Bob James & David Sanborn – Quartette Humaine
(OKeh 88765484712. CD Review by Chris Parker)
David Sanborn’s uniquely expressive, keening, intensely human alto playing is probably (whether or not most listeners actually know his name, or even if they’re hearing an ersatz copy of a TV-series soundtrack) the most familiar saxophone sound on the planet, and Bob James – courtesy of his frequent association with relatively undemanding ‘smooth jazz’ – might be said to occupy a similar position with regard to jazz piano, but here, they’ve exploited this basic compatibility in the cause of producing an unfussy, straightahead jazz album.
To this end, a Rolls-Royce rhythm section has been recruited – bassist James Genus and drummer Steve Gadd – and the resulting album (comprising four James originals, three from Sanborn, plus a tune by Alice Sayer and a standard, ’My Old Flame’) is consequently an elegant, polished and intensely listenable production.
Sanborn’s playing (unlike that of a number of alto players influenced by him – Chris Hunter springs immediately to mind) hardens to a slightly rasping harshness at its more intense moments, so is perhaps better suited to up-tempo pieces than to lush balladry, but overall, underpinned as it is by James’s mellifluous, tasteful piano, the music on Quartette Humaine, urbane and radio-friendly as it is, is meticulously arranged (by James, who also contributes the cover art) and impeccably played by its four seasoned performers.