequency that makes my fillings hurt. Maybe it's Sanborn's tone, but that high end can really take some getting used to. But Zorn does the same for me too. (Has anyone ever observed how often he enters with that one really high shrill note, on all those Naked City tunes?)
Hmmm, that connection has me thinking that for Sanborn's next album, he ought to collaborate with ex-Naked City keyboardist Wayne Horvitz. With that guy's writing and Dave's tone, that could be an amazing album.


David said...

My image of David Sanborn was shattered when he played that squonking solo on "I Wanna Be Your Dog" with Sonic Youth (and Don Fleming) on that show. I've still never been able to approach his solo stuff, but I have checked out some of the earlier stuff he did with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

I used to have a 3-LP boxed set of Anthony Braxton on Arista. I think I sold it to Jerry's in the big purge of 1997. Certainly wish I'd kept it!

shanleymusic said...

Was that the "For Four Orchestras" album? That's some heavy stuff. Not the best, but heavy. Maybe I'd appreciate that more hearing it over 6 sides instead of 2 cds.