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Who has the all-time best (Jazz) Tenor Tone? Part II NEW 2021!

  • Dexter Gordon

    Votes: 38 26.6%
  • John Coltrane

    Votes: 22 15.4%
  • Sonny Rollins

    Votes: 19 13.3%
  • Stan Getz

    Votes: 30 21.0%
  • Joe Henderson

    Votes: 8 5.6%
  • Ben Webster

    Votes: 10 7.0%
  • Coleman Hawkins

    Votes: 5 3.5%
  • Don Byas

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • Houston Person

    Votes: 2 1.4%
  • Chris Potter

    Votes: 3 2.1%
  • Gene Ammons

    Votes: 13 9.1%
  • Albert Ayler

    Votes: 3 2.1%
  • Boots Randolph

    Votes: 6 4.2%
  • Joshua Redman

    Votes: 9 6.3%
  • Wayne Shorter

    Votes: 2 1.4%
  • Zoot Sims

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • Stanley Turrentine

    Votes: 19 13.3%
  • Ike Quebec

    Votes: 3 2.1%
  • Lester Young

    Votes: 5 3.5%
  • Michael Brecker

    Votes: 12 8.4%
  • Eric Alexander

    Votes: 6 4.2%
  • Johnny Griffin

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis

    Votes: 5 3.5%
  • Illinois Jacquet

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • Hank Mobley

    Votes: 2 1.4%
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Honestly, not to be too whatever but, I think people pick the traditionals sometimes out of not understanding what they really like as much as what they are “told” too like. I mean everyone has to like Brecker and Trans right? Such virtuosity... but seriously... when I was playing tenor my introductions were Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young. I didn’t know who Trane was until later. I knew who Joshua Redman was though. I knew Blue Lou and LP. I knew Brecker cause he was everywhere, and I did like him. Later on, I learned who Trane was and studied him but, honestly, I don’t know that I “liked” him until I didn’t feel like I had to. Ironically, I liked most of his soprano playing more. Then I heard Joe Henderson...
 

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So if we are all discussing the tone of the various named (and some named) individuals in the list, does this in any way confirm some measure of agreement that equipment is less the issue, and we should all cease the quest for the holy grail horn, mouthpiece or other item of gear?

(Or does this just, to the contrary, mean we must now start to compare the horns, mouthpieces and other gear of the various individual players?)

More to the actual point of the thread, I have not cast a vote (yet) in the survey as I find it difficult to determine which individual's tone is "better" than another's. It's easy to tell a tone you don't care for, but I find I enjoy most (though not all) of the named player's tones, just that I enjoy them differently. There is no one all-purpose tone. I don't mean that a player can't produce a consistent great tone in all he (or she) plays, just that there can be something wonderful in a lot of different peoples' tones. Just a different kind of wonderful. I find it hard to assign rankings.
 

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Nah, I think the issue is that we put too much emphasis on what everyone else’s “holy grail” is. Nice equipment does matter but, finding what works with you is more important than what works for someone else. Use what they do as a guide on where to start not the only possibility. If anything, lean on the people who do excellent work on mouthpieces and horns today. They can only help you make you be a better you. Regardless, it still and always had to come from you though.
 

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Since dark is where the pendulum was in the 1950's-1960's apart from Coltrane (and I would guess many here can remember the 1950s and 1960s) maybe that's why tones from that era are coming out at the top in this particular poll.
I think you'd have to add Booker Ervin to the brighter side of the spectrum in that era. Also Jr Walker and King Curtis. And probably more...
 

