Essential saxophone recordings: A work in progress

Seminal Early Concert Soloists

Mule, Marcel

Marcel Mule: Le Patron of the Saxophone (Clarinet Classics, compilation 1996)

Marcel Mule: Le Patron of the Saxophone: Encore! (Clarinet Classics, compilation 2000)

These compilations also feature recordings by the Mule Saxophone Quartet.

Wiedoft, Rudy

Kreisler of the Saxophone (Clarinet Classics, compilation [year?])

Leeson, Cecil

Rascher, Sigurd

Regrettably, recorded performances by Sigurd Rascher and Cecil Leeson are not currently in print. Important out-of-print recordings include Sigurd Rascher Plays the Saxophone, volumes I and II, formerly published by Grand Award, and The Art of Cecil Leeson, volumes I-VII, formerly available on the Enchante label.

Contemporary Concert Artists

Delangle, Claude

The Solitary Saxophone (Bis, 1994)

Unaccompanied works.

Harle, John

Saxophone Concertos (EMI, 1991)

Houlik, James

American Saxophone (Koch International Classics, 1996)

Widely regarded as the world’s leading concert tenor saxophonist.

Pittel, Harvey

Moving Along (Crystal, 1997)

Rousseau, Eugene

Saxophone Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon, 1998)

Londeix, Jean-Marie

No recordings currently available. Out-of-print recordings include Works for Saxophone and Piano (EMI, 1973) and Jean-Marie Londeix, Alto Saxophone (Golden Crest, 1975).

Saxophone Quartets and Ensembles

Mule Saxophone Quartet

See “Mule, Marcel” under Seminal Concert Soloists.

The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra

See “The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra” under Unusual Saxophones and Techniques.

Rascher Saxophone Quartet

Music for Saxophones (Cala, 1995)

Like Sigurd Rascher’s solo recordings, his recordings as leader of the Rascher Saxophone Quartet are out of print. This is a fine recent recording led by his daughter, Carina Rascher. It includes several works for saxophone quartet, plus several arrangements demonstrating the quartet’s virtuosity in a variety of styles.

World Saxophone Quartet

Plays Duke Ellington (Nonesuch, 1986)

Hollywood Saxophone Quartet

New York Saxophone Quartet

The Six Brown Brothers

Recordings by the Hollywood, New York, and Brown Brothers groups are, sadly, no longer available.

Saxophone in Chamber Music (with other instruments)

Cottrell, Steven

The Electric Saxophone (Clarinet Classics, 2001)

Saxophone works with electronic tape.

Horsch, Kyle

Chambersax (Clarinet Classics, 1999)

Chamber works with saxophone, including Webern’s op. 22 Quartet.

Seminal Jazz Soloists

Adderley, Julian “Cannonball”

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy: Live at “The Club” (Capitol, 1966)

Somethin’ Else (Blue Note, 1958)

Cannonball should also be heard on Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and Milestones.

Bechet, Sidney

Ken Burns Jazz: Sidney Bechet (Columbia/Legacy, compilation 2000)

A broad introduction to the first important jazz saxophonist on record. One of a very small handful of truly noteworthy soprano saxophonists.

Brecker, Michael

Michael Brecker (MCA/Impulse!, 1987)

Perhaps better known for his fusion bands and session work, Brecker’s debut as a leader reveals a contemporary approach to a more jazz-oriented style.

Coleman, Ornette

The Shape of Jazz to Come (Atlantic, 1959)

The best and best-known of Coleman’s groundbreaking and controversial avant-garde jazz recordings. On this date, Coleman plays a Grafton plastic saxophone.

Coltrane, John

A Love Supreme (Impulse!, 1964)

Blue Train (Blue Note, 1957)

Giant Steps (Atlantic, 1960)

My Favorite Things (Atlantic, 1961)

These are the most essential of the essential recordings by jazz’s most important and influential tenor player. Also-rans with Coltrane as leader include John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman and Ascension. Selected recordings as a sideman include Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959, Miles Davis, leader), Milestones (Columbia, 1958, Miles Davis, leader), and Mating Call (Tadd Dameron, leader). Noteworthy compilations have been released by several labels: John Coltrane: The Prestige Recordings (1956); Heavyweight Champion: The Complete Atlantic Recordings (Rhino, 1959); and The Classic Quartet: Complete Impulse! Studio Recordings (1998).

