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Who's your favorite Alto Sax Player?

   23 members have voted

  1. 1. Who's your favorite alto-sax player?

    • Charlie Parker
    • Julian Cannonball Adderley
    • Eric Dolphy
    • Somebody else (dont forget to write who below!)

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120 posts in this topic

Yes, but Trumbauer played C melody saxophone, not alto.

I read on this board that Lester Young loved Frankie Trumbauer, so I thought he should be mentioned in this thread as one of the greats of jazz.

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Not much love for Ernie Henry, eh?

The Riverside stuff - all of it, as leader and sideman - is extremely personal...

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I can't believe I forgot Threadgill and Criss. Sonny's Dream alone is sufficient legacy for the latter. Threadgill, as far as I'm concerned, registers one of the few truly original and simultaneously current musical conceptions of anyone in jazz. Zooid's output has been some of the only real "blow your mind" improvised music I've heard in the past few years.

Speaking of composer/altos--good ones, but not necessarily favorites--I have been struck by Steve Lehman's octet music. I know that he hasn't gotten the best reception in these and related circles (I recall Allen not liking it), but I'm surprised there hasn't been at least some real discussion, positive or negative, on this music--considering its prominence in some of the mainstream jazz discourse (as of late). I could take or leave the brute theory of integrating spectral analysis into jazz composition, but somehow the prominence of these components in his music draws the explicit jazz aspects (harmonies, "sectional" groupings, the melodic and rhythmic content of the solos) into starker relief. It can get somewhat monotonous, but like Threadgill's music it offers a way out of the neocon/free dyad/morass that is totally constructive in character (which I endorse 100%).

Oh--and I can't stress enough that, if I'm in the right mood, I can take Dudu and blow everything else to hell. It's that powerful.

"Sonny's Dream" is awesome. Good call, and I wish I had mentioned him.

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Most of mine have been mentioned several times:

Art Pepper, Charlie Parker, Jackie McLean and Paul Desmond would be at the top of my list.

Another favorite I haven't seen mentioned yet is Hal McKusick. I'm surprised he's not a bigger name.

Edited by mikelz777

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All of my favorites have been named, but I did want to put in anther mention of Art Pepper. The sound he gets on the Contemporaries is just fantastic. I like the looseness of his improvising (i'm not a musician, so I don't know how else to describe it). Plus, I like where he ended up in his later recordings, with more expressiveness, such as the Vanguard recordings. He also did what I think is one of the best albums with strings, which is "Winter Moon," if I remember correctly. Love the guy.

Ditto to all that and I think it's also worth mentioning that Pepper played at a consistently high level for the whole of his career, even his early recordings, ie predating the Contemporary stuff, are amazing, especially the session with Jack Montrose. I really love that one, there's a real Konitz/Marsh vibe to it. He had his "thing" down very early on.

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I can't believe I forgot Threadgill and Criss. Sonny's Dream alone is sufficient legacy for the latter. Threadgill, as far as I'm concerned, registers one of the few truly original and simultaneously current musical conceptions of anyone in jazz. Zooid's output has been some of the only real "blow your mind" improvised music I've heard in the past few years.

Speaking of composer/altos--good ones, but not necessarily favorites--I have been struck by Steve Lehman's octet music. I know that he hasn't gotten the best reception in these and related circles (I recall Allen not liking it), but I'm surprised there hasn't been at least some real discussion, positive or negative, on this music--considering its prominence in some of the mainstream jazz discourse (as of late). I could take or leave the brute theory of integrating spectral analysis into jazz composition, but somehow the prominence of these components in his music draws the explicit jazz aspects (harmonies, "sectional" groupings, the melodic and rhythmic content of the solos) into starker relief. It can get somewhat monotonous, but like Threadgill's music it offers a way out of the neocon/free dyad/morass that is totally constructive in character (which I endorse 100%).

Oh--and I can't stress enough that, if I'm in the right mood, I can take Dudu and blow everything else to hell. It's that powerful.

"Sonny's Dream" is awesome. Good call, and I wish I had mentioned him.

Way back when it came out, I reviewed "Sonny's Dream" for Down Beat, gave it ****1/2. Also, I came to know one of the sideman on the date, reedman David Sherr, who contradicts Tapscott's account of some of what happened there. Don't recall exactly what Tapscott's account was, but it involved him getting jobbed in some way on the date -- Sherr says that didn't happen. Great record, in any case.

