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David Sanborn: Sound and Silence

By Published: May 13, 2009
AAJ: There are quite a number of guest names on this record, but the core band is amazing in its own right.

DS: The bassist is Christian McBride
Christian McBride
Christian McBride
and the drummer is Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
Steve Gadd
. Those guys, along with [guitarist] Russell Malone
Russell Malone
Russell Malone
guitar, electric
and [keyboardist] Gil Goldstein, have played with me on my last three records. The reason I chose these people in general is because they're willing to check their egos at the door and play in service of the music. You won't find a better drummer than Steve Gadd. He can do anything that any other drummer can do, and do it 10 times as good. But it's never about the flash with him. The same with Christian McBride. It's not about showing off.

These guys are so good that they play in service of the music because they know that's what's important. When you get guys at that level who can turn on a dime and play anything—it's not like "hey, get a load of me"—that's the mark of a real musician to me. When it's time to shine, they shine, and when it's time to make the whole thing move along, nobody grooves harder than these guys, whatever the idiom. Whether it's straight-ahead or funk or R&B or a ballad, they do it better than anybody.

AAJ: Who did the arrangement for "Basin Street Blues" on this record?

DS: Gil Goldstein. Gil did all the arrangements, but that's probably his most original arrangement.

AAJ: I love the fact that he used a Richard Tee-style Fender Rhodes electric piano all throughout the arrangement, which I wouldn't have thought of, but it's absolutely perfect. He sounds like a guy with an amazing ear for what fits, even if it's not what you might expect.

DS: It was a conscious choice on our part to use the Rhodes, because it was a way to blend the texture in with the rest of the horns, aside from me just totally loving the sound of the Fender Rhodes. It's kind of a brother sound to the Hammond B-3 [organ], which is my favorite keyboard sound ever. The B-3 and the Rhodes—there's a kind of softness but percussiveness to the sound. And the blend is so effective.

AAJ: When you were first discussing the concept of this record with Gil Goldstein, were you talking about the "little big band" idea?

DS: Absolutely. That's where it started with us. I said, "This is the kind of sound that I want for this record." For me, the ambiance of this record is a good place to start. How the whole thing came about was that I had been re-listening to a lot of early Hank Crawford from the 50s and 60s, and I was just struck by how much I love that music and how much it affected who I was then and who I am now as a player. I wanted to do this now. I wanted to pay tribute to Hank and connect to the essence of that music that inspired me to want to play in the first place. And I wanted to acknowledge Hank while he was still around.

AAJ: One of the great things about a decision like that is that everybody has heard of Ray Charles, but far fewer people have heard of Hank Crawford. That's not because fewer people should have heard of him, but because that's how it is when you're the saxophonist.

DS: That's how it goes. He and David "Fathead" Newman
David "Fathead" Newman
1933 - 2009
sax, tenor
—who was probably a little more ubiquitous in terms of solos with Ray—those were the two guys. It was Ray singing and then a sax solo, and that was always Fathead. You know, Ray played the alto. I talked to Ray about Hank and Fathead, and he said, "Yeah man, Hank made me stop playing the alto. Because I would get up there and when I heard Hank play, I decided 'I've got to stop playing.'" And Ray was a good alto player. He was an effective alto player. But he recognized the genius of both of these guys. He was way into them and he was way into being a jazz player.

AAJ: I would urge people to seek out this record and to seek out Hank Crawford, too.

DS: Absolutely. That's one of the things I hope to accomplish with this record is to have people be aware of who Hank was and who he is. He's an extraordinary musician and he's done some amazing things. He made a series of records with an organ player named Jimmy McGriff
Jimmy McGriff
Jimmy McGriff
1936 - 2008
organ, Hammond B3
that are definitive soul organ records. Amazing records.

Selected Discography

David Sanborn, Here & Gone (Decca, 2008)

David Sanborn, Closer (Verve, 2005)

David Sanborn, Time Again (Verve, 2003)

David Sanborn, Inside (Elektra, 1999)

David Sanborn, Songs From The Night Before (Elektra, 1996)
David Sanborn, A Change of Heart, (Warner Bros, 1990)
Bob James, David Sanborn, Double Vision, (Warner Bros, 1986)
David Sanborn, Close-Up, (Reprise, 1988)
David Sanborn, Backstreet, (Warner Bros, 1982)
David Sanborn, Voyeur, (Warner Bros, 1980)
David Sanborn, Promise Me the Moon, (Wounded Bird Records, 1977)
David Sanborn, Hideaway, (Warner Bros, 1976)
David Sanborn, Taking Off, (Warner Bros, 1975)

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Decca Records

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