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For David Sanborn, it’s all about playing live

David Sanborn is perhaps one of the most commercially successful and influential saxophonists in America today, highly regarded for his many Grammy awards and recordings.

On television, Sanborn is well-known for his sax solo in the theme song for the NBC hit drama L.A. Law. He also has done some film scoring for such films as Lethal Weapon and Scrooged, among many other things.

But for this man of music, there’s nothing like the thrill of playing to a live audience.

“There’s a feeling of energy you get from the audience, because when the audience is really present and willing to participate in the experience, there’s nothing like it. You give them energy and they give it right back to you. It’s a great feeling,” said Sanborn, who will share his energy onstage at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside on Thursday, June 2.

The show is billed as the DMS tour, and besides Sanborn, it features other favorites like George Duke and Marcus Miller, men whom Sanborn has known for a long time and whose musician skills he greatly admires.

And when the audience listens to the music these men will make, Sanborn said he hopes “they’ll be moved emotionally. I think that’s really what I want when I play. I hope they’ll be lifted out of their lives and go on a journey into another world, even for a minute.”

For Sanborn, the sax entered his life when he was just 11. He began playing it as part of his rehabilitation from polio. Growing up in St. Louis, the now 66-year-old Sanborn said he was always drawn to music but never believed it would become such a huge part of his life and, ultimately, his career.

But all that changed as he began listening to the incomparable Ray Charles (when he was a teen, his father took him to hear a live performance) and some of his saxophone players, namely Hank Crawford and David “Fatness” Newman, the band’s two-star saxophonist.

“The great Ray Charles influenced me, as did Crawford and Newman,” Sanborn said. “These are the guys that made me want to play the saxophone. They each had a voice of their own that was closely linked to Ray’s. It was a mixture of deep-country blues, gospel and jazz.”

And soon, with love, talent and determination, Sanborn began his upward move on the ladder of success, acquiring a musical voice of his own.

Unwilling to describe the kind of music he plays, Sanborn said, “Fortunately, I don’t have to. I leave that up to other people. So since I make no distinctions, I can’t accurately answer that. I operate all musical works at the same time — jazz , gospel, rock ’n’ roll. I enjoy it all.”

Today, Sanborn himself is a great influence on others. He said he’s flattered, but would hope young musicians would also look to some of the people that inspired him and made him realize he wanted to play music, looking at the whole spectrum.

With many albums to his credit, his latest, Only Everything, is the second of Sanborn’s homage to the aesthetic of Ray Charles, where he revisits his roots with fresh perspective. The first of the series was titled Here and Gone.

“When people ask me what Ray and his musicians meant to me, I can only say ‘only everything.’ Actually, as far as my favorite albums, I guess I could say what everybody else says, which is my latest work,” he said. “But for me, that’s true. The last two I made, both dedicated to Ray, are about the gratitude I feel as I continue with my own musical life after fifty years.” ••

For times and ticket information, call 215–572–7650.

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