Some of My Favourite Sax Players

By Russ:

A few people have asked me,  “Who are my favourite sax players?”  This is a tough question because I respect so many.  Being from the old school, TONE is one of the qualities that impresses me the most, followed by how they play – how they express their ideas through their horn.

Keeping the number down to half a dozen is not easy.  On the Internet you can find a list of the Greatest Saxophonists Of All Time (at least 100) and I am in awe of nearly every one of them, but here are a few I could listen to all day / night.

Surprise, surprise; I have left out Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Maceo Parker and a host of other giants in the saxophone world. You may tell me I am losing it, and that I have overlooked some great player whom you hold in much higher regard. That’s ok! I respect that.

It’s all about who I’ve been digging, and the circumstances around having discovered them, not to mention my personal taste. Anyway, to answer the question, here goes…

Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis

We have prepared a complete article about Eddie. To read and listen, please click  here

Paul Desmond

Born Paul Emil Breitenfeld, November 25, 1924, Desmond was an American jazz alto saxophonist and composer, best known for his work with the Dave Brubeck Quartet and for composing that group’s biggest hit, “Take Five“. He was one of the most popular musicians to come out of the cool jazz scene.

A complete article about Desmond has been prepared here

Paul Desmond with the Dave Brubeck Quartet / Take Five


Paul Desmond w/ Jerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck / All The Things You Are

Stanley Turrentine

Way back in the early 1960s, Turrentine came to my attention as the sizzling sax voice with organist Jimmy Smith on an album called Midnight Special.

Stanley Turrentine w/ Jimmy Smith / Jumpin’ Blues


Stanley Turrentine / Sugar


Julian “Cannonball Adderley

Julian EdwinCannonballAdderley (September 15, 1928 – August 8, 1975) was an American jazz alto saxophonist of the hard bop era of the 1950s and 1960s.

I was mesmerized by Adderley’s punchy, propelling style when I purchased the album shown below.

Here’s one of the feature tracks from that album / Jive Samba


Adderley is remembered for his 1966 soul jazz single “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” which was written by pianist Joe Zawinal.

Another great piece by him is called Work Song


Scott Hamilton

1979 Scott Hamilton

It was a sax student I was teaching back around 1988 that first turned me on to Scott Hamilton.

Born in 1954,  Scott emerged in the 1970s and at the time he was considered to be one of the few musicians of real talent who carried forward the tradition of the classic jazz tenor sax in the style of Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Zoot Sims, and Don Byas.  Initially playing in various rhythm & blues outfits in Providence (Rhode Island), he subsequently shifted to jazz.

1978 / Scott Hamilton / The Very Thought Of You


~1986 / Scott Hamilton / Maxine Sullivan / Just In Time / 52 min. concert 

Rusty Bryant

Royal G. “Rusty” Bryant (November 25, 1929 – March 25, 1991) was an American jazz tenor and alto saxophonist.

He signed with Dot Records in 1954 and released several albums as a leader in the second half of the 1950s. In 1952, his live recording “All Nite Long” (a faster version of “Night Train”) became a hit R&B single in the U.S

With Richard “Groove” Holnes – Castle Rock

Rusty Bryant plays jazz / (37 minutes)

I hope you enjoyed my indulgence with this brief sampling of who I dig on sax. Thanks for listening.

– Russ


4 thoughts on “Some of My Favourite Sax Players”

  1. Morning Gary

    I don’t disagree that all the sax players that you have mentioned are excellent exponents of the instrument but, in the immortal words of John McEnroe, because of your omissions, “You cannot be serious”

    Where, on your list, are Herb Hardesty and Red Tyler from J&M. Where is Steve Douglas from just about every Phil Spector record, not to mention Peter Gunn. (forget Duane Eddy, just listen to the sax) Where is King Curtis from hundreds of numbers, not least Yayety Yak. Where is Rudy Pompilli.

    Take a listen to the ultimate baritone solo on Fats Domino’s Blue Monday and pay homage to Mr Hadesty.

    Listen to the opening bars of the sax on Jupiter C by Pat and the Satellites. The King dominates the studio. In that moment he is the centre of the universe. Turn then to the beauty of the solo on Reminiscing; the number that he wrote and gave to Buddy Holly.

    If you need to mention an almost unknown, how about Rob Lind of The Sonics. (Who, thankfully, have now re-formed). Hear his all out attempt to blow his sax to pieces on Bamma Lamma

    I don’t often chip in with unsolicited comments but you really do need to re-visit your list.

    Very best wishes


    Tony Bowman


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  2. I like all of your choices especially Paul Desmond, I have a great 33 vinyl of Nancy Wilson with Cannonball Adderley. You didn’t mention Stan Getz a tenor favourite of mine along with the great baritone Gerry Mulligan, I have some vinyl of them too. I have the great classic album of King Curtis, possibly the most prolific recorder of all the saxists.


  3. Gary and Russ
    Many you and your friends have a fun and safe MEMORIAL DAY.
    I agree with your choose of talented SAX players. My favorite and I always play these at my dance are “HAND CLAPPIN’ and Big Jay MCNELLY “PSYCHO SERENADE” dance floor stompers. I also play “TAKE FIVE” good drums and Sax.
    A grinding slow song I use is” SAX FIFTH AVENUE”

    Your 2 know your MUSIC
    HUGH “BABE” O’DFonnell


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