Blog » Favorite Saxophonists

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Approx. reading time: 7 minutesJanuary 18, 2014


In this blog I will share something about some of my favorite sax players with you … There are many great saxophonists that could have been in this article as well (like Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Art Pepper … to name a few) but, this is just a blog, not a book or something.

So, I will only write something about those sax players that had a special “impact” on me in this article!

You can click on the album covers for additional info about the albums.


The very first Jazz albums I ever listened to were the albums “VERY SAXY” & “COLEMAN HAWKINS ENCOUNTERS BEN WEBSTER” a present from my grandfather who copied those vinyls on casette tape for me, when I was 12 years young. Two years later, just after my 14th birthday, my other grandfather bought me a second hand saxophone …

Those albums might not be “Jazz Album Must Haves“, but they are special to me and have been the reason I fell in love with the sound of the saxophone, so they’re worth being mentioned in my blog. 🙂

Below a youtube with “Blues for Yolande” (a piece from the album “Coleman Hawkins Encounters Ben Webster”) and the piece “Body and Soul”.

To mention Coleman Hawkins in my blog about my favorite saxophone players is not just a “sentimental” thing though. Even if “the Hawk” is mostly known for being one of the prominent jazz saxophonists of the Swing era, he was a great source of inspiration for many important younger generation saxophonists, such as Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane, to name a few. 

Some Jazz music historians actually think that it was not Charlie Parker but Coleman Hawkins who made the first “steps” in the development of Bebop Jazz. If you have listened to the piece called “Body & Soul” (youtube above – on the right) recorded by Coleman Hawkins in 1939, you know why.

[ More on Wikipedia ]



Cannonball is still my all-time favorite alto saxophonist … his sound, his articulation, his timing … I simply love it.

The first piece I’d like to share, is called “One for Daddy-O”, from the (must-have) album “Somethin’ Else”. I could have picked any one track from that album, for example the best ever version of “Autumn Leaves”, according to yours truly. The second track I added is a piece called “Book-ends”, from an album called “Pyramid”. This is an awesome irregular Funk groove.

Naturally these two pieces are not enough to provide a full picture regarding Cannonball’s work. He “touched” on many different styles, like his album “Cannonball’s Bossa Nova” (as the title suggests an album with Bossa Nova’s), or the album “Soul Zodiac”, more of an experimental album.

[ More on Wikipedia ]



I always enjoy listening to Lou Donaldson, in particular his Soul-Bluesy & Latin-Funky grooves. His solos are tasteful, less is more … !

One of my favorite Lou Donaldson pieces “One Cylinder” is not available on Youtube, so I will pick another piece called “Alligator Boogaloo”, a live version in this case. Also from that album comes the piece “Aw Shucks!”, yet another soulful groove.

Years ago I was fortunate to see Lou Donaldson live at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

[ More on Wikipedia ]



In the late 60’s, Eddie Harries was one of just a few sax players that started experimenting with the “Varitone” pickup and effects unit, turning his saxophone into an electronic instrument. A piece I picked for this article with Harris using the Varitone comes originally from an album called “The Electrifying Eddie Harris”.But the version I picked is a live rendition from the Montreux Jazz Festival. The second track I selected, is a piece called “Do Like Eddie” from John Scofield’s (one of my favorite guitarists) album called “Hand Jive”. As for overall sound and groove, I feel they have found a perfect match.

[ Eddie Harris Official Web Site ]



Mobley is my all-time favorite Hard-Bop tenorists. I like his sound and love the directions he takes during is solos. Two of his albums, “Soul Station” and “Work Out”, are in my opinion absolute “Must-Haves” if you would like to build a proper Jazz collection.

From the album “Soul Station”, I have selected the piece “Remember”, and from the “Work Out” album, I have picked “The Best Things In Life Are Free”.

More on Wikipedia ]



My “relationship” with Coltrane’s music was not “love at first listen”, if I may phrase it that way. Perhaps because the first introduction to his music was that to his more “avant gardist-ish / free Jazz” work. Or, maybe at that time, I simply wasn’t ready and able to understand what he had to share with the world.

