Sax on the Web Forum Archive / Alto Saxophone / Sax Music

User ID: 1864304
Jan 14th 3:16 PM
I am a sax novice - just rented my first sax last week and I am looking for a few good saxophonists to start listening to. I need to aspire to something. Any feedback would be appreciated.
User ID: 1759784
Jan 14th 4:18 PM
For Alto start with Johnny Hodges who was Duke Ellingtons sax player. He recorded on his own and also in many recordings with Ellington. I think he was with Ellington something like 50 years.

Many people will say that Charlie Parker was the greatest alto player and maybe the greatest sax player ever. I think he was a great innovator, technically brilliant musician, and superb sax player. For a beginner I'd say you should at least hear some Parker. Start with the Charlie Parker "with strings" album. The strings are a bit much but it's about the most accessible Parker stuff.

Just about anything Cannonball Adderly recorded is great, a little more accessible to contemporary ears, and worth listening to.

Listen to tenor too. My favorite is Ben Webster (who also played with Ellington for a while). He had a one of a kind sound with lots of subtones and vibrato.

Ellington also had a great tenor player named Paul Gonsalves. Any Ellington albums are worth listening too.

Paul Desmond is another alto player - some people think he didn't have that big of a sound, but he played on a lot of great recordings and I like his playing.

There were lots of brilliant tenor players.

Stan Getz had a great sound; I love his bossa nova recordings which are classics of modern jazz.

Coleman Hawkins. Sonny Rollins. Dexter Gordon. Of course John Coltrane - start with the Ballads album as it is more accessible.

Also Gerry Mulligan played baritone and was a great player who could really "swing." (Duke Ellington's baritone player - Harry Carney - was great too - see a pattern here?).

More current sounds - Stanley Turrentine, Michael Brecker, Joshua Redman.

I think its really worth listening to singers. It will teach you a lot about phrasing, timing, bending notes. My favorites of the "oldies" are Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holliday, Carmen MacCrae, Johnny Hartman (he recorded a great album with John Coltrane), Sinatra (more pop than jazz but great sense of rhythm and style). There are some really outstanding women singers in jazz today, Diana Krall, Karrin Allyson, Abbey Lincoln, to name a few.

I'm sure I left off a lot of great players.
Texas Red
User ID: 0060104
Jan 14th 4:32 PM
Don't forget the classical players. They will also inspire you and motivate you technically.
User ID: 1759784
Jan 14th 5:06 PM
I play in a concert wind band that has a classical repertoire and I use the classically oriented books like Klose, Ferling, Silvani Iasilli and others for developing technique.

I also like to listen to classical music mostly for the musicianship. But honestly, I don't care for saxophone as a "classical" instrument. For me, listening to classical saxophone isn't a motivator.

The best motivator for me is to get out and play with people. You've got to get past the basic beginner level to do that though.
User ID: 1864304
Jan 14th 11:55 PM
Thanks! That out to keep me busy for a while.
User ID: 9836983
Jan 15th 6:24 AM
Sherry, What a great list- we listen to the same players and singers. The only comment I would make is that Paul Desmond is a good one to listen to to get a great feel for phrasing. Personally I think Desmond is the best especially when you consider how much of the material he wrote.
User ID: 9836983
Jan 15th 6:26 AM
jscarbo, Go to and type in any of the names that Sherry listed. Almost all of their material is available on new or used CDs. I have had great luck buying used CDs from Amazon.
User ID: 1759784
Jan 15th 2:43 PM
I'm surprised no one mentioned that I missed Lester Young. Lester was a major influence on a lot of players and he made some great recordings accompanying Billy Holliday. He didn't have that deep rich tone of Ben Webster, but he had great lyricism and original musical ideas.
User ID: 9719083
Jan 15th 4:25 PM
I personally prefer Lester Young and Stan Getz on tenor and Paul Desmond on Alto. Billy Holliday and Lester Young made some great recordings in the 30's and 40's. Art Pepper was also a great player who is enjoyable to listen to.
User ID: 0784604
Jan 16th 3:00 AM
Grover Washington Jr. is a great recommend if those great players mentioned above are too 'jazzy' for you. And there's Gerald Albright, Kenny Garrett, James Carter and other great list of modern players you can look for. Good luck!
User ID: 0784604
Jan 16th 3:03 AM
One more thing. Kenny G's is also a good recommendation if you're planning to practice altissimo on your alto :)
Randy Pogi
User ID: 0916684
Jan 16th 7:47 AM
I always practice with classical pieces. It is where you developed your articulations, dynamics specially vibrato. Grover Washington Jr. has a classical background (listen to his CD "ARIA"). In my opinion if your very good with classical as a foundation, you can easily play jazz.

I like to listen to Paul Desmond (Take 5), Justo Almario and Gerald Albright.

Hope it help. ;-)