As he has done on innumerable occasions, David Sanborn frames his trademark blues-drenched sound with a swath of irresistible rolling grooves on Closer, his second Verve offering. But the date -- featuring just-elemental-enough rhythm arrangements and harmonically savvy orchestrations by keyboardist Gil Goldstein -- has a hard-core jazz feel often absent from the alto saxophone icon's past sessions. That may be due to the presence of master jazzmen like bassist Christian McBride, vibraphonist Mike Mainieri, guitarist Russell Malone, traps-master Steve Gadd, and percussionist Luis Quintero, who help Sanborn to evoke the sophisticated, populist essence of late-‘60s Blue Note and early-‘70s CTI albums by such soul-and-funk-jazz pioneers as Stanley Turrentine, Duke Pearson, and Donald Byrd. Over a groove template more pan-African than funky, Sanborn digs into repertoire by early idols like Horace Silver ("Señor Blues" and "Enchantment"), Dizzy Gillespie ("Tin Tin Deo"), Ahmad Jamal ("Poinciana"), and Abdullah Ibrahim ("Capetown Fringe"). He emotes in heart-on-sleeve torchers like "Ballad of the Sad Young Men" and "You Must Believe In Spring" and complements the smoldering vocals of emerging star Lizz Wright on James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight." But yes, it's jazz: Modern but not "contemporary," effervescent but not "lite," Closer communicates without dumbing down.
Wonderful purchase. It is a gentle sound--not quite the soulless music of the 80s, but not quite Coltrane either. I find myself wanting it as background music when in a pensive mood--his breath control is remarkable, and I love the gentleness of the rhythyms. A must have for those looking to escape sans the use of Buddah Bar.