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Not much love for Ernie Henry, eh?

The Riverside stuff - all of it, as leader and sideman - is extremely personal...

My next 5 after Ornette would have been Ernie Henry, Bunky Green, Jackie McLean, Pepper & Threadgill.

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Different slant. How many of the abovementioned did you see play? For me it's Johnny Hodges, Earl Warren, Phil Woods, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Paul Desmond, Lee Konitz and Dudu Pukwana - all in the UK, by the way.

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I've seen Hodges, Pepper, Cannonball, Bud Shank, Carter, Woods, Earl Warren, Stitt, Charlie Mariano, Desmond, Jackie McLean, Marshall Royal, Konitz, Procope - and Kim Richmond and Don Shelton (who I also like a lot)

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I'm jealous of you guys who heard Johnny Hodges in person....

Of altoists who have been mentioned in this thread, I've heard Benny Carter, Lee Konitz, Ornette, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Marion Brown, Arthur Blythe, Julius Hemphill, James Spaulding, and Oliver Lake that I remember.

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I've seen Hodges, Pepper, Cannonball, Bud Shank, Carter, Woods, Earl Warren, Stitt, Charlie Mariano, Desmond, Jackie McLean, Marshall Royal, Konitz, Procope - and Kim Richmond and Don Shelton (who I also like a lot)

And I always thought you were a teenager! :lol:

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Among those mentioned, I've seen Dolphy, Cannonball, Konitz, Hodges, Carter, Ornette, McLean, Pepper, Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Threadgill, McPherson, Phil Woods, Stitt, Jimmy Lyons, Strozier, Desmond, Procope, Hemphill, Spaulding, Bunky Green, Oliver Lake, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Criss, Frank Morgan. Bird I was too young for by about a year or so as it turned out, but I did get to hear Pres, a precious memory.

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Different slant. How many of the abovementioned did you see play? For me it's Johnny Hodges, Earl Warren, Phil Woods, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Stitt, Paul Desmond, Lee Konitz and Dudu Pukwana - all in the UK, by the way.

Never saw Ernie Henry. Did see all of the others on my list.

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I'm jealous of you guys who heard Johnny Hodges in person....

I saw him several times in the ranks of the Duke Ellington orchestra. He always seemed totally impassive, never betraying facially a hint of the passion in his playing. The day after an Ellington performance in Leeds in the sixties a friend of mine who fancied himself as hip, but wasn't, spotted the band lunching in the Queen's Hotel. He went up to Hodges and said, "Great concert, Duke!" "Wrong one, man," replied Hodges, pointing at the great man. :lol:

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I've seen Hodges, Pepper, Cannonball, Bud Shank, Carter, Woods, Earl Warren, Stitt, Charlie Mariano, Desmond, Jackie McLean, Marshall Royal, Konitz, Procope - and Kim Richmond and Don Shelton (who I also like a lot)

And I always thought you were a teenager! :lol:

wow! :tup:tup:tup

I'm jealous of you guys who heard Johnny Hodges in person....

I saw him several times in the ranks of the Duke Ellington orchestra. He always seemed totally impassive, never betraying facially a hint of the passion in his playing. The day after an Ellington performance in Leeds in the sixties a friend of mine who fancied himself as hip, but wasn't, spotted the band lunching in the Queen's Hotel. He went up to Hodges and said, "Great concert, Duke!" "Wrong one, man," replied Hodges, pointing at the great man. :lol:

watching Hodges (in '63) was the best example I've ever seen of someone totally in charge. and seemingly quite disdainful of what was going on around him. His relationship on the stand with Procope appeared glacial.

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His relationship on the stand with Procope appeared glacial.

His relationship with anyone on stage seemed glacial. I saw him around 20 times.

That was part of playing the role of "Johnny Hodges".

