Friday February 17, 2017
From Ladue News
Persons of Interest: David Sanborn
By: Paul Brown
David Sanborn, in my opinion, is one of the most gifted, dedicated and celebrated saxophonists of our time. The music he makes has taken him on an incredible journey that started when he was growing up in Kirkwood. A 1963 graduate of Kirkwood Senior High School, Sanborn has gone on to win six Grammy Awards and to release 24 albums – eight of which went gold, and one platinum.
There are so many fantastic parts of Sanborn’s story that it was hard to figure out where to start or how to tell it – something apparently Sanborn himself can sympathize with. We both realized this when I asked him what I thought was going to be a simple question, about the kind of music he plays. Even though he’s known as a great jazz artist, he goes out of his way to avoid the connection.
“I don’t use that word,” he says. “I don’t put a label on my music. It seems so limiting. You’re better off not knowing what jazz is, because if you think you know what jazz is, you’re wrong; it’s gonna change on you. If there is anything that’s true about jazz, it’s that it’s always evolving.”
Amazingly, Sanborn’s musical career started because he had polio as a child. His doctors encouraged him to play the saxophone to help strengthen his lungs and chest muscles. He obviously loved to play. In high school, he says he met Bill Bay, who played the trumpet and was the son of a St. Louis music publisher. They had a band that played Glen Miller tunes at local dances. That experience led him to a chance to play with blues legends Albert King and Little Milton when he was just 14. In 1967, he joined the Butterfield Blues Band, and two years later, he found himself onstage at Woodstock. Although he doesn’t like to reminisce, I had to ask him about that iconic event in August 1969 when Max Yasgur’s farm became part of American counterculture and music history.
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