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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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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.
I like how you separate tone from sound. Some comments seem to lack this differentiation and include tone and sound when making statements about their favored tenor saxophonist. It would be fascinating to discuss the attributes of Dex's tone to Lester Young or Micheal Brecker. How has tastes changed by comparing various tones.

It would also be interesting to consider the effects of technology on our perception on tone. Our perceptions of Lester Young's tone are limited by the technology used in his recordings. My tone is limited by my SM57 (modified with a Crimson Audio transformer) compared to a Royer. Ultimately, the recordings of a sax player is our shared common reference for their tone.

For our next poll on the best tenor sax tone, we will sample a multitude of tones from any and all the great ones, and record an original melody (to reduce implicit preference for the various flavors of jazz/popular music) from each set of player samples. All participants will use Sony MDR-7506 monitor headphones with a custom EQ set for individual hearing loss. ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #163 ·
It would also be interesting to consider the effects of technology on our perception on tone. Our perceptions of Lester Young's tone are limited by the technology used in his recordings .... Ultimately, the recordings of a sax player is our shared common reference for their tone.
To an extent, yes, but as I shared earlier -- I've seen/heard the following players in this poll live: Wayne Shorter (on more than one occasion in totally different venues), Sonny Rollins, Houston Person, Michael Brecker, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter and Eric Alexander, live.

And all of them sounded the same in person as they do on their recordings.

No surprises with any of them in this regard.
 

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To an extent, yes, but as I shared earlier -- I've seen/heard the following players in this poll live: Wayne Shorter (on more than one occasion in totally different venues), Sonny Rollins, Houston Person, Michael Brecker, Joshua Redman, Chris Potter and Eric Alexander, live.

And all of them sounded the same in person as they do on their recordings.

No surprises with any of them in this regard.
That's cool you have the reference of live performance that can inform your choice of preferred tone. Most of us rely on the limitations of recording technology in our judgments on tone. Or rely on a performance that didn't go so well. I didn't care for the Sonny Rollin's tone based on a live performance with a lousy mic and sound engineer. My perception of a young Jerry Bergonzi was totally based on the fact he didn't do "Take Five" like Paul. (It's OK, Jerry, I eventually grew up and still have the album you autographed with Dave.) We also don't have the advantage of hearing players, such as Lester Young, in pristine recordings made possible by modern recording equipment. Because of this, the poll numbers for some players' tone may be lower. The best solution is for all of us to meet at a nightclub and hear all the players with their best tone with their favorite sidemen, all acoustic:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #165 ·
That's cool you have the reference of live performance that can inform your choice of preferred tone. Most of us rely on the limitations of recording technology in our judgments on tone. Or rely on a performance that didn't go so well. I didn't care for the Sonny Rollin's tone based on a live performance with a lousy mic and sound engineer. My perception of a young Jerry Bergonzi was totally based on the fact he didn't do "Take Five" like Paul. (It's OK, Jerry, I eventually grew up and still have the album you autographed with Dave.) We also don't have the advantage of hearing players, such as Lester Young, in pristine recordings made possible by modern recording equipment. Because of this, the poll numbers for some players' tone may be lower. The best solution is for all of us to meet at a nightclub and hear all the players with their best tone with their favorite sidemen, all acoustic:)
Sounds good. That reminds me -- speaking of sidemen, when I saw Eric Alexander, his sideman on piano was Harold Mabern RIP. And when I saw Shorter (both times), his sidemen included Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade.

Not too shabby.
 

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And all of them sounded the same in person as they do on their recordings.
This can be the case for some players, but not for players with a real huge sound (Cobb, Jacquet, Lockjaw, Griffin, Willes Jackson, ...). Those made on me, when watched in person, an ever bigger impression than on the recordings.
 

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Sounds good. That reminds me -- speaking of sidemen, when I saw Eric Alexander, his sideman on piano was Harold Mabern RIP. And when I saw Shorter (both times), his sidemen included Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade.

Not too shabby.
Not shabby at all! Makes me envious, too. It’s been a long time since I have seen any of the greats. Last live jazz was Big Bad Voodoo Daddy a few years ago. While on a school choir trip, I sent my son to Birdland to deliver honey to a friend who played in the Afro-Cuban Latin jazz orchestra. He enjoyed a great performance and I got the t-shirt.

It’s definitely time to hear some live jazz!
 

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Discussion Starter · #168 ·
This can be the case for some players, but not for players with a real huge sound (Cobb, Jacquet, Lockjaw, Griffin, Willes Jackson, ...). Those made on me, when watched in person, an ever bigger impression than on the recordings.
I agree. But in a way, it's a wash because most of the players in the upper echelon we're discussing sound (or would have sounded) "big" in person -- except for maybe Benny Golson, who I saw a couple of times and had a quieter sound (granted, he was already up in years at the time). And I think you made a similar point about Joe Henderson.

Yes, obviously, there is something more organic about the sound of a top tenorman in the flesh. It almost has a physical presence that you can feel with your whole body, not just your ears, especially in a small, intimate setting.

As previously noted, I think Pharaoh Sanders was the epitome of this. His sound assaulted you -- even hurt your ears, so loud was it at times. Eric Alexander also comes to mind in this way. His sound hit you right between the eyes, filling the entire room in the process.

But generally, the sounds of the players I listed were generally the same as on recordings. I repeat -- no big surprises live (like, "Hey, that doesn't sound like the Wayne I know from my records!")

Maybe you should get a state-of-the-art, room-filling system and turn up the volume to more closely approximate what you heard? LOL I think we've all been listening to compressed youtube clips with earbuds for way too long!

