As I write this post, pianist Bob James and alto saxophonist David Sanborn are on the main stage at the Ottawa Jazz Festival along with drummer Steve Gadd (whom many consider the greatest living drummer) and rock solid bass player Scott Colley. They sound just fantastic as they tour in support of their terrific new CD, Quartette Humaine. The last time these two recorded together was in 1986 when they made the hugely successful album, Double Vision. I was 19 at the time and I bought Double Vision and played the heck out of it. But I haven’t listened to it in many, many years.
Back in ’86 they were put in the Smooth Jazz category, and they probably deserved it. Double Vision was a really good record for the time, but major label jazz releases tended to suffer from a bit of over-production (and sometimes a whole lot more than a bit). These guys could have gone down memory lane and stuck to that same slick formula that worked in the 80s. After all, nostalgia sells and their fans would have been just fine with that.
But they must have decided that a more straight ahead, Brubeckian sound made more sense now that they’re in their 60s and 70s, not their 30s and 40s. I’ve always been a huge fan of both players, but my smooth jazz days are about 25 years in my rear view mirror. I’m glad to see the same seems to be true for them. I know of a few thousand folks here in Ottawa who seem happy about it too.