Even though he has been an outstanding side man for many artists, Sanborn has also continued to release his own albums. From his first album Taking Off to his last album Closer, he has tried to show his versatility in various styles of performance. His new CD Here and Gone, goes back to some of the people that have influenced him during his early years when he was first learning the sax.
David Sanborn says, "Here and Gone didn't start out as a tribute album. He says just by what the nature of the record is, it does pay homage to kind of where I came from. That was primarily from listening to guys like Hank Crawford and David "Fathead" Newman, who played with the Ray Charles Band. That being the kind of the source of my musical inspiration when I started, in a sense it is a tribute to them. "
Sanborn says he came up with the idea for Here and Gone by accident. He says, "I was downloading music onto my iPod and I came across some Hank Crawford CDs that I had carried with me on the road all the time that I listened to. I haven't heard them for awhile and I just found myself really being drawn back to more and more. Before I knew it, that seemed to be kind of where I was at that point trying to reconnect to the place where I started. Every once in a while, you kind of go back to the well and refresh yourself, recalibrate everything."
Crawford was a very influential musician for David Sanborn. He says, "Hank was the great saxophonist and arranger for Ray Charles in the 1950s and early 60s and his arrangements and playing were central to me in forming my ideas about what music was and should be. He had such a wonderful economy in what he did. He didn't waste any notes and there was nothing superfluous about his playing."
The blues is, not just for Sanborn, but for everyone, where the music starts. He says, "It's the root of all American music. It's influenced everyone's music, it's everyone's source. Because I was playing the instrument that I do and coming from where I come from, the southeastern region of the United States, that was where kind of all this music took root. Guys like Hank Crawford, who was from Memphis and "Fathead" Newman, who was from Fort Worth, were all kind of part of this music that was the well spring of not just jazz, but all modern American music."
The music that influenced David Sanborn in those early years was more down to earth. He says, "It was the more earthy, blues side of the jazz spectrum and that was the music that really influenced me the most. It was like Ray Charles. It wasn't jazz, it wasn't gospel, it wasn't R&B, it was all of that at the same time. These guys didn't think, "well, I'm going to play a little jazz, put a little R&B in it and a little gospel." This was who they were, this was their identity because this was the culture that they came out of. So the music they played reflected all those aspects. That was the music I first related to and I think it's always been at the core of the music I played wherever it's taken me."
Sanborn's Here and Gone reconnects the music that he liked in those early years, and brings what he has learned through those many years and makes it better. He says, "This music is alive, it's not a relic, it's not a part of the past. It's a vital, living, breathing art for that has a timeless quality to it because it reflects the real life. The qualities that the music has are universal and timeless."
Legendary producer, Phil Ramone, who David Sanborn has known for a long while, produced Here and Gone. Sanborn says, "What's great about Phil is that along with being an extraordinary engineer and producer, he was around in the early days of modern recording in the 50s and 60s with people like Tom Dowd at Atlantic, who pretty much invented modern, multi-track recording. Phil was right there and understands the whole evolution of the recording process. In addition to that, he's also a great musician. He was a child prodigy violinist and Quincy Jones' roommate when they were living in New York."
Sanborn says Ramone has worked with so many different people and knows this kind of music. "He knows where to put the microphones in the room, he knows how to record live instruments and he knows how to create an atmosphere that's conducive to musicians wanting to play their best. Knowing what the true nature of the music is, he understands how best to get it across using all the technology that's available today. It's kind of the best of both worlds with Phil."
David Sanborn likes working with Ramone because he works for the artist and not for himself. He says, "His ego does not extend to "Let me put my stamp on this record." He tries to help the artist realize their vision for the album and that's what his job is, a master facilitator. He's there to move the process along and to help people fully realize what they imagine what the music should sound like."
Sanborn also was able to get guitarist and singer Eric Clapton to help him out on Here and Gone. He says, "Clapton was to me and to so many others a master of music and particularly has an empathy and an understanding of the nature of what this music is. When I called him up about it, he was very gracious and said, "Absolutely I'll do it." It was funny because I said, 'Eric, would you consider singing on this record?' He said, 'You don't want me to play, too?' I said, 'Well, sure, but I didn't want to impose that.' He said, 'Well, I usually play when I sing.' I said, 'Well, by all means, don't let me get in the way.' He played great stuff on the record as well as singing amazingly. Eric really understands the character of what this music is and he understands how to tell that story."
David Sanborn was also surprised about one of the singers that helped him on the CD. He says, Joss Stone, is this young, barely in her 20s, singer from England, who sings like a 60-year old woman whose had a wealth of experience. Where does this voice come from? She sings with such wisdom and maturity and she immediately grasped what not only the song was about, but what the whole concept was about. I couldn't be any happier with her participation."
Sanborn also got Sam Moore from the R&B duo Sam and Dave to sing as well. "Moore, who's to me the Pavorotti of soul music, he's got an extraordinary voice, as strong now as it was 40 years ago," says Sanborn. "He just inhabits whatever song he's singing and he just got into this. He has the maturity and grace and wit to understand where the song was coming from that he sang "I've Got News For You" that really told the story."
David Sanborn also got some help from some great musicians, including Derek Trucks. He says, I knew him through his affiliation with the Allman Brothers and he's one of the most, if not the most, extraordinary guitar players to come on the scene in the last 20 years. He's just amazing, he's so focused and committed to music. Wallace Roney, who plays trumpet on "St. Louis Blues," he's kind of absorbed the essence of Miles Davis without being just an imitator. Miles was very interested in taking Wallace under his wing and help him to shape him and encourage him as a player. He's one of my favorite trumpet players and, to me, perfect for this record."
Sanborn takes his time in getting the right player for any of his projects. "Finding people to do the songs on any record or project," says Sanborn, "is like casting. You find the right person for the job. I feel lucky that I've got all the people that I thought would be exactly right for the parts."
David Sanborn has always been able to do what he wants when releasing a solo project. He says, "The artist should be allowed to make whatever music he feels sincerely in his heart he should be making. If you're doing something that doesn't feel truthful, than I don't know how you can do your best. You have to make music first and foremost that's an honest reflection of who you are. If you're not doing that, then you're selling cat food. I make the records that I want to make and when I play music, it's for me. I'm glad other people like it and I would hope that enough people would participate in that as possible. The bottom line is that I'm out there to please myself because that's the process with me. Unless you're striving to do something that's real and honest for you, then what's the point."
For the many years that he has worked, David Sanborn has earned the responsibility to be able to set his own guidelines and standards for any project he wants. Here and Gone continues that legacy of how he continues to do what he wants to do. We're all glad that what he does satisfies our need for great music from a great musician.