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If we are talking just strictly tone, I think Richard Elliot has an amazing tone! Maybe we can add some players that are currently performing as well.
We're not talking about smooth jazz players, we are talking 'bout best jazz tenor tone...smoothgroove set him straight!🗿:confused:
 

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Honestly, not to be too whatever but, I think people pick the traditionals sometimes out of not understanding what they really like as much as what they are “told” too like. I mean everyone has to like Brecker and Trans right? Such virtuosity... but seriously... when I was playing tenor my introductions were Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, and Lester Young. I didn’t know who Trane was until later. I knew who Joshua Redman was though. I knew Blue Lou and LP. I knew Brecker cause he was everywhere, and I did like him. Later on, I learned who Trane was and studied him but, honestly, I don’t know that I “liked” him until I didn’t feel like I had to. Ironically, I liked most of his soprano playing more. Then I heard Joe Henderson...
Since I have no formal training in music and only 2 years of lessons in early high school, I have no idea what is being taught...but my original sax teacher became a professor of saxophone at a major university. I got back in touch with him recently. He says many students now have not heard of Brecker and even Coltrane, and they are taught the early traditional players, as you say. What???? Given the drive and talent needed to succeed in music, this seems like a major disconnect!!! I would think anyone considering a career involving a saxophone should be a strong modern player before they even get to college, already having worked through these older styles.
 

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everyone has to like Brecker and Trans right?
No. I can't stand the tone of either nor the notiness style of play. I voted for Turrentine and Person. I much prefer their tone and their style of play. Turrentine's tone at times hints at Trane's tone but Turrentine's stays beautiful while Trane's is extremely annoying to my ear!
 

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I think you'd have to add Booker Ervin to the brighter side of the spectrum in that era. Also Jr Walker and King Curtis. And probably more...
For sure! Thanks for mentioning Booker Ervin, looked him up and listened. Definitely. And Jr Walker also, though more of a pop/R&B player, and King Curtis was more of a blues/soul player. There were certainly jump jive and rock players in the 50's with bright sounds.
 

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No. I can't stand the tone of either nor the notiness style of play. I voted for Turrentine and Person. I much prefer their tone and their style of play. Turrentine's tone at times hints at Trane's tone but Turrentine's stays beautiful while Trane's is extremely annoying to my ear!
Funny! There's no frowny face button -- only "Like". Useless interface.
 

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No. I can't stand the tone of either nor the notiness style of play. I voted for Turrentine and Person. I much prefer their tone and their style of play. Turrentine's tone at times hints at Trane's tone but Turrentine's stays beautiful while Trane's is extremely annoying to my ear!
There is Trane and there is Trane. Some of his stuff, I find annoying but there are some other pieces that just hypnotize me. Mike Brecker, I have a hard time to warm up to his tone and sometimes it feels like he just plays random notes but then he always manages to pull them back together. No question that he was a phenomenal player/musician but you have to listen to each phrase a dozen times until it becomes an acquired taste for lack of a better word. Not meaning to sound negative here because there are lots of others who completely fail at that achievement.
 

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There is Trane and there is Trane. Some of his stuff, I find annoying but there are some other pieces that just hypnotize me. Mike Brecker, I have a hard time to warm up to his tone and sometimes it feels like he just plays random notes but then he always manages to pull them back together. No question that he was a phenomenal player/musician but you have to listen to each phrase a dozen times until it becomes an acquired taste for lack of a better word. Not meaning to sound negative here because there are lots of others who completely fail at that achievement.
Their harmonic approaches are what blew me away when I first heard them, maybe 3 years after I started playing saxophone. Especially Brecker, who modernized Coltrane, while mixing with many other influences from R&B, soul, metal guitarists, etc. All of the tritone subs, b9, #9, #11, b13's, chromaticism, and other harmonic richness, coupled with his virtuosity on the instrument, rhythmic creativity and drive, and soulful ability to play pop/rock/funk/fusion as well as jazz at a very high level just took the saxophone to new places. A real power player. I do think you put it correctly when you say it can be an acquired taste. This advanced harmonic approach can sound dissonant and maybe not immediately pleasing. But there is a method to the madness, even though I believe Brecker made many of these substitutions by ear. I guess I've listened to almost everything available from him and nothing sounds out of place to me now. I remember not immediately liking his tone when I first heard it, but that faded quickly. I would be very proud if I could sound like him. I think it is much easier to imitate most other players.

I'm sure I'm boring many here by going on about Michael Brecker -- all of this is more or less obvious by now. I know most laypeople don't appreciate him, but it really surprises me to hear that many (some?) saxophone players don't.
 

