David Sanborn (born July 30, 1945) is an American alto saxophonist. Though Sanborn has worked in many genres, his solo recordings typically blend jazz with instrumental pop and R&B. He released his first solo album Taking Off in 1975, but has been playing the saxophone since before he was in high school. Sanborn has also worked extensively as a session musician, notably on David Bowie‘s Young Americans (1975).
One of the most commercially successful American saxophonists to earn prominence since the 1980s, Sanborn is described by critic Scott Yannowas “the most influential saxophonist on pop, R&B, and crossover players of the past 20 years.” Sanborn is often identified with radio-friendly smooth jazz. However, Sanborn has expressed a disinclination for both the genre itself and his association with it.
In his career, Sanborn has released 24 albums, won six Grammy Awards and has had eight gold albums and one platinum album. He continues to be one of the most highly active musicians of his genre.
Sanborn was born in Tampa, Florida, and grew up in Kirkwood, Missouri. He suffered from polio for eight years in his youth, and began playing the saxophone on a physician’s advice to strengthen his weakened chest muscles and improve his breathing. Alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, at the time a member of Ray Charles‘s band, was an early and lasting influence on Sanborn.