David Sanborn's third album as a leader has him steering away from the N.Y.C. neo-bop, skunk funk, Seventh Avenue style he helped co-found with the Brecker Brothers band. That it is recorded in Miami speaks volumes about the sunny attitude and less jazz-oriented music he is fomenting. Guitarist/vocalist Hiram Bullock and emerging electric bass guitar star Mark Egan have something to do with this, but the extraordinary drummer Victor Lewis is the one who gives this music an R&B heft while also adding Latin flavors, like boogaloo on growth hormones. Keyboardist Rosalinda DeLeon, percussionist Jumma Santos, and four female vocalists help with the sexy Afro-Caribbean underpinning, while Sanborn plays his trusty St. Louis soul vibrato-drenched alto sax, and also experiments with sopranino sax and the lyricon. The album yields mixed results -- including some spectacular, fervent music, with the tamer sounds more likely to appeal to crossover or pop audiences. Clearly James Taylor is an influence on this music, as his guitarist Danny Kortchmar contributes tunes like the forgettable pop-funk of the title track with Bullock's vocals; "Stranger's Arms," where Sanborn painfully takes a shot at singing; and the band's not bad, slow, loping, Latin-tinged instrumental version of Taylor's "Benjamin." Bullock's two compositions are "We Fool Ourselves," reverting to the chunky, funky street-smart samba beat with Sanborn's rambling alto, though the singing is not helpful, and "The Rev," a slowed soul song more suited to the R&B aspect of the combo's demeanor. Then to the good stuff, as Egan's "Heart Lake" is a road song with Sanborn's sopranino paving the way via Egan's ostinato line after a spacy free intro. DeLeon's "Morning Salsa" is early tropicalia at its best, a fun tune that moves along briskly, but makes you wonder why the keyboardist was never heard from after this date -- maybe just a fling? Then there's "The Legend of Cheops," a stunning piece penned by Lewis that also showed up in the repertoire of Woody Shaw during the drummer's tenure with the trumpeter. Here it's charged with electricity from the wafting keyboardist and punchy, hip bassist, as Sanborn's swirling sopranino provides all the dynamism and depth he is capable of, while also negotiating some tricky key and time changes -- a memorable track for sure. While not as much a breakthrough as the two previous albums, Taking Off and Sanborn, Promise Me the Moon laid the groundwork for Sanborn to become a successful commercial money-maker and reliable production musician or soloist instead of the creative -- and at times innovative -- player hinted at in many instances here during the turning point of his career.
Promise Me the Moon Review
by Michael G. Nastos