Musicians James, Sanborn hitting the road together for first time
Bob James says he and David Sanborn are not on a “crusade,” but both insist their current tour is making a statement about their musical direction.
Keyboardist/arranger James sounds proud when he talks about how this series of shows is taking them into clubs they might have been unable to visit during their pop-jazz days.
Alto sax star Sanborn is equally happy talking about the success of the tour and its “no-risk, no-reward” challenges.
They will bring that show to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, North Side, on Oct. 25, part of a swing that has seen them in clubs and festivals in the United States and Europe.
The tour is in support of their new album, “Quartet Humaine,” which is a long-awaited followup to their Grammy award-nominated “Double Vision” from 1986. The tour also puts them on the road together for the first time, even with the popularity of “Double Vision.”
“Back then, we were just so busy with what we were doing, we didn't hit the road after it,” says Sanborn, 68. “I think we were surprised what a hit it was.”
James agrees their careers in the mid-'80s made it tough to put a tour together. Sanborn was on the road steadily at that time with a band that filled halls like the Stanley Theater, now known as the Benedum Center, Downtown.
At the same time, James was doing a great deal of work composing, arranging and putting successful albums together.
But, he says, when they started planning “Quartet Humaine,” live performances were planned “even before we finished recording.”
They both are enjoying their days on the road.
“David and I challenge each other every night,” James says of their play.
Sanborn says James “is a great support player and a great soloist.”
While the tour represents a change in their business thinking, the performances — and the album — represent a change in their playing and musical direction. “Double Vision” was a heavily produced album with a smooth/funk style. “Quartet Humaine” is an all-acoustic outing with James and Sanborn being joined by drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus.
James, 73, says when they started discussing what to do, they suddenly realized their instrumentation was the same as the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet.
“Not that we are doing the same sort of music as Brubeck, but it means what the music represents is fresh and different for us,” he says.
He and Sanborn wanted to stay away from any “Double Vision” pop approach because “you can't go back,” James says.
They do some of the hits from “Double Vision” in these concerts, Sanborn says, but they do them in an acoustic setting and “really open them up.”
Both admit having some trepidation with some of the stops on the tour. Sanborn says they were cautious about playing at places focused on “contemporary jazz” where audiences might want “Double Vision”-like tunes.
But he and James agree the reaction — even in those venues — has been positive.
“It is almost like they have discovered they want something more than party music,” James says.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org