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.
- Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis – tenor
- Paul Desmond – alto
- Stanley Turrentine – tenor
- Julian “Cannonball’ Adderley – alto
- Scott Hamilton – tenor
- Rusty Bryant – tenor
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
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
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 Edwin “Cannonball” Adderley (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
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
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.