Internationally renowned American alto saxophonist David Sanborn has passed away at the age of 78 after a battle with prostate cancer. The 6-time Grammy award-winning saxophonist began playing the saxophone as a child on the advice of his doctor believed it would strengthen his weakened chest muscles and improve his breathing after Sanborn’s bout with polio at three years old. He began his music career at age 14 playing for the likes of Albert King and Little Milton before joining the Paul Butterfield blues band in 1967.

Although he played in various genres, Sanborn’s music has been described as jazz mixed with instrumental pop and R&B with news outlets describing that he “put the saxophone back into Rock ’n Roll.” As a session player, he has worked with the likes such as James Brown, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Aretha Franklin and countless others.

Sanborn recorded 25 solo albums over his lifetime with his most recent release in 2015 Time and the River. According to his official Instagram page, he had been battling prostrate cancer since 2018 but was able to maintain his normal schedule up until recently with future shows scheduled into 2025.

In February, Sanborn was awarded the inaugural Steward Center Lifetime Achievement Award in Excellence by Jazz St. Louis in his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Sanborn leaves behind wife Alice as well as many friends and family who loved and cherished him.

Take a listen to JAZZFM.91’s John Devenish’s profile on Sanborn on a episode of The Artistry Of…David Sanborn, released back in 2020.