Recommended Listening


Like most saxophone instructors, I’m often asked for listening recommendations from students in my studio, during masterclasses or when giving clinics at schools.

First, making a list of recommendations is as subjective as it gets because there are so many noteworthy jazz saxophonists (living before and during our times) that any such list is sure to leave out artists worthy of consideration.

So, my list is geared to my current studio saxophonists and is intended for them to simply have a starting point. Even considering that it will take you quite a while to get through the music posted by this blog.

Recommended Process

I recommend that each artist is listened to thoroughly – meaning: buy several definitive recordings, study transcriptions of compositions and improvised solos, as well as actually playing along with their recordings to get as close to a “feel” of their artistic language directly from their recorded artistic voice as possible. If the artist is living, see if you can take a lesson with them even if it is via Skype or Facebook video stream.

Here are videos of some of my favorite jazz saxophone artists and why. I’ve listed them in two categories – Jazz Legacy Players and Living Jazz Players.

Jazz Legacy Players

The jazz legacy players listed here are no longer living. However, I believe that all of us playing modern jazz saxophone today are descendants of these artists. Check out the music and see if your conclusions are similar. Thanks for engaging this great and worthy music at such a detailed level.

Alto Saxophonists

ARTIST: Julian “Cannonball” Adderley

ALBUM: The Cannonball Adderley Quintet – Inside Straight (Full Album)
LABEL: Fantasy
NOTES: Recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA on June 4, 1973

A1 Introduction by Bill Hall
A2 Inside Straight (J. Adderley, N. Adderley) 0:20
A3 Saudade (Walter Booker) 3:42
A4 Inner Journey (Hal Galper) 11:41
B1 Snakin’ the Grass (Galper) 20:18
B2 Five of a Kind (N. Adderley) 26:53
B3 Second Son (Galper) 32:30
B4 The End (J. Adderley, N. Adderley) 39:01

Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (as)
Nat Adderley (cornet)
Hal Galper (e-p)
Walter Booker (b)
Roy McCurdy (dr)
King Errisson (perc)

ARTIST: Paul Desmond

ALBUM: Dave Brubeck Quartet – Jazz Impressions of Japan (Full Album)
NOTES: Recorded on June 16–17, 1964 at CBS in New York City

01 “Tokyo Traffic” 00:00
02 “Rising Sun” 05:53
03 “Toki’s Theme” 10:36
04 “Fujiyama” 12:47
05 “Zen Is When” 17:52
06 “The City Is Crying” 20:48
07 “Osaka Blues” 26:51
08 “Koto Song” 32:03

Dave Brubeck (p)
Paul Desmond (as)
Eugene Wright (b)
Joe Morello (dr)

ARTIST: Charlie Parker

ALBUM: Charlie Parker with Strings

ARTIST: Ornette Coleman

ALBUM: The Shape of Jazz to Come

Tenor Saxophonists

ARTIST: John Coltrane

ALBUM: Giant Steps
NOTES: Provided to YouTube by Warner Music Group ℗ 1960 Atlantic Recording Corporation for the United States and WEA International Inc. for the world outside of the United States.

John Coltrane (ts, comp)
Tommy Flanagan (p)
Paul Chambers (b)
Art Taylor (dr)
Engineer: Phil Iehle
Engineer: Tom Dowd

Producer: Nesuhi Ertegun
Tenor Saxophone: John Coltrane
Composer: John Coltrane

ARTIST: Dexter Gordon

ALBUM: Sophisticated Giant
NOTES: Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment. Track – Red Top which was actually written by KC’s own, Ben Kynard and Lionel Hampton ℗ 1977, 1979 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Dexter Gordon — tenor and soprano saxophone
Frank Wess — alto saxophone, flute, piccolo
Woody Shaw — trumpet, fluegelhorn
Benny Bailey — lead trumpet, fluegelhorn
Slide Hampton — trombone, arranger
Wayne Andre — lead trombone
Howard Johnson — tuba, baritone saxophone
Bobby Hutcherson — vibes
George Cables — piano
Rufus Reid — bass
Victor Lewis — drums

Producer: Michael Cuscuna
Composer: Lionel Hampton
Executive Producer: Maxine Gregg
Composer: Ben Kynard
Recording Engineer: William (“Rock Pygmy”) Wittman

ARTIST: Joe Henderson

ALBUM: Joe Henderson Big Band
TRACK: Recordame

ARTIST: Michael Brecker
ALBUM: Michael Brecker
TRACK: Nothing Personal

Living Jazz Players

Alto Saxophonists: Bobby Watson, Vincent Herring, Steve Coleman, David Binney, Greg Osby, Steve Wilson, Logan Richardson, Patrick Cornelius, Tia Fuller, Braxton Cook

Tenor Saxophonists: Mark Turner, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Chris Cheek, Donny McCaslin, George Garzone, Ravi Coltrane, Erica Lindsay


Again, this list is not exhaustive and simply a microscopic sampling of even my own full list of favorite players. I will make a point to post my recommendations more regularly.