JAZZ / Knee trembler: Phil Johnson on David Sanborn at the Town and Country, London NW5
Thursday 03 December 1992
The answer, it seemed, lay in the calculated moves of a ferociously capable backing band. While Sanborn was actually playing, the stage picture was as static as a tableau; when he finished his solo everything got busy: the drummer, Sonny Emory, juggled and twirled his drumsticks like a majorette; percussionist Don Alias acted as an all-purpose cheer-leader and guitarist Pete Brown roamed across the stage rifling off blues salvoes from the hip with the abandon of an energised Keith Richards.
However, although technically excellent, in the temporary but frequent absences of Sanborn the band threatened to start playing a kind of funk-by-numbers. The bass slapped, the Hammond organ swelled, the guitar stuttered and moaned; but without the leader's sax to join the dots into a convincing picture, it was all a little like marking time.
When Sanborn re-emerged, you could almost feel the temperature in the room rise. His great gift is his tone - so rough at the edges that it sounds sand-blasted. He plays with a lot of vibrato and specialises in high, wailing notes where the instrument seems to cry with emotion. Occasionally, he blows so hard on the reed that the note splits into a harmonic, creating the thick, funky chorus effect that is his signature. On old favourites from his latest album, Upfront, such as King Curtis's beautiful 'Soul Serenade' or the rousing encore of Joe Cuba's 'Bang Bang', Sanborn sounded wonderful. On the latter the performance suddenly caught fire: Sanborn doubled the time and unleashed a mighty solo as the keyboard played Cuban-style triplets up and down the scale.
Without a well-known tune to tamper with, Sanborn was less impressive. Despite the exertions of Brown on guitar and Ricky Peterson on keyboards, he didn't have a harmony instrument to play off in the conventional jazz manner. When he was playing, he was great but his solos were frustratingly self-contained, with little sense of real interaction with the rest of the band. It was very much like listening to the record, but with even less to look at.
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
- 2 Before you complain about your GP, this is what you need to know about actually doing the job
- 3 UK's biggest male rape charity Survivors UK has state funding slashed to zero despite 120% rise in men reporting sexual violence and seeking help
- 4 'Don't blame all men for rape' campaign backfires spectacularly
- 5 Charlie Charlie Challenge explained: not a Mexican demon being summoned — it's gravity
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Grace of Monaco film panned: Screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman as movie gets US debut
Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life
Suicide Squad: leaked footage shows first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky sparks outrage with misogynistic lyrics about Rita Ora in new song 'Better Things'
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'