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I do think you put it correctly when you say it can be an acquired taste. This advanced harmonic approach can sound dissonant and maybe not immediately pleasing.
It is legitimate to never acquire a certain taste. It does not make one less. Some of us love Turrentine's accessible (and arguably more popular to the masses style).

Just because Trane or Brecker are apparently more appreciated by elitists doesn't make the masses wrong or the elitists wrong. But Trane and Brecker to me are niche players in that they don't appeal to the masses but only to jazz elitists. Instead they epitomise why modern jazz is unpopular and niche.

By the way, I really enjoy Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" which I feel brilliantly captures the angst of the lonely. Many would find this track dissonant but I don't. For me, it is not whether Trane or Brecker are dissonant harmonically that concerns me. Rather their tone on any single tone is extremely annoying to my ear. I cannot understand why they did not spend more time on improving tone at the expense of their overdeveloped technicality. And the high speed of their notiness is also extremely annoying to me. I prefer melodic creativity with plenty of rests as punctuation. As another example, I love ChadLB's lush tone and I enjoy the melodic first two minutes or so of his ballads but I stop the recording as soon as his boring notiness starts and save myself from wasting the next 7 minutes of my life.
 

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@CliveMA My comment was meant to be in jest. As in, it seems like a requirement. Not that I don’t like or respect Brecker and Coltrane but, there is this almost expectation that you work with them and listen to them and they have to the be the pinnacle. Like saying personal style and opinion doesn’t matter. As for private lessons and whatnot and the education, it’s not just the scholastic that has pushed them. The same could be said in the alto world. Although, I do think the Parker is the man and a genius and I do enjoy listening to him, I tend to enjoy listening to Cannonball more. He was more lyrical. Take someone like Kenny Garrett. His playing is phenomenal and I have every one of his albums and have listened to them multiple times. After a while I realized that I didn’t actually “like” his playing as much. From a technical standpoint, absolutely; from a lyrical basis, most of the time I find him lacking. Coltrane falls somewhere in between for me. He has some fabulous lyrics and sometimes he throws paint at a wall.
 

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Discussion Starter · #136 · (Edited)
Wow, what interesting results after 130 responses at this writing.

Looks like Dexter is the undisputed King of Tenor Tone.

And as of 3pm Eastern on 9/11/21, it looks like the Current Top 10 is as follows:

1. Dexter Gordon (34 votes)
2. Stan Getz (25 votes)
3. John Coltrane (22 votes)
4. *Stanley Turrentine! (19 votes)
5. Sonny Rollins (18 votes)
6. *Gene Ammons (13 votes)
7. Michael Brecker (9 votes - tied for 7th)
7. Joshua Redman (9 votes - tied for 7th)
8. Ben Webster (8 votes)
9. Joe Henderson (7 votes)
10. Eric Alexander (tied for 10th)
10. Coleman Hawkins (tied for 10th)
10. Boots Randolph (tied for 10th)
10. Lester Young (tied for 10th)

*The Big Surprises (upsets?) in this 2021 poll, as compared with the original 2005 poll.

But WAT? Mr. T edged out Sonny for the number 4 spot for GOAT? Who would have ever thought?

So there you have it ... the best tenor tones of all time -- according to saxontheweb.net.

I still feel that everyone on this poll is worthy of inclusion and that it is a near perfect poll.

But if I had to do it over again, based on the results and comments, I would have done the following:

Removed:
  • Illinois Jacquet
  • Ike Quebec
(I feel they are probably from too long ago and just too obscure to include when people are demanding more modern players.)

Added:
  • Pete Christlieb
  • Grover Washington Jr.
Then I feel it would have been the most "perfect" poll possible, given the limitation of only 25 names.

But it's not over yet. This poll does not have an expiration date. So if you haven't voted yet, please do -- up to two choices per participant.

Have fun!
 

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Discussion Starter · #137 ·
BTW it looks like the judges were right on at the 1991 TM Competition, because those same three players placed in the same exact order in this poll -- at least in terms of their sound (which, let's face it, is more important than anything else).
 

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Wow, what interesting results after 130 responses at this writing.

