A man who’s considered one of the greatest saxophone players of all time brings his concert tour to Des Moines on Wednesday night. Critics say David Sanborn has played a crucial role in establishing the sound of contemporary jazz and instrumental pop. After nearly four decades of performing, the 60-year-old St. Louis native says he creates the music he believes in and never tries to second-guess what the wide and varied audience may like. “I’ve given up trying to predict what is either going to be a success or not. More often than not, the things that really have been successful for me have been total surprises.”
Sanborn says he’s unsure who his audience really is since sometimes it’s older people, sometimes it’s a lot of younger folks and it’s usually a mixture. He says he never tailors his music for anyone’s ear but his own. “That’s always been my approach. I try not to second-guess what I think people are going to like. I try to do something that I believe in and hope that as many people like it as possible. The thing is, you never know. Sometimes you can do stuff and say ‘people are gonna’ love this’ and nope, there’s no reaction at all and other times you put something out there and people go nuts and it’s like ‘What?'”
Sanborn has roots in the Hawkeye State. The Missouri native attended the University of Iowa during the turbulent decade of the 1960s but left before getting a degree to pursue what became a very successful musical career that’s taken him repeatedly around the globe. Sanborn says it was the early 60s so it was “before the real craziness hit” but says he loved Iowa City as he’s a St. Louis native which “certainly is not that far either geographically or in sensibility from where I grew up.”
Sanborn still considers himself a Midwesterner, even though he spends most of his time in New York or L-A when he’s not on tour. He says he has fond memories of Iowa and of Iowa City. Sanborn says the U-of-I is a teriffic school and has a great writer’s workshop program, adding, Kurt Vonnegut was in residence when Sanborn was in school there. He left Iowa for San Francisco in 1967 to join a rock-n-roll band, launching a career that’s spanned more than three-and-a-half decades. He plays Des Moines, Kansas City and Omaha this week on a tour that’s taking him all across the U-S and to several other countries, including France, Spain and Switzerland.
On this leg of the tour, Sanborn’s joined onstage by trumpeter and composer Chris Botti and their combined bands.