If ever a musician needed a box set to document the full range of his numerous musical achievements, it's saxophonist David Sanborn. While achieving a Platinum album status only once, he has a total of eight Gold records to his credit, has charted in three genres as a solo artist -- jazz, R&B and pop -- and has played on legendary records ...
If ever a musician needed a box set to document the full range of his numerous musical achievements, it's saxophonist David Sanborn. While achieving a Platinum album status only once, he has a total of eight Gold records to his credit, has charted in three genres as a solo artist -- jazz, R&B and pop -- and has played on legendary records including Stevie Wonder's Talking Book, David Bowie's Young Americans (that's his solo in the title cut), and more. The two-disc Then Again, issued by Rhino, isn't that box, but it's a great step. Sanborn produced the set and selected and sequenced all 29 tracks, as well as offering commentary in the liner notes. This material was all recorded for Warner Bros -- or one of their affiliate labels -- between 1975 and 1995. Disc one is arranged chronologically; disc two, aesthetically. Don Grolnick's "The Whisperer" features a beautiful twin horn head by Sanborn and Michael Brecker. The former's solo simply sings over the top, turning it into something both lyrical and funky. "Lisa," from the commercial breakthrough album Hideaway in 1980, showcases his early balladic style and blues-inflected phrasing. The lithe groove of "Maputo" from Double Vision, recorded in collaboration with Bob James, is another highlight. Written by Marcus Miller, its songlike quality is underscored by Sanborn's instinctive engagement with the melody. The R&B side of the saxophonist is here, too, in Miller's "Chicago Song" and the boogaloo vamp on Joe Cuba's "Bang Bang." Disc two concentrates on Sanborn's diversity rather than his career trajectory. There are a couple of vocal cuts in "Back Again" with Michael Sembello, and the traditional "The Water Is Wide," with Linda Ronstadt. Musical adventures include bassist Charlie Haden's "First Song," with Sanborn in the company of the composer, guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and others from 1991's Another Hand. The standard "Try a Little Tenderness," featuring the saxophonist in the presence of Johnny Mandell's orchestration, offers another dimension of Sanborn as he renders soul through his horn with the elegance of a vocalist. The deeply funky "Snakes" from 1992's Upfront is included here; it is one of the set's highlights. Throughout, Sanborn proves over and over again that he is not only a highly skilled improviser and lyricist, but that his music is as much about poetic and emotional expression as technique. Then Again serves two purposes: it's an excellent -- if incomplete -- retrospective, and it's a stellar introduction to a musician for whom labels simply don't apply. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi