[JPL] David Sanborn

Dr. Jazz drjazz at drjazz.com
Fri Aug 15 14:29:27 EDT 2008

  Once-stricken saxman: Music 'gave me my life'

    * Story Highlights
    * David Sanborn suffered from polio as child; playing sax a way to
      build wind
    * Sanborn has played with many, hosted own show in '80s
    * Saxophonist's new album is "Here and Gone"

By Shanon Cook

*NEW YORK (CNN)* -- Ask saxophonist David Sanborn to reel off a list of 
career achievements, and you'd better get comfortable. It's a long list.

Even /he/ looks surprised when he reaches the end of it, and quips, "I 
split the atom and cured cancer."

Sanborn's career spans jazz, rock, pop and R&B. He's played with Stevie 
Wonder, the Rolling Stones, James Taylor, David Bowie and Carly Simon -- 
just to name a few. He's won six Grammys, hosted the TV show "Night 
Music" in the early '80s and has performed with the bands for "Saturday 
Night Live" and "Late Night with David Letterman."

OK, so maybe curing cancer is a bit of a stretch -- but Sanborn is 
certainly no stranger to fighting his own health battles. Having 
suffered polio in his childhood, he says his mantra growing up was "Hey 
guys, wait up!" as he trailed his peers. At age 11, he took up the 
saxophone on his doctors' advice that the wind instrument would help 
build up his lungs.

Now 63, Sanborn has just released "Here and Gone" (Decca), his 23rd 
album. It's a sultry, bluesy nod to early influences Ray Charles and 
Hank Crawford, and features guest appearances by Eric Clapton, Joss 
Stone and Sam Moore. VideoWatch Sanborn play a few notes » 

Sanborn invited CNN to his Manhattan home to talk about his uneasy 
relationship with the sax, letting Eric Clapton play and sing, and why 
you probably shouldn't call his music "smooth jazz."

*CNN:* When you've been playing an instrument for many, many years as 
you have, do you ever get to a point where you ...

*Sanborn:* Hate it?

*CNN:* Well, that wasn't going to be my question, but ... do you?

*Sanborn:* Sometimes, yeah. But it's like hating your arm at a certain 
point, because [the instrument] is really supposed to be an extension of 

*CNN:* I was going to ask ... do you ever get to a point where the 
instrument no longer surprises you?

*Sanborn:* No. I'm waiting for that time. I think that goes along with 
discovering things as a musician and discovering new places to go. To 
me, the object of practicing is to allow you to play what you hear. But 
you're always hearing new things, so you never get to the end of it.

That's the great thing and the frustrating thing about music; you never 
really master it. Music is like an open sky. You know it's out there ... 
and there you are.

*CNN:* Is being a successful musician a pretty self-centered existence?

*Sanborn:* It's self-involved in that you have to go into your 
imagination and bring stuff forth. I look at the artistic process as 
like experiencing the world, channeling it through your personality and 
sending it back out there. That's the process. So it certainly is 
involving. And because it's coming from you, it's very "self," so you 
tend to get preoccupied. It's tough to be in a relationship with a 
musician, because it reads sometimes as this ego and self-involvement 
when it's really just concentration and focus.

That's a good excuse, at least. That's the cover we all use!

*CNN:* Is it fair to say that your instrument is always your first love?

*Sanborn:* It's more like it's a part of you. So it's not like it's this 
other thing that you love more than your mate. It's like saying, "Do you 
love your hand more than you love your wife?" Well ... yes and no.

*CNN:* You've said that making your new album, "Here and Gone," was a 
labor of love. How so?

*Sanborn:* Well, it was just going back to the kind of music that 
inspired me in the first place. Ray Charles, Hank Crawford, David 
Newman. And kind of getting back in touch with where I came from.

*CNN:* Eric Clapton ... is he a good friend of yours?

*Sanborn:* He's been a friend of mine for a long time. I asked him to 
sing on the record, and he said, "You mean you don't want me to /play/?" 
And I said, "Well, I didn't want to presume!"

He said, "Well, you know I kind of need to play when I sing," and I 
said, "Feel free." And he did a great job. He inhabited that song ["I'm 
Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town"].

*CNN:* Is it true that you don't like to consider yourself a jazz musician?

*Sanborn:* I just think those labels are not very helpful. It doesn't 
really describe what we do. I think music is an evolving, changing, 
beautiful thing that absorbs influences from everywhere. Jazz music by 
its very nature is just a conglomerate of a lot of different kinds of 
music. ... As you grow and develop as a human being and as a musician, 
you absorb all these influences from everywhere, and it comes out in the 
music that you play. To limit it to one category is not very descriptive 
and not very useful.

*CNN:* How do you feel about the term "smooth jazz"?

*Sanborn:* As opposed to lumpy jazz? I don't like the connotation, 
because it always strikes me as being like blood without plasma. It's 
like everything that you leave out. It's not what you include. Jazz 
music should be inclusive. Smooth jazz to me rules out a certain kind of 
drama and a certain tension that I think all music needs. /Especially/ 
jazz music, since improvising is one of the cornerstones of what jazz 
is. And when you smooth it out, you take all the drama out of it.

Music is important to me. It really gave me my life. Not just a way to 
make money ... but it gave me my /life/. And it's hard for me to think 
about it as wallpaper. And that to me is what smooth jazz represents. 
There's no easy answer to that question. I can give you a longer answer ....

*CNN:* No please don't ...

*Sanborn:* (laughs) Stop him!

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