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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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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.
If you don't include him, isn't that a self fulfilling prophecy?

I mean, I am all for Dexter Sonny and Stanley but I take Coleman Hawkins over Stan Getz any day. But then, the outcome just shows again the power of the elevator jazz populace :cool:
 

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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.
Yeah, I realize they aren't necessarily classified as jazz musicians, and I'd agree that Jr Walker was not really a jazz player. However, I consider "blues/soul" to be a foundational aspect of jazz and King Curtis could and did play what most would call jazz as well as blues (again, blues to me is the essence of jazz). Most of the jump blues sax players of the '40s & '50s were jazz musicians. With the caveat that labels tend to be deceptive or subjective and often too limiting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #146 · (Edited)
Just in case you missed it ... 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. Homer Louis "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.
 

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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.)
This thread is about the all-time best jazz tenor tone. Removing Illinois and Ike (another player with a unique and beautiful sound) because of not getting much votes must be because of lack of knowledge (or changed tastes!). So I think it's time for some extra jazz tenor history lessons here on the forum!

Dexter (1923-1990) and Jacquet (1922-2004) are from the same generation and both played tenor in the early 40's in the famous Big Band of Lionel Hampton. Jacquet got most of the tenor solo's, mainly because of his sound and popularity with the audience (think 'Flying Home'). He was also one the biggest influences on most Rock & Roll tenor players that came up in the late 40's and 50's and had a very long career, so you can't call him an obscure player. Ike (1918-1963) died much earlier and can be called a bit obscure, but Jacquete for sure not.

But music says more than a thousand words, so here are some clips that might hopefully bring some awareness here:



The next clip is a very special one. It has Dexter and Jacquet in the same setting playing 'Flying Home', Jacquet's old hit record from the 40's (with Dexter sitting next to him). In this 1979 concert (I was in the audience at age 17!). At 2:50 both tenor man already enjoy playing some old 40's riffs under the solo of Budd Johnson (another player who could be in the list). Dexter starts his solo (at 3:14) quoting the famous Jacquet solo from the 40's and makes a bow towards Jacquet at 3:22, (you see all the other players laughing in the back, because they all now the tenor jazz history). Jacquet blows everyone away sound-wise in his solo at 6:50 on his old 40's Otto Link Tone Master, that was the mouthpiece of Dexter in when they played in the Lional Hampton Big Band (they swapped mouthpieces while being in the band):


Here is Dexter playing in 1943 on the old Tone Master he got from Jacquet a few years earlier (his solo starts at 3:20). For me he sounded better here than later in his career (still heavily influenced by Lester Young):

 

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Discussion Starter · #152 ·
This thread is about the all-time best jazz tenor tone. Removing Illinois and Ike (another player with a unique and beautiful sound) because of not getting much votes must be because of lack of knowledge (or changed tastes!). So I think it's time for some extra jazz tenor history lessons here on the forum!

Dexter (1923-1990) and Jacquet (1922-2004) are from the same generation and both played tenor in the early 40's in the famous Big Band of Lionel Hampton. Jacquet got most of the tenor solo's, mainly because of his sound and popularity with the audience (think 'Flying Home'). He was also one the biggest influences on most Rock & Roll tenor players that came up in the late 40's and 50's and had a very long career, so you can't call him an obscure player. Ike (1918-1963) died much earlier and can be called a bit obscure, but Jacquete for sure not.

But music says more than a thousand words, so here are some clips that might hopefully bring some awareness here:



The next clip is a very special one. It has Dexter and Jacquet in the same setting playing 'Flying Home', Jacquet's old hit record from the 40's (with Dexter sitting next to him). In this 1979 concert (I was in the audience at age 17!). At 2:50 both tenor man already enjoy playing some old 40's riffs under the solo of Budd Johnson (another player who could be in the list). Dexter starts his solo (at 3:14) quoting the famous Jacquet solo from the 40's and makes a bow towards Jacquet at 3:22, (you see all the other players laughing in the back, because they all now the tenor jazz history). Jacquet blows everyone away sound-wise in his solo at 6:50 on his old 40's Otto Link Tone Master, that was the mouthpiece of Dexter in when they played in the Lional Hampton Big Band (they swapped mouthpieces while being in the band):


Here is Dexter playing in 1943 on the old Tone Master he got from Jacquet a few years earlier (his solo starts at 3:20). For me he sounded better here than later in his career (still heavily influenced by Lester Young):

I love both of them. It's just a matter of votes. And these guys did not get as many nods as the others mentioned (Christlieb, Washington) in this and the original thread.

If I had my druthers, I would leave the poll as is. Hard choices here. Probably should have two polls -- one with old school and another with modern players.
 

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This thread is about the all-time best jazz tenor tone. Removing Illinois and Ike (another player with a unique and beautiful sound) because of not getting much votes must be because of lack of knowledge (or changed tastes!). So I think it's time for some extra jazz tenor history lessons here on the forum!
Thanks for this great post. I had not heard of Ike Quebec, and he is unique. I had forgotten about Illinois Jacquet and the whole spirit of his playing. I used to listen to him also.

