A blues cry has singed just about every note David Sanborn has blown though his alto saxophone during his prolific 41-year recording career. The intensity of his Hank Crawford-inspired soul-jazz solo approach was, however, often diluted on his 22 previous albums, which were geared toward the crossover jazz market. Now that crossover jazz has given way to an even more watered-down genre known as smooth jazz, the saxophonist has finally made the compromise-free CD his less-commercially inclined followers always knew he had in him.
Crawford's shadow and that of his onetime boss, Ray Charles, loom large over nine selections on Here & Gone. Although the horn section is a little larger than that of Charles' great small band of the late '50s and early '60s, pianist Gil Goldstein's charts nevertheless capture the fat textures that Charles and his musical director Crawford devised during that period by voicing a baritone sax at the root of the chords. Even the standards "St. Louis Blues," inspired by a Gil Evans arrangement, and "Basin Street Blues," modeled on Victor Feldman's piano voicings from Miles Davis' version, are given a classic Charles/Crawford twist.
Sanborn gets heavyweight help from a rhythm section comprising Goldstein, organist Ricky Peterson, guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Steve Gadd, plus one-track-apiece guests Wallace Roney, Derek Trucks, Joss Stone, Sam Moore, and Eric Clapton. Although Clapton plays some understated obbligatos and noodles nicely on the vamp, he is featured on "I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town" primarily as a vocalist. Producer Phil Ramone wisely keeps the instrumental focus on the passion and virtuosity of Sanborn's horn in what is one of the most inspired sets of blues and ballads, mixed with bits of bebop, to come along in ages. (Decca)
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