For David Sanborn, it’s all about playing live

The le­gendary sax play­er has en­joyed a long and var­ied ca­reer. He'll be on the stage of the Keswick Theatre.

Dav­id San­born is per­haps one of the most com­mer­cially suc­cess­ful and in­flu­en­tial sax­o­phon­ists in Amer­ica today, highly re­garded for his many Grammy awards and re­cord­ings.

On tele­vi­sion, San­born is well-known for his sax solo in the theme song for the NBC hit drama L.A. Law. He also has done some film scor­ing for such films as Leth­al Weapon and Scrooged, among many oth­er things.

But for this man of mu­sic, there’s noth­ing like the thrill of play­ing to a live audi­ence.

“There’s a feel­ing of en­ergy you get from the audi­ence, be­cause when the audi­ence is really present and will­ing to par­ti­cip­ate in the ex­per­i­ence, there’s noth­ing like it. You give them en­ergy and they give it right back to you. It’s a great feel­ing,” said San­born, who will share his en­ergy on­stage at the Keswick Theatre in Glen­side on Thursday,  June 2.

The show is billed as the DMS tour, and be­sides San­born, it fea­tures oth­er fa­vor­ites like George Duke and Mar­cus Miller, men whom San­born has known for a long time and whose mu­si­cian skills he greatly ad­mires.

And when the audi­ence listens to the mu­sic these men will make, San­born said he hopes “they’ll be moved emo­tion­ally. I think that’s really what I want when I play. I hope they’ll be lif­ted out of their lives and go on a jour­ney in­to an­oth­er world, even for a minute.”

For San­born, the sax entered his life when he was just 11. He began play­ing it as part of his re­hab­il­it­a­tion from polio. Grow­ing up in St. Louis, the now 66-year-old San­born said he was al­ways drawn to mu­sic but nev­er be­lieved it would be­come such a huge part of his life and, ul­ti­mately, his ca­reer.

But all that changed as he began listen­ing to the in­com­par­able Ray Charles (when he was a teen, his fath­er took him to hear a live per­form­ance) and some of his sax­o­phone play­ers, namely Hank Craw­ford and Dav­id “Fat­ness” New­man, the band’s two-star sax­o­phon­ist.

“The great Ray Charles in­flu­enced me, as did Craw­ford and New­man,” San­born said. “These are the guys that made me want to play the sax­o­phone. They each had a voice of their own that was closely linked to Ray’s. It was a mix­ture of deep-coun­try blues, gos­pel and jazz.”

And soon, with love, tal­ent and de­term­in­a­tion, San­born began his up­ward move on the lad­der of suc­cess, ac­quir­ing a mu­sic­al voice of his own.

Un­will­ing to de­scribe the kind of mu­sic he plays, San­born said, “For­tu­nately, I don’t have to. I leave that up to oth­er people. So since I make no dis­tinc­tions, I can’t ac­cur­ately an­swer that. I op­er­ate all mu­sic­al works at the same time — jazz , gos­pel, rock ’n’ roll. I en­joy it all.”

Today, San­born him­self is a great in­flu­ence on oth­ers. He said he’s flattered, but would hope young mu­si­cians would also look to some of the people that in­spired him and made him real­ize he wanted to play mu­sic, look­ing at the whole spec­trum.

With many al­bums to his cred­it, his latest, Only Everything, is the second of San­born’s homage to the aes­thet­ic of Ray Charles, where he re­vis­its his roots with fresh per­spect­ive. The first of the series was titled Here and Gone.

“When people ask me what Ray and his mu­si­cians meant to me, I can only say ‘only everything.’ Ac­tu­ally, as far as my fa­vor­ite al­bums, I guess I could say what every­body else says, which is my latest work,” he said. “But for me, that’s true. The last two I made, both ded­ic­ated to Ray, are about the grat­it­ude I feel as I con­tin­ue with my own mu­sic­al life after fifty years.” ••

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