Over the past six decades, star saxophonist David Sanborn has played Woodstock with bluesman Paul Butterfield, toured with Stevie Wonder and jazz innovator Gil Evans, collaborated with Paul Simon and James Taylor and recorded the famed solo on David Bowie’s “Young Americans,” all while releasing 25 albums of his own.
“I’ve been extraordinarily lucky, No. 1, that a lot of these situations have just kind of fallen into my lap as it were. I mean, I didn’t seek the gig with Bowie; as a matter of fact, I knew very little about him at the time. I don’t think many people in America really did unless you were a hard-core Bowie fan. … Michael Kamen, who Bowie had asked to be his musical director, was a friend of mine and Bowie was looking for a saxophone player or two, and he asked me to play,” Sanborn recalled.
“I loved working with Bowie. He was an extraordinary man, an extraordinary artist. … With James Taylor, somebody just called me: A guy that was producing a record in New York was friends of the guy who was producing one of James’ records in L.A., they heard me and decided I was right for this couple of tunes they were doing on James’ record. Flew out there and did it and became friends with James, went on the road with him a couple of years, opened for his band a couple of times.
“So, a lot of this stuff that happened for me happened like that, kind of hearsay, luck, being in the right place at the right time. My story is full of things like that.”
The six-time Grammy Award winner known for his genre-crossing music will perform in concert Tuesday at the University of Central Oklahoma’s Mitchell Hall Theatre.
Educational entertainment: Sanborn’s concert is the first date of the school year for UCO’s long-running Broadway Tonight series.
“Our jazz program is one of the top in the nation … so it’s a perfect complement for our jazz program,” Broadway Tonight Executive Director Greg White said. “Mr. Sanborn is going to do a master class while he’s here, so how do you put a price on it? You can’t. When he’s here, he’s going to perform to a packed house, and then he’s going to do a master class for our students. You can’t get much better than that.”
Although the 21st season features performances by three acclaimed acts, White said Broadway Tonight is about more than putting on shows. Each performer on the series gives a master class or works with UCO students in some way.
“That’s what it’s all about: those transformative experiences,” said White, who is also director of musical theater at UCO. “It’s community outreach, of course. … But I think that’s the beautiful thing about our series: It serves our students, (and) it serves our community.”
The 2018-19 Broadway Tonight series will ring in the new year with a Jan. 19 performance by versatile a cappella group Voctave.
“Many of them were the original Voices of Liberty from Epcot Center,” White said. “They’re incredible, and we’ve already had some of the a cappella groups in town … reach out to us. These people are rock stars to them, and they’re so excited.”
“It’s still that incredible work by this man who sort of popularized modern dance and revolutionized it,” White said. “We’ve had a lot of major dance groups here, but I think this is going to be like no other.”