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David Sanborn Doesn't Let Genres Define Him

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Thursday June 14, 2018

From The Columbus Dispatch

Saxophonist David Sanborn does’t let genres define himself or his music
By: Julia Oller

David Sanborn has six Grammy Awards, two dozen albums and a countless number of appearances as a session player, but he talks about his projects with the casualness of talking to his grandmother at a summer picnic.

Immersed in the jazz and blues worlds starting at age 14, when blues guitarist Little Milton invited the teen to play background bits in his band, Sanborn stuck with the saxophone despite the concerns of family members. They thought his path would be difficult, especially since he didn’t show signs of John Coltrane-level talent.

“I was the farthest thing from a prodigy,” Sanborn said. “I didn’t exhibit any of the qualities of someone you think would have any degree of success in music.”

Unlike traditional jazz players, who stuck to familiar time schemes and genre elements, Sanborn existed in the corners of the genre, embracing pop, blues and rock. The musicians who mentored him as a young man didn’t judge one style against another, Sanborn said, and he has maintained that mindset.

“It seems so arbitrary to be exclusionary,” he said. “If it’s good and you enjoy it, if it works and has some kind of integrity and you’re committed to doing it, what difference does it make?”

His openness to try anything led him to Wonder and Bowie, but Sanborn said he never had a strategy for furthering his reach. “It seemed like a series of accidents. … I see a continuity to it now,” he said.

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