Nov. 25--Observing the unlikely yet remarkable chemistry between Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond, David Sanborn is left in awe.
"Paul was a lyrical player, and the way he would play off Dave's rhythmic, aggressive style, how that would actually work, was quite revelatory," Sanborn said in a phone interview last week.
So moved was he by the interplay between the two jazz icons that Sanborn, along with pianist Bob James, paid homage to Desmond and Brubeck, a longtime Wilton resident who died in 2012, on "Quartette Humaine," an acoustic jazz album released earlier this year.
The album marks the latest turn in the wide-ranging career of the Grammy Award-winning alto sax player, a musician whose credits range from the passionate, squealing sax solo on David Bowie's "Young Americans" to free jazz outbursts on Tim Berne's avant-garde "Diminutive Mysteries."
"I was never very big on boundaries," said Sanborn, who performs at Fairfield Theatre Company's Stage One on Sunday, Dec. 1. "My only idea in making a record was that it should tell a consistent story. Records need to have a beginning, middle and an end, and a consistency of tone and character."
For his upcoming performance, which is being underwritten by Fairfield-based Brody Wilkinson Attorneys and Counselors at Law, Sanborn will play a "wide variety of music that's more on the R&B side of the equation."
He will be joined on stage by keyboardist Ricky Peterson, guitarist Nicky Moroch, drummer Gene Lake, tenor saxaphonist Bob Malach and bassist Richard Patterson.
As usual, Sanborn won't settle on a setlist until the night of the show. It's that sort of unpredictability -- his willingness to throw listeners for a loop -- that has come to define his 30-plus-year career.
Starting out performing with blues musicians Albert King and Little Milton at the age of 14, Sanborn went on to become a sought-after session player for myriad artists of varying genres, including James Brown, Todd Rundgren and The Grateful Dead.
He embarked on a solo career in the 1970s, garnering praise -- and record sales -- for his R&B and smooth jazz compositions (a song from "Voyeur," his hit 1981 album, earned a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance). However, he wasn't afraid to explore other such sonic territory as progressive and improvisational jazz, pop, rock and orchestral music.
He might have been the ideal candidate to host "Night Music," a syndicated television series that ran between 1988 and 1990. The show featured an eclectic mix of musicians, from Eric Clapton and James Taylor to Sonny Rollins and Sun Ra.
The program gave Sanborn an outlet to explore his curiosity for many different styles and artists. He may be known for his smooth jazz stylings, but Sanborn has never been one to sit still creatively.
"I never had any sense that one kind of music was better than another," he said. "Good music is good music; it's an attitude that's stayed with me throughout my whole life."
Scott.email@example.com; Twitter: @scottgarg
Fairfield Theatre Company's StageOne, 70 Sanford St., Fairfield. Sunday, Dec. 1 7:45 p.m. $70. 203-259-1036, www.fairfieldtheatre.org.
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