BTW if you saw Lockjaw and Jacquet live, I am envious! I could have seen Griff in Chicago (he flew back from Europe to Chicago every year to play at the Jazz Showcase on his birthday), but alas, I did not. So that's two great players I could have seen, but just missed -- Mr. T and the Little Giant.
 

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I agree. But in a way, it's a wash because most of the players in the upper echelon we're discussing sound (or would have sounded) "big" in person -- except for maybe Benny Golson, who I saw a couple of times and had a quieter sound (granted, he was already up in years at the time). And I think you made a similar point about Joe Henderson.

Yes, obviously, there is something more organic about the sound of a top tenorman in the flesh. It almost has a physical presence that you can feel with your whole body, not just your ears, especially in a small, intimate setting.

As previously noted, I think Pharaoh Sanders was the epitome of this. His sound assaulted you -- even hurt your ears, so loud was it at times. Eric Alexander also comes to mind in this way. His sound hit you right between the eyes, filling the entire room in the process.

But generally, the sounds of the players I listed were generally the same as on recordings. I repeat -- no big surprises live (like, "Hey, that doesn't sound like the Wayne I know from my records!")

Maybe you should get a state-of-the-art, room-filling system and turn up the volume to more closely approximate what you heard? LOL I think we've all been listening to compressed youtube clips with earbuds for way too long!

BTW if you saw Lockjaw and Jacquet live, I am envious! I could have seen Griff in Chicago (he flew back from Europe to Chicago every year to play at the Jazz Showcase on his birthday), but alas, I did not. So that's two great players I could have seen, but just missed -- Mr. T and the Little Giant.
You make a lot of good points, but I can still assure you that the guys I listed for the impact on tone they had are really out of league compared to all the guys you mention.

I've also seen Dexter live and his sound is big, but he missed the fullness and hugeness I've experienced (multiple times) from Cobb, Lockjaw, Griff and Jacquet. Have also seen Pharaoh and he was loud and piercing (like John Coltrane, who I never saw), but more mic based and the tone quality was by far not as impressive as from my top of the list guys. The same for Getz, seen him multiple times and always left after a few numbers to go to another concert room because his high register biting tone and squeaks annoyed me (I saw most people during the North Sea Jazz Festival in NL, with over 10 concerts happening simultaneously, so always options to go somewhere else in case you didn't like a performance!). Also seen Mr. T., Eric Alexander, Benny Golson, Shorter and many others one or more times live, same story. All wonderful players with a good sound, but for me not as impressive tone-wise as some of the guys missing in the contest.

But again, let's just conclude that it's all a matter of personal taste and the results of this contest about best jazz tenor tone ever should not be taken to seriously. Most important is that we all enjoy the music and players we like to listen too, independent of the results of this (silly!) contest.
 

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Discussion Starter · #170 ·
Some more votes have trickled in...and the leader board has changed slightly.

As of 7PM EST on 9/15/21, the current Top 10 are:

1. Dexter Gordon (36 votes)
2. Stan Getz (27 votes)
3. John Coltrane (22 votes)
4. Sonny Rollins (tied for fourth, 19 votes)
4. Stanley Turrentine (tied for fourth, 19 votes)
5. Gene Ammons (13 votes)
6. Michael Brecker (12 votes)
7. Joshua Redman (tied for 7th, 9 votes)
7. Ben Webster (tied for 7th, 9 votes)
8. Joe Henderson (7 votes)
9. Boots Randolph (6 votes)
10. Eric Alexander (tied for 10th, 5 votes)
10. Eddie Lockjaw Davis (tied for 10th, 5 votes)
10. Coleman Hawkins (tied for 10th, 5 votes)
10. Lester Young (tied for 10th, 5 votes)
 

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Discussion Starter · #171 · (Edited)
OMG ... Looks like Getz is gaining on Dexter. He's now up to 30 votes! (But then again, Dex received another vote since the last update.)

How could there be any two tones so different ... and so distinct and recognizable?

I was reading up on Getz yesterday and didn't realize he died at the relatively young age of 64. From skimming a few sites it appears that drugs and alcohol did him in, as was the case with so many great musicians.

Well, technically cancer of the liver, but that's what many alcoholics and drug abusers end up dying from.
 

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OMG ... Looks like Getz is gaining on Dexter. He's now up to 30 votes! (But then again, Dex received another vote since the last update.)

How could there be any two tones so different ... and so distinct and recognizable?

I was reading up on Getz yesterday and didn't realize he died at the relatively young age of 64. From skimming a few sites it appears that drugs and alcohol did him in, as was the case with so many great musicians.

Well, technically cancer of the liver, but that's what many alcoholics and drug abusers end up dying from.
Or in the case of certain legendary sax players, heroin addiction. I have often wondered if somehow, heroin altered brain function in some way that contributed. Or more likely, it hindered, so that the greatest players would have been even more amazing. Certainly they would have lived longer.

If we assume that 10% of forum members have listened to and heard of all the players on the list, and 100% of players have heard of Stan Getz, eventually he will rise to the top of the list as more votes come in. My votes went to Brecker and Redman, but I can appreciate just about every player on the list.
 

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Stan Getz, ha ha. A true great, but a little ironic that a tenor player with an alto sound will get picked as the tenor with the best tone. Another assault on manliness that's going on in other areas these days?
 

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Stan Getz, ha ha. A true great, but a little ironic that a tenor player with an alto sound will get picked as the tenor with the best tone. Another assault on manliness that's going on in other areas these days?
He was more man than most, I suspect since he was noted as 'a nice bunch of guys..' .
 
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