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Double Vision Revisited: Bob James, David Sanborn, and Marcus Miller at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Double Vision Revisited: Bob James, David Sanborn, and Marcus Miller
Lakewood Civic Auditorium
Lakewood, Ohio
August 17, 2019

By the mid '80s, there started to be a major shift in the quality and focus of the music termed as jazz fusion. The genre had started in the late '60s with rockier strains popularized by groups like Tony Williams' Emergency and subsequently the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Eventually the rougher and more substantial strains of this style would be replaced by a significantly less compelling varietal that would ultimately be termed Smooth Jazz.

Even in the midst of these latter day changes, artists such as David Sanborn and Bob James continued to rally around music that was enticing to a wider audience while maintaining the most essential elements of jazz improvisation and the blues. The pinnacle of the pair's efforts would be the 1986 release Double Vision. The iconic album spent 63 weeks on the Billboard charts and eventually topped out at #50 on the Billboard 200. Winning a Grammy for best jazz fusion performance, jazz writer Scott Yanow called the album "one of the best recordings ever released under James' name."

Fast forward more than thirty years and both James and Sanborn committed themselves to a tour which would revisit their iconic album with the help of original partner in crime, Marcus Miller. The continued relevance of this music despite the large span of time since its initial release was a fact not lost on James when he quipped early on, "This music was created in another century, yet you're still here and we're still here."

A packed house cheered wildly as Marcus Miller and drummer Billy Kilson first hit the stage and established the groove for James' "More Than Friends." Sanborn and James would then join the fold, the former sitting up front on a stool and the latter fronting a rack of keyboard synthesizers. The moody "Moon Tune" showed off Sanborn's wares, his highly identifiable sound still as ballsy and soulful as ever.

Two beautiful ballad performances on the original album featured the late Al Jarreau. A former vocalist for the band Tower of Power and arguably one of their best singers, Larry Braggs filled some big shoes while flaunting his own style on heartfelt renditions of "You Don't Know Me" and "Since I Fell For You." Sanborn would spin a hilarious yarn in his introduction of his original "It's You," a chestnut that was first heard on the saxophonist's Voyeur album. Miller's "Maputo" might be the gem of the entire album and the group stepped up their game for a closing performance marked by James' two-fisted block chords.

Not content for things to be left right there, the crowd's rousing applause forced the first of two encores which found the group reaching beyond the footprint of the Double Vision album. Up first was the familiar "Theme from Taxi," which brought Larry Braggs back on stage in a version inspired by Cee Lo Green. That morphed into Sanborn's "Chicago Theme" and finally Bob's "Westchester Lady."

Still not satiated, the crowd brought back the group for an extended "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" that featured Braggs on vocals and bass and a dazzling drum solo from Kilson. Still at the top of their respective games, these kindred spirits proved that you can go home again. With the addition of Braggs and Kilson they updated some ageless music that remains a vital part of the jazz fusion cannon.

Photo Credit: C. Andrew Hovan
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