James, Sanborn quartet displays its distinctive sound
Bob James and David Sanborn have in their quartet an element that escapes most bands: a distinct sound.
Keyboardist James and alto saxophonist Sanborn brought their band to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side for two shows Oct. 25 and showed they are carving a new chapter in their long careers.
They have moved from the pop-oriented jazz that made them famous in the 1980s and now are touring in a mainstream jazz setting that has a strong identity.
Songs written by James and Sanborn have a great deal to do with creating that nature, but so does the sound — a sound that has some roots in jazz history.
In talking about the band at first concert, James mentioned when he and Sanborn decided to try an acoustic quartet, they noticed it would have the same instrumentation as the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Like the Brubeck band, this one gets its identity from a highly individual sax sound. Brubeck's Paul Desmond had briskness and precison and Sanborn has a reedy, rhythm-and-blues flavor that is identifiable in seconds.
The concert featured new works, ranging from Sanborn's pretty “Sofia,” written for his wife, to James's adventurous “Follow Me,” which also has a Brubeck connection in its odd time signature.
But the quartet also did acoustic versions of songs from “Double Vision,” a James-Sanborn album from 1987 that was a huge hit in its pop-jazz flavor. Now, however, they are taking tunes such as the over-produced “Maputo” and giving it new life in an acousit setting.
It gives Sanborn a change to dig into his R&B style and offer the sound that once let him fill big halls.
Sanborn also stood out in the new quartet material. On “You Better Not Go to College,” he threw in quirky quote from “Carriage With the Fringe on Top” during a long solo.
Only on “Geste Humain” did he seemed to stagger as his solo lost direction and stumbled to its close.
They are touring in with drum giant Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus, who provided some of the most creative solos of the night.
James also stood out all evening. His backup work was so big it had and orchestral richness, but he also put together restrained but inventive solos as on his own “Montezuma.”
He joked at out point about making a mistake on Marcus Miller's “More Than Friends.” But he then added he could get away with fouling up in jazz by saying he “intended to do that.”
It could have been an error, but listening to this band is no mistake.
Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7852.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Kelly Clarkson to play First Niagara Pavilion on July 19
- Ed Sheeran coming to Pittsburgh in May
- James Carter Organ Trio brings new energy, new metrics, new swagger
- Pittsburgh producer revives, re-airs an expanded ‘Motown 25 ’
- Saxophonist Carter proves he’s up to any musical challenge
- Pittsburgh Opera to offer 6 wide-ranging works in 2015-16
- Microtonal music festival goes off the beaten scale in Pittsburgh
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra to move in step with ballet music
- PLS Trio seems like more voices on ‘East River’
- Beaver Falls grad lands Ohio symphony post
- Aretha Franklin plans April show at Heinz Hall