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David Sanborn

David Sanborn
David Sanborn, Festival de Jazz Riviera Maya 2008
Background information
Born (1945-07-30) July 30, 1945
Tampa, Florida, United States
Genres Jazz, jazz fusion, rock, R&B, pop, funk
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Saxophone, piano
Years active 1959–present
Labels Verve, GRP, Rhino, Elektra, Warner Bros., Reprise
Website Official website

David Sanborn (born July 30, 1945) is an American alto saxophonist. Though Sanborn has worked in many genres, his solo recordings typically blend jazz with instrumental pop and R&B.[1] He released his first solo album Taking Off in 1975, but has been playing the saxophone since before he was in high school.[2] Sanborn has also worked extensively as a session musician, notably on David Bowie's Young Americans (1975).

One of the most commercially successful American saxophonists to earn prominence since the 1980s, Sanborn is described by critic Scott Yannow[3] as "the most influential saxophonist on pop, R&B, and crossover players of the past 20 years." Sanborn is often identified with radio-friendly smooth jazz. However, Sanborn has expressed a disinclination for both the genre itself and his association with it.[1]

In his three-and-a-half-decade career, Sanborn has released 24 albums, won six Grammy Awards and has had eight gold albums and one platinum album. He continues to be one of the most highly active musicians of his genre, with over 150 tour dates in 2010.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Recordings 2.1
    • Broadcasting activities 2.2
    • More recent activities 2.3
  • Discography 3
    • Albums 3.1
    • As leader 3.2
    • As sideman 3.3
      • With Paul Butterfield Blues Band 3.3.1
    • DVDs 3.4
  • Filmography 4
    • Actor/Host 4.1
    • Himself 4.2
    • Composer 4.3
    • Musician 4.4
  • Gear list 5
  • Personal life 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Sanborn was born in Tampa, Florida, and grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri. He suffered from polio for eight years[4] in his youth, and began playing the saxophone on a physician's advice to strengthen his weakened chest muscles and improve his breathing. Alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, at the time a member of Ray Charles's band, was an early and lasting influence on Sanborn.[5]

Sanborn initially attended college at Northwestern University, studying music.[2] However, he transferred to the University of Iowa where he played and studied with saxophonist J.R. Monterose.[2]


Sanborn performed with blues musicians Albert King and Little Milton at the age of 14.[4] He continued playing blues when he joined Paul Butterfield's band in 1967.[5]

Although Sanborn is most associated with smooth jazz, he explored the edges of free jazz in his youth, studying with saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell and Julius Hemphill. In 1993, he revisited this genre when he appeared on Tim Berne's Diminutive Mysteries, dedicated to Hemphill. Sanborn's album Another Hand also featured leading avant garde musicians.


He has been a highly regarded session player since the late 1960s, playing with an array of well-known artists, such as Joe Beck, Donny Hathaway, Elton John, Gil Evans, Carly Simon, Guru, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Kenny Garrett, Roger Waters, Steely Dan, Ween, the Eagles, The Grateful Dead, the German singer Nena, Japanese pop star Utada Hikaru.[6] and Toto.

Sanborn has won numerous awards including Grammy Awards for Voyeur (1981), Double Vision (1986) and the instrumental album Close Up (1988). His solo recordings have often featured the bassist/multi-instrumentalist and producer Marcus Miller. He has also done some film scoring for films such as Lethal Weapon and Scrooged. In 1991 Sanborn recorded Another Hand, which the All Music Guide to Jazz described as a "return by Sanborn to his real, true love: unadorned (or only partly adorned) jazz" that "balanced the scales" against his smooth jazz material.[7] The album, produced by Hal Willner, featured musicians from outside the smooth jazz scene, such as Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Frisell, and Marc Ribot. His more recent albums include Closer.

In 1994 Sanborn appeared in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, also known as Daltrey Sings Townshend. This was a two-night concert at Carnegie Hall produced by Roger Daltrey of English rock band The Who in celebration of his fiftieth birthday. In 1994 a CD and a VHS video were issued, and in 1998 a DVD was released.

In 1995 he performed in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True a musical performance of the popular story at Lincoln Center to benefit the Children's Defense Fund. The performance was originally broadcast on Turner Network Television (TNT), and issued on CD and video in 1996.

