David Sanborn

Live at Montreux 1984

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This 1984 show might only have alto saxist David Sanborn's name on the cover, but it's as much a vehicle for his superb backing ensemble of the time. While all the members such as keyboardist Larry Willis, drummer Buddy Williams, and bassist Tom Barney take extended solos, it's late guitarist Hiram Bullock, caught here in his pre-solo career prime, who steals the spotlight away from Sanborn -- and everyone else -- multiple times during the set. The saxist was touring behind his Straight to the Heart album that also featured Williams and Bullock, so it's no surprise that three of this shows' seven tunes originate from it. Rickie Lee Jones makes a guest appearance singing "Autumn Leaves," (the saxist had appeared on her Pirates album) the set's quietest moment and only vocal. Even though Sanborn mentions she will return after the tune finishes, if she did, that didn't make it to this DVD. Bullock, who plays barefoot throughout, gets his own unaccompanied guitar feature about halfway through and uses the attention to prove his dexterity while playing on his back, roaming in the audience and dancing, the latter somewhat awkwardly but with lots of enthusiasm. Musically Bullock shifts from quoting tender passages from the lovely standard "Here's That Rainy Day" to raw funk, all in about ten minutes. There is no denying he is ready to be a frontman, and kudos to the far more reserved Sanborn for allowing him the opportunity to expose his talents without concern that he is hogging the attention, which he clearly is. Actually, all the bandmembers are nearly as talented and each gets time to strut their stuff, it's just that Bullock's hammy tendencies and showstopping talent naturally steal the thunder. Otherwise this is a smoking performance of Sanborn's energetic always skilled if somewhat slick jazz-fusion that is professionally shot and beautifully rendered in full surround sound. The 90-minute set is augmented by three tracks from Sanborn's 1981 debut at Montreux, with an entirely different group featuring bassist/producer Marcus Miller, vibe expert Mike Mainieri, and guitarist Robben Ford ripping it up for a short but sweet taste of that high-profile assembly. It helps make this DVD a required addition to the collection of any Sanborn fan or of '80s fusion jazz in general.