Archive for david sanborn

2015 Jazz Grammy® Preview #3 – Best Instrumental Jazz Album

Posted in 2015 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2015 by curtjazz

In our third preview, we look at the nominees for the award that many consider the be the big prize in the jazz categories: Best Instrumental Jazz Album. As usual, the category is stocked with strong contenders but it is likely to come down to a race between two big names:

Landmarks – Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band (Blue Note)

Drummer Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band has recorded four albums in sixteen years. Each one of them has been outstanding. The deeply personal Landmarks, recorded mostly in Mr. Blade’s hometown of Shreveport, LA, is no exception. It’s stark in spots richly orchestral in others and very compelling. I wouldn’t mind to see them take home the award but I don’t think that it’s going to happen due, ironically to another project that features Mr. Blade.

Trilogy – Chick Corea Trio (Concord)

Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade came together on this 3 CD live recording from their world tour. The program includes jazz standards (Monk’s “Work”), classic Corea compositions (“Spain”) and even their take on Russian classical music (Scriabin’s Op. 11, No. 9). The trio is in outstanding  form and the musical performances are universally first-rate. I know that I complain a lot in this space about the awards consistently going to the legendary names but I can’t fight it on this one. Chick is most likely to win. The only thing standing in his way could be a super group with a number of big names in it. Their work isn’t as good but their names are almost as big.

Floating – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto)

Fred Hersch is one of the finest pianists of our time and Floating is more recorded evidence of that fact. This album found Mr. Hersch, bassist John Herbert and drummer Eric McPherson back in the studio after a few live discs. It’s as intelligent as any release of 2014 and the trio operates as a single, living breathing musical organism. It was on my list of the Best Jazz Albums of 2014 and it’s my pick for this award. But as we know, I don’t have a vote so the likely winner will be one of the two albums that flank it on this list.

Enjoy The View – Bobby Hutcherson, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco Featuring Billy Hart (Blue Note)

Bobby Hutcherson in his return to the label where he made some legendary recordings, accompanied by contemporary masters David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco and Billy Hart. I so badly wanted this album to be great when I first heard that it was coming out. Alas, it was only good. It has numerous high point but almost as many moments of mediocrity. Still, here it is, up for a Grammy today. Will it win? Very possibly, if the voters don’t do their usual rush to Corea, who is this case, is the better pick. Or maybe they will split the vote and leave an opening for Blade or Hersch…We will see…

All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller  – Jason Moran (Blue Note)

This is another album that I loved conceptually; that I wanted so much for it to be stellar and it turned out to be just “good”. Moran is a true student of the great Fats Waller and I love what he has been doing in trying to bring Waller’s music to a contemporary audience. Perhaps he was trying to do a bit too much for this record and something got lost in the translation. Oh well… Again, I would love to see Moran recognized for his musical contributions but giving him a Grammy for this album would be like when they gave Al Pacino an Oscar for The Scent of a Woman.

As for our unscientific and slightly cynical prediction:

Should Win: Fred Hersch

Will Win: Chick Corea

Up Next: Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

Album Review: Bob James and David Sanborn – Quartette Humaine

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , on July 10, 2013 by curtjazz

The following review first appeared in the July 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine

Bob James and David Sanborn

quartette humaine

QUARTETTE HUMAINE – OKeh Records 88765 48471 2 www.okeh-records.com You Better Not Go To College; Geste Humain; Sofia; Follow Me; My Old Flame; Another Time, Another Place; Montezuma; Genevieve; Deep in the Weeds

PERSONNEL: Bob James, piano; David Sanborn, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, sopranino saxophone; Steve Gadd, drums; James Genus, bass; Javier Díaz, percussion (track 9)

By Curtis Davenport

If the music that we once referred to as “Smooth Jazz” had its own Mount Rushmore, surely one of the albums on it would be Double Vision; Bob James and David Sanborn’s classic. It represented what was good about that oft maligned genre – yes the tunes were hook-laden but because of who was involved the musicianship was first rate. Double Vision still has a place in the collection of many people who would not be considered Smooth Jazz aficionados.

Believe it or not, it’s now been 27 years since Double Vision. Though James and Sanborn have occasionally crossed musical paths on other people’s projects, they had not recorded a follow up to that first extremely lucrative album. That changed when in December 2012, the duo got together again in New York to record the sessions that comprise Quartette Humaine.


Let’s get right to the point, those expecting this essentially to be Double Vision II, will be in for a surprise. To be honest, the musical landscape has changed considerably in three decades; Smooth Jazz is no longer the commercial titan that it was in the ‘80’s, which in many ways has freed musicians to pursue diverse creative pathways, as James and Sanborn have here. First: gone are the keyboards, synthesizers and guitars that were so popular 30 years ago. This is an all acoustic set – James on piano; Sanborn on sax, mostly his trademark alto; Steve Gadd has returned on drums and James Genus, of SNL Band fame, plays the acoustic bass. Second: due in large part to the instrumentation, the sound of Quartette Humaine is decidedly less slick than its predecessor, successfully walking a fine line between classic and contemporary jazz.
James and Sanborn said that they had in mind the work of Dave Brubeck (who ironically, passed away a week before these sessions) and Paul Desmond with their classic quartet, when they conceived this album. I think that it’s a very apt comparison. The sound they have achieved I liken to a present-day version of that great group – serious enough to attract many straight-ahead jazz fans but still accessible enough for much of the general public.


The album kicks off with a selection penned by James, which may have been intended as an overt tribute to Brubeck, “You Better Not Go to College”, a possible allusion to the fact that much of Brubeck’s early fame came from his numerous appearances on campuses around the country. This tune is my favorite on the album, with its light Brubeckian swing, propelled by Gadd’s brushwork and Genus’ insistent bottom. Over this bed we get James’ block chords and Sanborn’s alto, which in its trademark plaintive wail is completely different from Desmond’s “dry martini” sound, nevertheless, Sanborn manages to capture Desmond’s overarching humor. “Geste Humain” gives James a chance to remind us how great he is at playing a gorgeous melody. It sounds like an excellent outtake from a Fourplay album. “My Old Flame” is the only standard on the album; it’s taken at an easy shuffle tempo which fits the song and the musicians well. “Deep in the Weeds” is the most Double Vision-like track on the disc, a mid-tempo funk workout, with Sanborn blowing a hot solo over Genus and Gadd’s insistent beat. In fact, the unsung heroes of this album just may be the rhythm team. They set unique and consistently interesting frameworks that inspire the pianist and saxophonist towards doing something more inventive than conventional Smooth Jazz licks.

Quartette Humaine is a fine follow-up to James and Sanborn’s classic first meeting. It’s one of the best efforts by both leaders in a while and a great way to help revive the legendary OKeh Record Label.