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I've seen, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, Art Pepper, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill, Charles McPherson, Phil Woods, Jimmy Lyons, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake (no later than yesterday with the WSQ), Frank Morgan, Charlie Mariano, Marion Brown, Marshall Allen, Arthur Blythe, Massimo Urbani, Charles Tyler, André Goudbeek, Dudu Pukwana, Ernie Watts, Douglas Ewart, Steve Potts, Mike Osborn, John Tchicai, Bobby Watson, John Zorn, Frank Gratkowski, Marty Ehrlich, Fröde Gjerstad, Alan Wilkinson, Daniel Carter, Marco Eneidi, Tim Berne, Ernest Dawkins, Rob Brown, Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, Wolfgang Puschnig, Kenny Garrett, Steve Wilson, Sonny Simmons, Prince Lasha, John Purcell, Trevor Watts, Mark Whitecage, Simon Rose, Gianluigi Trovesi, John Lurie, Jon Lloyd, Anthony Ortega, Michael Moore, Martin Küchen, Bunky Green, Ned Rothenberg,David Binney, Mikolaj Trzaska, Matana Roberts...

* in black, some alto who are too often forgotten.

Edited by P.L.M

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lets not forget Richie Kamuca on alto. Also Alan Eager, who is brilliant on alto on that Uptown release.

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I've seen, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, Art Pepper, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill, Charles McPherson, Phil Woods, Jimmy Lyons, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake (no later than yesterday with the WSQ), Frank Morgan, Charlie Mariano, Marion Brown, Marshall Allen, Arthur Blythe, Massimo Urbani, Charles Tyler, André Goudbeek, Dudu Pukwana, Ernie Watts, Douglas Ewart, Steve Potts, Mike Osborn, John Tchicai, Bobby Watson, John Zorn, Frank Gratkowski, Marty Ehrlich, Fröde Gjerstad, Alan Wilkinson, Daniel Carter, Marco Eneidi, Tim Berne, Ernest Dawkins, Rob Brown, Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, Wolfgang Puschnig, Kenny Garrett, Steve Wilson, Sonny Simmons, Prince Lasha, John Purcell, Trevor Watts, Mark Whitecage, Simon Rose, Gianluigi Trovesi, John Lurie, Jon Lloyd, Anthony Ortega, Michael Moore, Martin Küchen, Bunky Green, Ned Rothenberg,David Binney, Mikolaj Trzaska, Matana Roberts...

* in black, some alto who are too often forgotten.

P.L.M, how was 'Jazz in Middelheim'? --> http://www.jazzmiddelheim.be :lol:

Edited by Cyril

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I've seen, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, Art Pepper, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill, Charles McPherson, Phil Woods, Jimmy Lyons, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake (no later than yesterday with the WSQ), Frank Morgan, Charlie Mariano, Marion Brown, Marshall Allen, Arthur Blythe, Massimo Urbani, Charles Tyler, André Goudbeek, Dudu Pukwana, Ernie Watts, Douglas Ewart, Steve Potts, Mike Osborn, John Tchicai, Bobby Watson, John Zorn, Frank Gratkowski, Marty Ehrlich, Fröde Gjerstad, Alan Wilkinson, Daniel Carter, Marco Eneidi, Tim Berne, Ernest Dawkins, Rob Brown, Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, Wolfgang Puschnig, Kenny Garrett, Steve Wilson, Sonny Simmons, Prince Lasha, John Purcell, Trevor Watts, Mark Whitecage, Simon Rose, Gianluigi Trovesi, John Lurie, Jon Lloyd, Anthony Ortega, Michael Moore, Martin Küchen, Bunky Green, Ned Rothenberg,David Binney, Mikolaj Trzaska, Matana Roberts...

* in black, some alto who are too often forgotten.

P.L.M, how was 'Jazz in Middelheim'? --> http://www.jazzmiddelheim.be :lol:

try getting out and about a bit more......:cool:

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I've seen, Lee Konitz, Ornette Coleman, Jackie McLean, Art Pepper, Anthony Braxton, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Henry Threadgill, Charles McPherson, Phil Woods, Jimmy Lyons, Julius Hemphill, Oliver Lake (no later than yesterday with the WSQ), Frank Morgan, Charlie Mariano, Marion Brown, Marshall Allen, Arthur Blythe, Massimo Urbani, Charles Tyler, André Goudbeek, Dudu Pukwana, Ernie Watts, Douglas Ewart, Steve Potts, Mike Osborn, John Tchicai, Bobby Watson, John Zorn, Frank Gratkowski, Marty Ehrlich, Fröde Gjerstad, Alan Wilkinson, Daniel Carter, Marco Eneidi, Tim Berne, Ernest Dawkins, Rob Brown, Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman, Wolfgang Puschnig, Kenny Garrett, Steve Wilson, Sonny Simmons, Prince Lasha, John Purcell, Trevor Watts, Mark Whitecage, Simon Rose, Gianluigi Trovesi, John Lurie, Jon Lloyd, Anthony Ortega, Michael Moore, Martin Küchen, Bunky Green, Ned Rothenberg,David Binney, Mikolaj Trzaska, Matana Roberts...

