He’s one of the biggest names in contemporary jazz. David Sanborn’s sax appeal has won Grammy Awards, entitling him to play with legends, host TV shows, appear in movies, tour the world and still somehow managing to score a couple of wives along the way. Here’s how Sanborn, smooth jazz saxophonist, fits into the illustrious history of jazz, world history and pop culture…
1945: World War II ends. In jazz, “cool” replaces “hot,” swing segues into bop, and players begin to dress like businessmen. Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie co-found Bebop. John Coltrane is drafted and plays clarinet with the Navy Band in Hawai’i. Miles Davis graduates high school and moves to New York, where he enrolls in Julliard at his parents’ request. David William Sanborn is born in Tampa, Florida.
1948-56: Ten thousand people die in an Iranian flood. Jazz is impacted by the introduction of LP recordings and Latin music, drummer Art Blakey returns from Africa as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina and pianist Bud Powell drinks a lot. Ornette Coleman gets beaten up and his sax destroyed in Baton Rouge, LA, allegedly because locals think his music is too weird and they’re tired of musicians stealing their chicks. A Dixieland revival, Cool Jazz and drugs run rampant. Rock and roll is born. Sanborn contracts polio at the age of three and picks up playing alto saxophone in St. Louis, Missouri, as part of his rehabilitative therapy.
1957-66: NASA launches chimps, then humans, into space. Coltrane kicks his heroin habit by locking himself in a room at his mother’s house with nothing but cigarettes and water, then releases Blue Train. Jimmy Smith and Thelonious Monk are huge stars. Sonny Rollins quits the Miles Davis group and goes solo. Billie Holliday dies. Free Jazz, Modal Jazz, Soul Jazz, Black Rights and the hippy culture are brewing. Latin Dance Jazz and “The Girl from Ipanema” boom. Eight tracks and fuzz boxes are invented. Before he finishes high school, Sanborn plays with jazz legends Albert King, Little Milton and Gil Evans. Sanborn gets married and has a son.
1967-74: President Lyndon Johnson barbeques a bunch of times at his Texas ranch. Coltrane contracts liver cancer and dies at 40. Rashaan Roland Kirk plays several saxophones at the same time. Miles Davis meets Jimi Hendrix; Jazz-Rock-Fusion breaks big. Herbie Hancock records the biggest selling jazz album in history. Sanborn moves to San Francisco, joins the Paul Butterfield Band, plays Woodstock, goes on the road with Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, and separates from his wife—but possibly not in that order.
1975-87: Clay Aiken is born. Hard Bop enjoys a revival, improvisational jazz guitarist George Benson and flugelhorn player Chuck Mangione go commercial, Gil Scott Heron raps, disco gets crazy and Elvis dies. The Sony Walkman is invented, the CD is introduced, Sade blends jazz with R&B and pop. Sanborn releases Taking Off (1975) and Hideaway (1980), then wins a Grammy for Voyeur (1981) and shows up in the Italian film, Stella Sulla Citta.
1988-96: In 1992, Bill Clinton is elected President and interviews his first intern. Cool Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker dies, supposedly by being pushed out of a hotel window. Guitarist John Scofield fuses Bop, Swing and Hendrix-like guitar playing, danceable Acid Jazz becomes popular, and blues god John Lee Hooker enters the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest performer (at age 69) ever to reach the top five on the charts. Ska develops from jazz and island music. Miles Davis works with Prince and Flavor Flav, then dies. Sanborn gets his second Grammy for Double Vision (1986), starts a variety TV show called Night Music, a radio show in New York, releases Pearls (1995) with a full orchestra, appears in the movie Scrooged and gets married to jazz journalist Rikke Loyd.
1997-present: Gas prices briefly dip below a dollar per gallon, then start soaring. Jazz becomes more popular again; a $27 million museum devoted to jazz opens in Kansas City. Neo-traditionalism and fusion divide American jazz, while new voices emerge from places like Norway, Hungary, Sweden and France. Sanborn tours with Eric Clapton, promotes Songs From the Night Before (1996), releases Grammy-winning Inside (1999), hosts TV show After New Years Eve, releases Essentials (2002), tours extensively and separates from his second wife, Rikke. Again, possibly not in that order. MTW