Broadcasting activities

Sanborn has performed on both radio and television broadcasts; he has also acted as a host. Since the late 1980s he has been a regular guest member of Paul Shaffer's band on Late Night with David Letterman. From 1988–89, he co-hosted Night Music, a late-night music show on NBC television with Jools Holland. Following producer Hal Willner's eclectic approach, the show positioned Sanborn with many famed musicians, such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Sanders, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Lou Reed, Jean-Luc Ponty, Santana, Todd Rundgren, Youssou N'dour, Pere Ubu, Loudon Wainwright III, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Leonard Cohen, Was, and Curtis Mayfield. During the 1980s and 1990s, Sanborn hosted a syndicated radio program, The Jazz Show with David Sanborn.[5] Sanborn has recorded many shows' theme songs as well as several other songs for The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder.

More recent activities

In 2004, Sanborn was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[8]

In 2006, he was featured in Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band's album The Phat Pack on the track "Play That Funky Music", a remake of the Wild Cherry hit in a big band style. Sanborn often performs at Japan's Blue Note venues in Nagoya, Osaka, and Tokyo. He plays on the song "Your Party" on Ween's 2007 release La Cucaracha. On April 8, 2007, Sanborn sat in with the Allman Brothers Band during their annual run at the Beacon Theatre in New York City.

In 2010, Sanborn toured primarily with a trio featuring jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco and Steve Gadd where they played the combination of blues and jazz from his album Only Everything. In 2011, Sanborn toured with keyboardist George Duke and bassist Marcus Miller as the group DMS.



As leader

As sideman

With Stevie Wonder

With Mose Allison

With George Benson

With Bruce Springsteen

With Tim Berne

With David Bowie

With Gil Evans

With Eagles

With Bobby Hutcherson

With Billy Joel

With Hubert Laws

With Todd Rundgren

With Roger Waters

With Elton John

  • Idol[12]

With Paul Butterfield Blues Band


  • Legends: Live at Montreux 1997 (Released: 2005)
  • The Legends of Jazz: Showcase (Released: 2006)[9]



  • The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True (1995)
    Cast member in the TV stage musical
  • Scrooged (1988)
    Played a street musician
  • Sunday Night (1988)
    Was the host of this music show (later known as Michelob Presents Night Music)
  • Magnum P.I. (1986)
    Was guest saxophonist in the episode L.A.
  • Stelle Sulla Citta (1983)[13]




Gear list

  • Saxophone
    Selmer Mark VI Alto Saxophone[4]
    Manufacturer: Selmer
    Location: Paris, France
    Retail Value (approx): $6,000 (US)
  • Reeds
    Vandoren[4] V16 reeds
    Each reed lasts David roughly a week.
  • Mouthpiece
    A modified Dukoff D8 Metal Alto Sax Mouthpiece
  • Ligature
    A Harrison Ligature
  • Bell Jar
    To keep his reeds humidified without over-soaking them, David soaks the reeds in water in a bell jar. First he soaks them for a couple of hours in the jar, and then empties out most of the water so that the reeds won't get wet, but will still stay humid. He finds this technique extremely valuable.[15]
  • Microphone
    SD systems LCM89[4]

Personal life

Sanborn has owned two chihuahuas, Miles and Lucy. They reside in a brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City.[4]


  1. ^ a b  
  2. ^ a b c "Biography". Official Community of David Sanborn. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  3. ^ Yannow, Scott. "David Sanborn – Biography" from Retrieved May 21, 2011
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Himes, Geoffrey (November 2008). "David Sanborn: The Blues and the Abstract Truth". Retrieved December 6, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c Balfany, Greg (January–February 1989). "David Sanborn". Saxophone Journal 13 (4). pp. 28–31. 
  6. ^ "Sessions". Official Community of David Sanborn. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  7. ^  
  8. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame. "St. Louis Walk of Fame Inductees". Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Discography". Official Community of David Sanborn. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  10. ^ "Then Again: The Anthology - David Sanborn | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards".  
  11. ^ Thom Jurek (2015-04-07). "Time and the River - David Sanborn | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards".  
  12. ^ "Blue Moves - Elton John | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  13. ^ a b c d "Filmography". Official Community of David Sanborn. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
  14. ^ "Lethal Weapon (1987) Full cast and crew". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Artists using Sd systems". Official Community of David Sanborn. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 

External links

  • David Sanborn at AllMusic
  • Interview by Pete Lewis, Blues & Soul, September 2008
  • Interview,
  • David Sanborn at the Internet Movie Database

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