* in black, some alto who are too often forgotten.

P.L.M, how was 'Jazz in Middelheim'? --> http://www.jazzmiddelheim.be :lol:

Not much interesting. A fantastic performance of the WAYNE SHORTER QUARTET (the fourth time I've seen it and the best concert alltogether), WSQ and R'Boom was quite fine (with James Carter as the surprise new member - seems that Purcell as gone) the Jeroen van Herzeel quartet was very good to - the rest, well, was going to borring to dreadfull.

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Bird - Possibly the most brilliant improviser to have graced this planet. Every time I think I'm getting close to really grasping his genius, I realize how far I have to go. About 30 years ago, just when I felt as if I was getting a handle on his playing, I came up against some note choices that baffled me - I couldn't figure out why he was playing those notes against that chord, and how it could possibly sound as good as it did. Now I know exactly why he played those notes, but I am no closer to understanding how his mind and musical instincts worked as fast and brilliantly as they did...

Ah, nice post ... and then there are Bird's rhythmic choices... sometimes heard (by me) initially as vague somethings, until with repeated listenings something clicked (in my mind) ... and that understanding threw the previously half-understood line into complete and amazing focus...

Early Lee (including the Kenton years) ... so different from Bird, and yet so creative, melodically and rhythmically ... and his use of space as part of his line ... what an amazing musical tale he could tell...

Ernie Henry, with that flowing, tumbling rhythmic line. His sound approximated Bird's, but his conception was his own. The stuff with Fats in '48 was already mature ... his rhythmic conception approaching the bizarre ... and yet so right.

Q

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I don't recall any mention of Herb Geller? I have seen him live a number of times in the past decade and he was, in my view, excellent. Another overlooked terrific alto player is Canadian P.J. Perry.

These are alto players I have seen play live, and have likely forgotten many others.

McLean, Stitt, Woods, Quill, Shank, Hodges, Frank Morgan, Herb Geller, Charlie Mariano, Lennie Niehaus,

Sonny Red, Lee Konitz, Paul Desmond, Ernie Watts, Bobby Watson, Cannonball, Charles McPherson, Frank

Strozier, Benny Carter, Joseph Jarman, Med Flory, Gary Pribek, Greg Abate, James Moody, Marshall Royal,

Russell Procope, Gary Foster, Willie Smith, Steve Wilson, Don Shelton, Jerry Dodgion, James Spaulding,

Ornette, Donald Harrison, Kim Richmond, Dick Oatts, P.J. Perry

I had one opportunity to see Bird just before he died, but didn't make it - a major disappointment.

Also missed seeing Art Pepper live.

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There are many that I like a lot, including Paul Desmond (my first hero on the instrument when I began on the horn), Johnny Hodges, Cannonball Adderley and lots of others, but if forced to name a favorite, I'd go with Bird. That's partly because Bird was not just an alto player, but also a fantastic innovator. Bird satisfies me more than any other jazz artist.

In the 50s and 60s, there were several alto players on the major labels with lousy intonation. I won't mention any names, but playing out of tune is not acceptable for a professional musician, and the record producers should have clamped down on it. As an example, I can think of one Blue Note session that was not issued until the CD days because the alto's intonation was painfully off. Move the mouthpiece on the neck, baby!

A problem with the alto, versus the tenor, is that there is less variety amongst the players. That's obviously because Bird's influence is so strong. As Trane said, there was no one tenor player who dominated the field as much as Bird did on alto.

For lead alto, in a section, I'd go for Hymie Schertzer in Benny Goodman's band when there was no baritone. That's far and away my favorite sax section sound, one of the greatest sounds in music.

That story about Duke's band in Leeds was great. I recently saw a photo of Duke in Leeds with the Queen, by the way. It was probably taken on the same visit. My uncle also had a great Duke story, also set in Yorkshire. In the 30s, he went to see the band in Wakefield. Duke was already a major icon, of course. At one point, a guy sitting in front of my uncle proclaimed loudly "Eeh, they're not bad for niggers!"

Edited by Shrdlu

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