Looks like Dexter is the undisputed King of Tenor Tone.

And it looks like the Pantheon of Players with the Best Tone now includes (in the order they placed):

1. Dexter Gordon
2. Stan Getz
3. John Coltrane
4. Stanley Turrentine!
5. Sonny Rollins

WAT? Mr. T edged out Sonny for the number 4 spot for GOAT? Who would have ever thought?

I still feel that everyone on this poll is worthy of inclusion and that it is a near perfect poll.

But if I had to do it over again, based on the results and comments, I would have done the following:

Removed:
  • Illinois Jacquet
  • Ike Quebec

(I feel they are probably from too long ago and just too obscure to include when people are demanding more modern players.)

Added:
  • Pete Christlieb
  • Grover Washington Jr.

Then I feel it would have been the most "perfect" poll possible, given the limitation of only 25 names.

But it's not over yet. This poll does not have an expiration date. So if you haven't voted yet, please do -- up to two choices per participant.

Have fun!
What, you still did not add Scott Hamilton ... Some people just don't listen- or should I say don't have an ear? :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #139 ·
What, you still did not add Scott Hamilton ... Some people just don't listen- or should I say don't have an ear? :cool:
Ha! I almost ignored this ... but, there are only 25 names possible for a poll, dude! 🤪

It it were 30, I probably would’ve included him. He just didn’t get as many nods — either in the original 2005 thread or this one.
 

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It is legitimate to never acquire a certain taste. It does not make one less. Some of us love Turrentine's accessible (and arguably more popular to the masses style).

Just because Trane or Brecker are apparently more appreciated by elitists doesn't make the masses wrong or the elitists wrong. But Trane and Brecker to me are niche players in that they don't appeal to the masses but only to jazz elitists. Instead they epitomise why modern jazz is unpopular and niche.
Sure. I like Turrentine also. Brecker did play on over 100 pop records and he was the tenor soloist on Saturday Night Live for a couple of years. Brecker quotes Turrentine as an influence.

By the way, I really enjoy Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" which I feel brilliantly captures the angst of the lonely. Many would find this track dissonant but I don't. For me, it is not whether Trane or Brecker are dissonant harmonically that concerns me. Rather their tone on any single tone is extremely annoying to my ear. I cannot understand why they did not spend more time on improving tone at the expense of their overdeveloped technicality. And the high speed of their notiness is also extremely annoying to me. I prefer melodic creativity with plenty of rests as punctuation. As another example, I love ChadLB's lush tone and I enjoy the melodic first two minutes or so of his ballads but I stop the recording as soon as his boring notiness starts and save myself from wasting the next 7 minutes of my life.
Interesting comment. I understand this view. I have heard that Trane would spend 8 hours straight playing a single scale, and by all accounts his tone was very highly developed and purposeful. I like Trane's sound on early ballads, as mentioned earlier, but his later stuff is a bit grating, though it is exactly what he intended to communicate (maybe with some drug influence). I also believe Brecker's tone is very purposeful and exactly what he sought. He did have to switch from a Link STM and Dukoff to a Guardala to reduce resistance due to problems with his (human) neck, and there was a change in his sound away from the meaty, gutsy Link character at first, until he developed more on the Guardala.

Personally, one of my goals is to play melodically. Ironically, I play more the way you describe. But as I develop more, I am able to hear the individual notes in fast runs and more able to appreciate how they fit together. Brecker's playing grabs my attention more than simpler styles and I just find it more interesting. If I were forced to listen only players up through the 1960's I would probably get bored and quit playing altogether. Except Charlie Parker and Sonny Stitt (on alto) would keep me going. Dexter is great. Interesting that Johnny Griffin is not on the list -- he has a very distinctive concept. I like what Sonny Rollins played in certain eras (Saxophone Colossus), which was innovative, but am not crazy about his sound or technique. In a sense he seemed to rebel against the melodic, less "masculine" voices that preceded, with a cowboy-like approach. I do think many jazz players care more about what they play than how they play it (this does not apply to Trane & Brecker), and their tone is a secondary priority.
 
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