Saxophone – what makes a player “great” – innovation, improvisation, inspiration!
I was mentioning to Mic that I was thinking of writing a post about great saxophone players. He immediately responded by saying -but what makes them great? I may not have thought enough about it but I started to try to sound knowledgeable. Well firstly, the instrument will make a difference to the sound, as well as the mouthpiece, type of reed and the player’s embouchure. Of course the technical mastery of the instrument including the ability to play in a range of keys both major and minor and various modes. The other players in a band will also make a difference -whether the percussionist drives the rhythm etc. However after all that is taken into consideration there are still other criteria, such as – innovation, improvisation and feeling as well as just pure unique ability and sometimes a touch of genius.
This post is just a taster of some of the great saxophone players…please comment if you have other suggested ‘greats’..
A good start – viewing and listening to some greats is the following clip, Bird, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins
The Bird in good spirits
some more rare footage of Bird, this time with Dizzie
Coleman Hawkins -Indian Summer
Colemand Hawkins -Quintet South of France Blues
Coleman Hawkins – Stoned – live 1962
What better way to introduce John Coltrane with ‘So what’ with Miles Davis -1959
The Trane playing soprano sax…
defining a players style…. Tenor saxophonist, Coltrane is known for his huge dark tone with clear definition and body. He made the high registers look like child’s play and was known for his split-note multi-phonics. There is no denying his skill as demonstrated in the virtuoso performance of his difficult “Giant Steps”. Giant Steps is generally considered to have the most complex and difficult chord progression of any widely-played jazz composition.
Giant Steps -John Coltrane
Now try the Trane playing with Stan Getz -such different styles (live in Dusseldorf)
This consummate musician had an amazing technique and could play anything on saxophone. As one musician said, it’s as though the saxophone was a direct extension of his heart. (quoted from the – saxophone.com)
Vintage film of Count Basie orchestra featuring Lester Young (1938)
Lester Young and Billie Holiday
So who else should we include in the ‘Greats’: