is alto saxophonist David Sanborn's second straight release paying homage to one of his greatest and earliest influences, Ray Charles
. While some jazz purists may dismiss Sanborn as a slick TV personality and practitioner of smooth or pop jazz, he's always had firm roots in bluesy, R&B-based jazz, dating to his early days playing with the likes of Albert King
and the Paul Butterfield
Blues Band. And along with his more commercially calculated recordings, he's released some excellent straight-ahead, even experimental albums over the years, notably 1991's out-of-left-field Another Hand
(Elektra), which featured Sanborn in the company of Charlie Haden
, Marc Ribot
and Bill Frisell
, among others.
On Only Everything
, Sanborn is joined by a tight, small group featuring the hard-grooving organist Joey DeFrancesco
and the well-traveled drum dynamo Steve Gadd
. The addition of a four-member horn sectionBob Malach
(tenor), Frank Basile
(baritone), Tony Kadlock (trumpet) and Mike Davis (bass trombone)on about half the tracks gives the album a 'little big band' vibe that evokes Charles' 1961 Atlantic classic Genius + Soul = Jazz
Like its predecessor, 2008's well-received Here and Gone (Verve), Only Everything highlights the contributions of Charles' star saxophonists Hank Crawford
and David "Fathead" Newman
, both of whom passed away last year within days of each other. Sanborn pays tribute to his fellow saxmen here with a rousing take on Crawford's "The Peeper" and a moving treatment of Newman's signature tune, "Hard Times." Throughout, Sanborn's earthy, slightly tart alto and DeFrancesco's booming, soulful organ make a compelling pairing, with the often subdued Sanborn playing with unexpected fire and the flashy DeFrancesco showing some welcome restraint.
The album's two vocal guests have mixed results. Young pop-soul star Joss Stone has great chops, but tries too hard on "Let the Good Times Roll" while the always relaxed James Taylor fares better on a cool, low-key reading of "Hallelujah, I Love Her So."
Personnel: David Sanborn: alto sax; Joey DeFrancesco: organ; Steve Gadd: drums; Bob Malach: tenor sax; Frank Basile: baritone sax; Tony Kadlock: trumpet; Mike Davis: bass trombone; Joss Stone: vocals; James Taylor: vocals.