Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns

Ready for a little trip back into the vaults, kids? Back in 1991, Saturday Night Live saxophonist Lenny Pickett released this now super-obscure and hard-to-find album with his band, the Borneo Horns, which consisted of him and two other sax players (Steve Elson and Stan Harrison), plus a drummer and occasional additional horns. Now, while they’re hardly the only predominantly sax-based band that ever existed (see also: World Saxophone Quartet and one of our favorites, the skronk-tastic Little Women), they’re arguably the funkiest. A typical Borneo Horns joint sounds like a cross between James Brown, a New Orleans parade band and the theme music from Benny Hill. You can’t decide to whether to dance your ass off or laugh your ass off—and both are probably equally valid responses.

I was lucky enough to see the Borneo Horns in college back around the time the album came out (which I swear was in ’89, but Amazon.com has it listed as ’91 and I was admittedly drunk a lot back then) and let me tell you, they could rock it out. Pickett is mostly famous these days for those wailing high notes he squeezes out as that week’s SNL host bounds onto the stage, but he’s also got an amazing sense of rhythm and syncopation. He got his start playing in the horn section of funk band Tower of Power and that stuff is clearly in his blood.

These days, it’s hard to come by much information about the Borneo Horns, let alone their actual music. The one and only Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns album is out of print and will set you back upwards of $200 for a used vinyl copy. The blog Music Hertz has a good little piece about the album, and you can hear several Borneo Horns tracks on Lenny Pickett’s sorta cool, sorta annoying official website. But beyond that, the genius of the Borneo Horns has been mostly lost in the mists of time. Which really has me kicking myself, because I used to own a cassette copy of Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns and I have no idea where it is now. I purged most of my cassettes years ago, so it’s probably gathering dust in a Goodwill somewhere.

Fortunately, some kind soul did post this one Borneo Horns track on YouTube, so we can share some of Lenny’s funky magic here. Cooler than the SNL theme music, isn’t it?


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4 thoughts on “Lenny Pickett with the Borneo Horns

  1. Ed Buckley

    It was 1987 people! Manufactured by Carthage Records PO Box blah blah blah New Jersey © 1987 Carthage Records. Catalog number CGLP 7001 I bought this in J& R Music World in lower Manhattan when it came out. I have it sitting in front of me as I type. He also did something for sax and tape which I suspect was never released. I recorded it off the radio and have it laying around on a cassette somewhere. (Gotta find that-it was good!)

  2. Bon

    I have a mint version HNBL 1321 from Hannibal Records, London, 1987. It’s in my top 10 (out of 2500 LP’s I own). I would run back into a burning building to rescue this.

  3. wayne reynolds

    yes it was 89, not 91, maybe even slightly earlier than that. i was given a copy by the guy who ran the distribution company at the time. i may have vinyl or cassette somewhere, but i’m not sure where. i found your article because i was gonna search for this online . . .

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