David Sanborn – Then Again: The Anthology
(Rhino/Warner Jazz 8122797288. CD Review by Chris Parker)
The liner-note writer for this two-CD compilation of saxophonist David Sanborn’s own selection of his favourite tracks from two decades of his illustrious career (1975–96), David Ritz, refers to Sanborn as ‘a hot-blooded storyteller’, and the man himself defines his artistic ambition thus: ‘I find that light [that lets us grow] in song. And if I can inhabit a song, if I allow the light to let me in, I can find the right voice to tell a story that I believe is true.’ Asked what that ‘story’ is about, he replies: ‘Everything I feel, and nothing I can explain.’
This anthology, which begins with ‘The Whisperer’(featuring Michael Brecker), and proceeds (non-chronologically) through the altoman’s collaborations with producers Hal Wilner, John Simon and Marcus Miller et al. up till 1996’s ‘Missing You’, will probably not convince the more hardline members of the jazz police, suspicious of what they regard as Sanborn’s glibness, his ability to wring every last drop of emotion from a popular song or straightforward light-funk chord sequence, that he is not the chief source of ‘smooth jazz’ (a charge he fiercely rejects); the less censorious, however, will find much to enjoy in his fierce, utterly accessible, declamatory heart-on-sleeve playing, and the flawless, impeccable arrangements in which it is set like a precious jewel.
I've enjoyed David Sanborn's playing ever since his Paul Butterfield days. His contribution to Gil Evans' Priestess is tremendous and the suite on his own Taking Off album (Black Light/Blue Night/Flight) is one of my favourite things.