David Sanborn – Young Americans

While reflecting on the loss of David Bowie this week, I went back and listened through some of his work. When I got to this track, I couldn’t believe that I had never worked on it before! It’s such an iconic track for both Bowie and for Sanborn’s playing throughout.

I’ve heard people complain about Sanborn’s playing on this track – not that it’s bad, but that it’s too prominent throughout. I have to disagree somewhat, but I understand where they are coming from. I can’t fault David for this though, they probably just had him play over the whole track a few times in the studio, and then it was out of his hands. I would have done the same thing, assuming that they would use only a few bits and pieces here and there.

But there’s a lot of great playing on this track, and the transcription process also gives me plenty of time to sit and listen carefully to Bowie’s performance as well, and marvel over the energy and conviction that he delivers the vocals with.

The PDF covers the entire track – to the best of my ability…the saxophone is often low in the (busy) mix, and panned far to the left. So it can be hard to decipher exactly what’s going on, and even who’s playing what at times.

For the video, I included the opening solo, the second solo at the key change, and the ride out starting where the band comes back in after the long hold (midway through page 3 of the PDF). David’s altissimo work is flawless here. I’ve got to figure out how he does the A-G#-F# transition so smoothly. I’ve also got to work to get that high F# split tone back. I used to transcribe a lot of Sanborn in my college days (I’ll post some here soon) and I haven’t been playing enough of that style to keep it up.



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