Getz, Stan

Getz/Gilberto (Verve, 1963)

People Time (Verve/Gitanes Jazz, 1991)

Getz/Gilberto is the best of Getz’s popular bossa nova recordings; People Time is a 2-disc set of live recordings in a duo setting with pianist Kenny Barron and a fine sampling of Getz’s exceptional bop playing.

Gordon, Dexter

Go! (Blue Note, 1962)

The highest of several career peaks by the widely influential West Coast bop tenor player. A more complete overview can be found in The Complete Blue Note Sixties Sessions (Capitol, compilation 1996).

Hawkins, Coleman

Body and Soul (RCA, compilation 1996)

This album (be careful—there are several with the same title) gives the best overview of Hawkins’s peak period. Ken Burns Jazz: Coleman Hawkins (Columbia/Legacy, compilation 2000) provides a broader picture of his career, including the early recordings with the Fletcher Henderson band. Both albums include the quintessential “Body and Soul” recording of 1939.

Mulligan, Gerry

The Original Gerry Mulligan Tentet and Quartet (GNP Crescendo, 1953)

Also recommended is Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1949).

Parker, Charlie

Blue Bird: Legendary Savoy Sessions (Definitive, compilation 2000)

Confirmation: The Best of the Verve Years (Verve, compilation 1995)

Legendary Dial Masters (Stash, compilation 1989)

These three compilations cover the most essential master takes. Savoy, Dial, and Verve have each released “complete” multi-CD sets that include alternates and partial takes.

Rollins, Sonny

Saxophone Colossus (Prestige, 1956)

Way Out West (Prestige/Contemporary, 1957)

A close runner-up is Tenor Madness (Prestige, 1956), which includes the famous title duet with John Coltrane.

Young, Lester

Ken Burns Jazz (Columbia/Legacy, compilation 2000)

This is the best single-disc collection of Young’s playing. It includes the famous Lady Be Good with Billie Holiday, sessions with the Basie band, and some of Young’s neglected post-WWII recordings. A more complete set is the 4-disc The Lester Young Story (Columbia, compilation 2000). Important small-group recordings are Lester Young with the Oscar Peterson Trio (Verve, 1952) and Pres and Teddy (Verve, 1956) with the Teddy Wilson Quartet.

Seminal Soloists in Rock, Pop, and Related Styles

Bostic, Earl

All His Hits (King, compilation 1996)

“G,” Kenny

Greatest Hits (Arista, 1982)

McNeely, Cecil “Big Jay”

Nervous (Saxophile, compilation 1995)

Ousley, “King Curtis”

Instant Soul: The Legendary King Curtis (Razor & Tie, compilation 1994)

Randolph, Homer “Boots”

Greatest Hits (Monument, compilation 1976)

Sanborn, David

The Best of David Sanborn (Warner Bros., compilation 1994)

Unusual Saxophones and Techniques

Carter, James

Chasin’ the Gypsy (Atlantic, 2000)

Carter plays soprano and tenor saxophones, as well as the rare bass and rarer f-mezzo.

Kirk, Rahsaan Roland

The Inflated Tear (Atlantic, 1967)

One of the few multi-instrumentalists who has dared to play several at once, and one of the even fewer to pull it off. On this date, Kirk plays tenor and such saxophone cousins as the stritch and the manzello, not to mention English horn, clarinet, and flute.

The Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra

Fathom This (Whaleco, 1999)

The saxophone sextet perhaps best known for using saxophones from sopranino to contrabass. Both of those, plus five in between, are heard on this album.

Rollini, Adrian

Bouncin’ in Rhythm (Pearl, compilation 1995)

A collection of recordings by the unchallenged master of the now-rare bass saxophone, with bands led by Frankie Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Joe Venuti, and others.


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