In the dark school also is Charlie Rouse, who played with Monk many years. I used to listen to him a lot.

A lesser known but great player on the brighter side is Curtis Amy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #154 ·
The poll has an inherent flaw in that many (most?) people have not actively listened to everyone on the list, hence their preference is shaped by the lens on their history.

Ex. You cannot appreciate Stanley Turrentine if you've never listened to him.
So...still waiting for your response -- did you see Stanley Turrentine live, or not? :unsure:

If so...details, please.... We love these old stories.... :D
 

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This thread is about the all-time best jazz tenor tone. Removing Illinois and Ike (another player with a unique and beautiful sound) because of not getting much votes must be because of lack of knowledge (or changed tastes!). So I think it's time for some extra jazz tenor history lessons here on the forum!
+1. Thank you mrpeebee for your post and those clips! 100% agreement on my part.

If it was possible to wear out a CD, my copy of Ike Quebec's "Heavy Soul" would be long since worn out.
 

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Thanks @mrpeebee for that post. I agree that polls like this help to bring awareness of some great players to the audience, like Jacquet, who is probably one of the lesser known players.

At the same time, with all due respect, trying over and over to base quality ratings on quantity of nods is just fundamentally wrong, not even statistically sound.

But, to each his own :sleep::sleep::sleep:
 

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If I had my druthers, I would leave the poll as is. Hard choices here. Probably should have two polls -- one with old school and another with modern players.
I don't think that having two pols (one for old-school and one for modern-school) would be a good idea. The current pole is about the 'all time best jazz tone' and 'all time' should be about all schools IMO. For me the defintion of 'tone' is independant of school (old or modern).

Pete Thomas says this about it on his website (>source<:
  • Tone: you can think of this as the “raw” unprocessed sound of your saxophone.
  • Sound: this is the end result after you have used your technique as a musician to manipulate the tone into something that an be more personal or expressive.
Accepting this as good definitions means that 'Tone' is independant of school and 'Sound' is dependant on school (and personal taste). An important factor for me to judge about tone is also how easy/difficult it is to produce that tone (or come close to it) yourself.

With modern players you often hear a generic 7* sound without a real unique stamp on it, which is not too difficult to come close too (meaning not exactly equal, but close). Some of the older school tones I tried to get into this discussion (Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Forrest, Johnny Griffin, Paul Gonsalves) are so unique and strong that it's almost impossible to come close to their tones, even if you would try that for a long time. I would love to sound like Cobb, but it's (for me, and almost everyone) impossible to reach that quality.

I think that in this thread most people don't have a complete overview of the complete jazz 'tone' tenor legacy (old- and modern school) and also interprete 'best' as what they like the best, which is actually more about personal taste than quality of the tone. If they hear a stronger vibrato it's old school and not good, even while most of the old-school tenor hero's could blow away the modern guys tone wise.

Difficult - probably impossible - to get this sorted out in a correct way. A better title for this thread would be 'Who has the all time best jazz tenor tone according to your peronal taste'!
 

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Discussion Starter · #158 · (Edited)
Difficult - probably impossible - to get this sorted out in a correct way. A better title for this thread would be 'Who has the all time best jazz tenor tone according to your peronal taste'!
Thanks for your insight. However, the part, "according to your personal taste," is really implied through the use of a "Poll," as in "Public Opinion Poll." Polls are inherently subjective and ask for respondents' personal opinions. ;)

Granted, the original 2005 (started by someone else -- probably long gone) did NOT use a poll per se, so yes, that stipulation probably should've been made.
 

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Pete Thomas says this about it on his website (>source<:
  • Tone: you can think of this as the “raw” unprocessed sound of your saxophone.
  • Sound: this is the end result after you have used your technique as a musician to manipulate the tone into something that an be more personal or expressive.
If tone is only the raw sound of your sax setup, everybody could have the same tone and anybody. "Achieving" the tone of your choice would like ordering a burger from the drive-thru. But we know individual physiology and conception of tone are equally important to the "raw" sound of an individual player as the sax "hardware". Jazz piano forums don't have opinion polls on who has the best tone, Chic Corea, Herbie Hancock, Dave Brubeck, etc (your preferred pianist). Yet, each of these jazz piano greats have a unique sound even if they were playing the same Bösendorfer, Steinway or Baldwin. So, this is how to think about who has the best sound: if you could choose the jazz saxophonist's tone for one of these jazz pianists to "play", who would it be? Let's stick to the more acoustic side of jazz and not Herbie Hancock's "Future Shock"
 
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If tone is only the raw sound of your sax setup, everybody could have the same tone and anybody. "Achieving" the tone of your choice would like ordering a burger from the drive-thru. But we know individual physiology and conception of tone are equally important to the "raw" sound of an individual player as the sax "hardware".
Doesn’t this go without saying? If nobody is playing the instrument, it makes no sound. I will amend the text to make it clearer that what I mean is when someone just blows into the instrument without any of the added expressive things such as dynamics, vibrato, articulation, growl... Of course that "raw" uneffected sound is often somewhat different from player to player, even for the same player as they adjust their embouchure.
 
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