More than likely jazz purists with a built in aversion to any of those musicians noted for the accessibility of their music will come to the latest album, Time and the River, from alto sax crossover star David Sanborn with a readymade frown. Overly commercial, lacking depth, creatively meek—these are the complaints likely to be heard from the pushing the envelope crowd. They would be wrong.
Commercial success need not mean pandering. Accessibility need not mean dumbing down. David Sanborn puts out the kind of music that does perhaps the one thing needful for fine music: it sounds good. It’s the kind of music you want to listen to. It may not be intellectually challenging. It may not explore the borders of innovation. But over and over again, it is the kind of music you want to listen to. Indeed, if the definition of success is accomplishing what you intend to do, Time and the River is a smashing success.
Sanborn’s infectiously lyrical playing layers jazz lines with a bit of funk here, some R&B there, even a pop line or two. It is a style showcased on this album by the production of electric bassist, Marcus Miller and complemented by a grooving ensemble. Roy Assaf plays keyboards, Ricky Peterson, Hammond Organ. Guitars are handled by Yotam Silberstein and Nicky Moroch. Peter Hess is on horns and flute, Marcus Baylor, drums and Javier Diaz, percussion. Trumpeter Justin Mullens and trombonist Tim Vaughn play on several tracks.
The 9-song set opens with “A La Verticle,” the first of two compositions by French composer Alice Soyer. Its catchy rhythms and fluid lines provide a good indication of what is to come. Sanborn comes back later with some fine work on her “Oublie Moi.” Vocalist Larry Briggs guests on The Temptations hit, “Can’t Get Next to You,” and Randy Crawford does an impressive vocal on “Windmills of Your Mind.” Sanborn includes two of his own pieces, “Ordinary People” and a wrenching ballad,“Drift.”
Altogether, Time and the River, has David Sanborn doing the kind of thing David Sanborn does best—playing music you want to listen to.