Show #31: Great Tenor Sax Solos

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The tenor sax is a jazz instrument. The paradigmatic jazz instrument, if I may thrown in a $50 word. How many tenor sax sonatas or concertos can you think of that feature the tenor as a solo, or even important instrument?

Years ago, I found an ad in DownBeat magazine for Lacoste-style knit shirts, but instead of the alligator you could get an instrument as an emblem. I play flute, so first thought I’d order that. But I wanted a jazz horn, so I chose tenor saxophone instead. I wanted to show my jazz stripes.

The inventor of the saxophone was Adolphe Sax and his wonderful instruments has blessed  us jazz cans a millions times over. This week’s Rhythm Planet features just a few great tenor sax solos. Not classics by Coleman Hawkins (think Body & Soul) or Ben Webster (think smooth and soulful). Most of these players play the more modern stuff.

The first two pieces showcase the genius of Miles Davis, and how he got the best out of his tenor players. Two versions of the same composition, recorded just five years apart, demonstrates Miles’ restlessness as much as it does the newer approach his band in the second version, Wayne Shorter soloing.

Stan Getz follows who is as smooth as a 25 year old single malt. He was influenced by earlier tenor players like Lester Young, Ben Webster, Chu Berry, and others. Even though he is known to many as the guy in Getz & Gilberto, the classic bossa nova album, he was a disciple mostly of great tenor players that preceded him (and who never made anywhere near as much money as he did).

Two Blue Note classics follow, with fabulous solos by Joe Henderson and Benny Maupin. A lesser known player, Dan Faulk, turns in the final solo, a great example of  beautifully conceived and executed sax playing.

A good solo is like a great short story: a beginning, an arc upwards, a climax, a denouement. All while surprising us with unexpected twists and turns, typical of a great improviser. This is the greatness of jazz music.

I just l0ve the tenor saxophone. I hope you enjoy these solos and as always, I’d appreciate to hear your thoughts. Stay tuned for my favorites on piano and guitar.


Rhythm Planet Playlist: 11/22/13

  1. Miles Davis & John Coltrane / On Green Dolphin Street / Live In Stockholm 1960 / Dragon
  2. Miles Davis (feat. Wayne Shorter) / On Green Dolphin Street / Live At The Plugged Nickel 1965 / CBS Sony
  3. Stan Getz / Night And Day / Stan Getz Quartet At Large / Jazz Unlimited
  4. Kenny Dorham (feat. Joe Henderson) / MamacitaTrompeta Toccata / Blue Note
  5. Lee Morgan (feat. Bennie Maupin) / Caramba / Caramba / Blue Note
  6. J.J. Johnson (feat. Dan Faulk) / Carolyn (In The Evening)Heroes / Verve

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