To be honest, I still prefer what people may consider his more “mainstream” work. That’s why I have selected “Blue Trane” and “My Favorite Things”…

[ More on Wikipedia ]



Charlie Rouse is one of the last additions to my collection of recordings of Jazz saxophonists. Till 2011 I had never heard of this marvelous tenorist. Great sound and timing … and a definite personal favorite since 2011.

The first song I selected is a live rendition of “Epistrophy” by (and with) Thelonious Monk. The second piece is called “Hopscotch” from the album “Two Is One”.

[ More on Wikipedia ]



Michael Brecker … amazing tone, articulation, phrasing, the “souplesse” … both in “mainstream” Jazz as well as with The Brecker Brothers, one of my all-time favorite Jazz-Fusion bands. Michael is for me THE sax player that has touched me most with his playing. In particular the piece “The Cost Of Living” actually made me shed a tear or two … only a select few musicians have moved me that deeply with their performance.

The tracks selected though, are not those mentioned above. The first piece is called “Delta City Blues”. When I heard Michael Brecker playing this piece live, I was blown away … The second track is of a live registration of The Brecker Brothers (Michael & Randy Brecker). Michael Brecker’s solo in the piece “Spherical” (at about 21:02) is just awesome. Besides being a master tenorist, Michael Brecker also played the AKAI EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) … watch Michael Brecker play EWI.

I am very happy that I have seen Michael Brecker perform live several times.

[ Michael Brecker Official Web Site ]



Joshua Redman has an amazing sound … I love the way he uses overtones in his play. Even though his more “mainstream” work is amazing, I do like his groovy stuff better, in particular his trio with Sam Yahel (Keys) and Brian Blade (drums), the line-up of the first track. On the second track you can hear the piece “Hide and Seek” by the Joshua Redman Quintet.

[ Joshua Redman Official Web Site ]



The reason why Branford Marsalis is in this blog article is not just because he’s a very good sax player. There is another reason, and that is that his Jazz-Hop project “Buckshot LeFonque” became (together with other projects like: Miles Davis’ “Doo Bop” album, Urbanator and JazzMatazz) a source of inspired for me to start making beats myself.

So, even though there are many more great “mainstream” Jazz pieces by Branford Marsalis that I could share with you in this blog, I have decided to just share two of my favorite Buckshot LeFonque pieces.

After the release of the first Buckshot LeFonque album (1994) they performed at the North Sea Jazz Festival, a concert I made sure I did not miss! 🙂

[ Branford Marsalis Official Web Site ]



Maceo Parker is in my opinion the absolute Funkiest alto sax player, in the more “traditional” Funky way. What makes him different then most Funk saxophonists, is that he times different. You can say he drives the band with his punchy phrasing, and is truly a one-of-a-kind saxophonist.

Even though he is most known for his “biting Funk licks”, the first track I like to share with you is one from the album “Roots Revisited”, my favorite Maceo Parker album. This album is a Soul-Blues & Swing “side-step” Maceo made in 1990. The second piece is the track “Let’s Get It On” (a Marvin Gaye original). This lovely version beats the original, but that might just be my opinion. Listen and judge for yourself. 😉

I am happy I have seen this living Funk Legend live a couple of times.

[ Maceo Parker Official Web Site ]



The first time I heard David Sanborn (I must have been 15 or so), was at my uncle’s place. He was a big “Jazz Rock” and Jazz-fusion fan and listened a lot to musicians and bands such as Tom Scott (saxophonist), Yellow Jackets, Weather Report, Lee Ritenour (guitarist) and David Sanborn. When I heard Sanborn music, I was amazed at the high tones (overtones) he could get out of his saxophone.

Later I found out Sanborn was not the first blowing harmonics, Earl Bostic (April 25, 1912 – October 28, 1965) did do so decades earlier, even more virtuous.

Years ago I was fortunate to see David Sanborn live at the North Sea Jazz Festival.

[ David Sanborn Official Web Site ]



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