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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For the big 4, (soprano alto tenor bari) name your favorite player(s) for each based off their SOUND alone, I like pepper adams in general best but Harry carney and Leo parker beat him out in sound for me for sure. Then, choose your favorite out of all of them! Make sure to explain why for each. Hoping to learn some cool players and hear professional opinions too.
For me:
Soprano: Bennie Maupin, Steve Lacy. Bennie maupin is a personal favorite of mine after I discovered his work on bass clarinet on bitches brew (when I was new to jazz I listened to all miles albums and then started listening to the artists on those albums leader work) and then his playing on Herbie hancock’s thrust, truly an excellent sound. Steve Lacy’s album “the straight horn of Steve lacy” is one of my favorite albums ever because of that super high and super low sax quartet sound. I feel like Steve lacy sounds so good because almost all soprano players are more fluent and originally on tenor but Steve lacy is definitely most known for his soprano playing.
Alto: Shafi Hadi, Sonny Stitt, Jackie McLean
Shafi hadi was an incredible player who was recorded very little, but his sound on those Mingus albums is super cool because you don’t hear much fufu breath alto player sound and I think he did it best. Stitt and McLean on the other hand appeal to the opposite spectrum for me, 2 very bright hard-boppers. McLean was known for playing sharp too and I definitely like that as a power move.
Tenor: John Coltrane and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis
Trane is considered by many to be the greatest saxophonist who ever lived, myself included despite his music being sometimes to electrifying to listen to all the time, but something I do not see discussed about him enough is his sound. For as firey and passionate as he would play his tone remained very even across all registers, and that tone happened to be very unique and fun to listen to. Lockjaw is a tenor player I wish more people knew. His album The Heavy Hitter is one of my favorites and his sound is just so quintessentially bluesy and fuzzy. Love it.
Bari: Harry Carney, Leo Parker
This one is so challenging for me because these two are so close in their sound. Harry carney was in my opinion the first dude to make the bari’s voice heard, instead of just the low subtle harmonic anchor for a big band sax section. Leo parker is super earthy and bellowing and I would have loved to hear him develop as a musician with blue note records, sadly he only had two albums with bnr before he passed.
Top favorite: So hard!!! Gotta be harry carney though. I currently only play bari and bass clarinet and I always come to that sophisticated lady recording pre long tones practice session for some tonal inspiration. Lockjaw came real close.
Leave your opinions below! Cheers mates :D

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S - Tom Scott
A - Cannonball
T - Benny Golson, but yes, a huge wink to Eddie Davis
B - Nick Brignola

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ss: Pharoah for sound, Jesse Sharps
as: Gary Bartz for sound, Cannonball
ts: Harold Land for sound, Dexter, b/c Trane transcends the instrument
bs: Pepper Adams for both

Pharoah had a beautiful soprano sound that was rarely recorded right (much like Ayler's tenor, actually). Jesse Sharps is a lesser known LA guy who is an absolute master of several reed instruments. He has great control and a beautiful, full sound on soprano.

Bartz has that unique cry that just hits me in the gut. Ignore the overly commercial stuff from ~75-86, but check out the stuff on either end, particularly I've Known Rivers and the stuff with pianist Barney McAll. Cannonball, for me, is it for alto. He had the facility, the sounds, the soul -- ALL of it. Who else could follow a Coltrane solo without batting an eyelash? (no slight to Bird, J-Mac, Benny Carter, or Hodges intended)

Harold Land, particularly post-Max, had such an incredibly beautiful tone. I love the stuff with Bobby Hutcherson the most. The Liberty Blue Notes and later, Xocia's Dance. Guy is totally underappreciated. Try playing some of his tunes (Ursula, for instance) and you'll understand. It's unfair to anyone to be compared to Coltrane, so I put him above the instrument, hence my choice of Dexter. Dex was just... I mean, perfect.

I enjoy Mulligan, later in particular. Leo, Carney, Sahib Shihab, and many others. But Pepper had that unique, ANGRY sound. And for facility + soul on that instrument, I don't think anyone touches him. Brignola and Cuber could rip those lines as well as anyone, but w/Pepper, I always felt he was hitting me in the forehead with his gut.

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Interesting to see how almost nobody votes Bird for alto when it comes to sound concept. I wonder if that is because the quality is so poor for most of his recordings. anways,

S - Trane
A - Trane
T - Trane
B - Trane?

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2,980 Posts
Oh Gawd - what a bloody aweful question - I hope Santa forgets your address...

S: Branford M. / J. Chalmers (Roxy Music)
A: Johnny Hodges / J. Chalmers
T: King Curtis / Paul Williamson (Melbourne Australia)
B: no opinion

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9,958 Posts
S Rahsaan Roland Kirk
A Arthur Blythe, Hodges, Jackie Mac, Sonny Criss
T Trane, Hawk, Sonny (Stitt AND Rollins), Rahsaan
B Bluiett, Carney, James Carter
BB Rollini, Harry Gold

Coupla fliers in there: Pete Brown on alto; Zoot 'n' Al on tenors, Bud Freeman in his later years, and who could forget Arnett Cobb!

You can see I like players with a strong robust compelling "crying" sound, not the more delicate Desmond/Prez/Cecil Payne school. Although for perfectly formed solos, Prez wins every time, his sound has never been as compelling to me as the Hawkins school. Not saying Prez wasn't one of the greatest of all time - he was! - but the thread was SPECIFICALLY about SOUND.

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Selmer SA80 Series II tenor
97 Posts
Anthony Braxton for his sound on alto?
I’m fascinated. Can you say why?
I always found him excruciatingly painful to listen to, with poor pitch control and bad support. Tell!
Admittedly, I hear what you mean about support, but there are some of his recordings that hit me in a visceral way. Like this one:
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