David Sanborn
" Live At Montreux 1984 "
Eagle Media

Blueswax 8
Rating 8

Hiram Bullock, Robben Ford and Elite Accompany Sanborn, (09/02/09)

David Sanborn is appropriately considered a jazz icon, but he has Blues roots, too. He played in the Paul Butterfield Band, but in 1984 he was just beginning to reach a wider audience. This 1984 concert was part of a tour promoting the then current album, Straight to the Heart, which would go on to win a Grammy. There are two separate performances on this DVD, one from '84, and three bonus tracks from '81. Both bands are filled with well known talent that add potent energy to the high-flying Sanborn. The '84 band consists of bassist Tom Barney who played with everyone from Miles, Aretha, and Santana to Matt "Guitar" Murphy, and more. Plus there's the always versatile and propulsive Buddy Williams on drums, Larry Willis' ultra hip keyboards, and the recently departed wildman Hiram Bullock on guitar. Rickie Lee Jones also makes an unmemorable guest appearance attempting to cover "Autumn Leaves."

The real highlights include; the opening (not to be confused with Freddie King's) "Hideaway" where a barefooted, crazed dancing and then somewhat slim Hiram takes a guitar solo that will transport you to another galaxy. The entire band is blazing, and Sanborn is raging from the get go. There are a couple smooth jazz entries: "I Told You So," and "Straight To the Heart" where the fast forward button came in handy even though the musicianship was strong. "Guitar Solo" is just that as Hiram gorgeously shifts through some jazz standards, plus a taste of "Bean Burrito" from one of his solo recordings.

Bullock then gets raunchy with a nod to John Lee Hooker and teases the ebullient crowd, lays down on stage playing his butt off, and it's so obvious he's enjoying the spotlight. Then its warp drive all over again as the band joins in segueing into "Rush Hour" that offers a tantalizing Fender Rhodes solo reminiscent of the Crusaders Joe Sample by Larry Willis. "Morning Salsa" introduces itself as a gorgeous ballad. Then things get interesting when Bullock sits down in front of the crowd and slowly broils this tune into rocking insanity. Not to be left out, Sanborn seizes the moment and starts trading riffs with Hiram who is now doing back flips, and, man, do they take this tune into the stratosphere before reintroducing the ballad- whew!

The encore "Smile" starts with Tom Barney's bass. Buddy Williams joins in, while Barney solos and slaps his instrument, taking up the tempo. Then, the entire band takes off fueled by an exuberant Sanborn, a dancing animated Bullock also starts to comp and madly solo. Larry Willis energetically takes a heady solo, too, and off to the races they go! Bullock attempts some duck walks as he explodes, then hands-off the feature spot to the bandleader who blows the roof off the hall.

An entirely different all-star band configuration backs Sanborn on the three bonus tracks also from Montreux, but from '81. Neil Larsen on various keys, Ricky Lawson drums, Lenny Castro on percussion, Mike Manieri on vibes, bass great Marcus Miller, and part-time Bluesman; a baby-faced Robin Ford on guitar. "Love Is Not Enough" opens this segment, and it's a breezy Brazilian kind of vamp that this band magically strides over, setting the backdrop for Sanborn to rip it up. Don Grolnick's "Lotus Blossom" is another pretty ballad, where Manieri's vibe solo is breathtaking in its simplicity, yet so very tasty.

This highly entertaining disc which is loaded with magnificent and insightful interplay closes with the same song it opens with "Hideaway" which burns similarly as this DVD's predecessor take. Check out a very young and extremely talented Marcus Miller's head-spinning bass solo, as well as Robben's ripping guitar break, which is then turned over to Sanborn who does what he does best, blowing his brains out!

If you dig this era's jazz-rock scene with performances by some of the best musicians of their time, you'll love this DVD. As for me, I would love to see and hear more of this fabulous ear candy.

Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: bob8003@yahoo.com

Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com