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What kind of saxophonist do you most enjoy listening to?

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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This is totally subjective, obviously. It's a thought I had while reading a comment from @Pete Effamy in "What are you listening to?" regarding Eric Marienthal. @trimmy posted a video I had seen but not listened to, because I needed to hear what Bobby Shew was up to. Enough name-dropping and links, here's my question:

What kind of saxophonist do you most enjoy listening to?

If you're like me, you enjoy listening to all genres of saxophone. There are some I like more than others, but most are enjoyable for a solo, horn section, or the entire tune. However, when it comes to a style of playing, not a genre, I like a little more adventure. My favorite listening is definitely John Coltrane, I find it eternal. I don't like every single thing he did, but most of it is the right mix of lyric beauty (as in Ballads album), beauty with some pain (Crescent) or more out there versions of Bye Bye Blackbird live. We were talking about Eric, and if I understood Pete's comment, I agree, he's a very precise but also soulful player. I love his playing, but if I had to chose a style that grabs me more in a similar funk idiom, it would probably be Kenny Garrett. Sure, I like Maceo, and there are many good and great funk alto players out there.

So I guess my answer to the question posed in the title of this post is that I like to listen to someone who can play a beautiful rendition of a melody and add little (sometimes "out there") digressions inside that rendition. I'm talking about not just a grace note here and there, but a short exploration of a tonality. I like this kind of thing on all instruments, but here in this section, we're talking about saxophone playing.

Your comments are welcome, and it matters not at all what your level of playing is or indeed if you even play saxophone at all.
 

Pete Effamy

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This is totally subjective, obviously. It's a thought I had while reading a comment from @Pete Effamy in "What are you listening to?" regarding Eric Marienthal. @trimmy posted a video I had seen but not listened to, because I needed to hear what Bobby Shew was up to. Enough name-dropping and links, here's my question:

What kind of saxophonist do you most enjoy listening to?

If you're like me, you enjoy listening to all genres of saxophone. There are some I like more than others, but most are enjoyable for a solo, horn section, or the entire tune. However, when it comes to a style of playing, not a genre, I like a little more adventure. My favorite listening is definitely John Coltrane, I find it eternal. I don't like every single thing he did, but most of it is the right mix of lyric beauty (as in Ballads album), beauty with some pain (Crescent) or more out there versions of Bye Bye Blackbird live. We were talking about Eric, and if I understood Pete's comment, I agree, he's a very precise but also soulful player. I love his playing, but if I had to chose a style that grabs me more in a similar funk idiom, it would probably be Kenny Garrett. Sure, I like Maceo, and there are many good and great funk alto players out there.

So I guess my answer to the question posed in the title of this post is that I like to listen to someone who can play a beautiful rendition of a melody and add little (sometimes "out there") digressions inside that rendition. I'm talking about not just a grace note here and there, but a short exploration of a tonality. I like this kind of thing on all instruments, but here in this section, we're talking about saxophone playing.

Your comments are welcome, and it matters not at all what your level of playing is or indeed if you even play saxophone at all.
In a direct answer to the title question:

One that plays with a variety of articulation, a great sound, a real feel for the music that he is playing and bags of technique, but not necessarily always on show.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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variety of articulation
Might one be tempted to include dynamics in that? It's one of several of Eric's signature moves. He also has a personalized grace note. Dynamics inside the phrase, not overall dynamics.
 

Pete Effamy

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Might one be tempted to include dynamics in that? It's one of several of Eric's signature moves. He also has a personalized grace note. Dynamics inside the phrase, not overall dynamics.
Usually I'd include manipulation of sound, but I'd quantify that - which is easier in a spoken conversation.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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Still, those are parameters of excellence when fulfilled, but not necessarily making a favorite listen (for me). If I compare George Benson with another great guitarist, like Joe Pass, George wins, but not by those things we mention above. We have spoken of story telling as a part of music, and that's a person matter, I guess.
 

Pete Effamy

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Still, those are parameters of excellence when fulfilled, but not necessarily making a favorite listen (for me). If I compare George Benson with another great guitarist, like Joe Pass, George wins, but not by those things we mention above. We have spoken of story telling as a part of music, and that's a person matter, I guess.
Yes I agree, but I couldn't name names, or you'd get a list of what is in my album collection - I love so many players.
 

Hipparion

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242
That's a very interesting question, @randulo, which led me to notice a few things.
  • First, that I don't really listen to saxophone playing specifically,
  • Second, that it is much easier for me to find a pattern in players I don't like to listen to, than to find one in players I like to listen to.

So for now, all I can offer is those two observations, firstly players with a classical tone will have a few minutes of my attention, and then it will be extremely likely that I will hit the 'next song/piece' button, and secondly players playing with 2 millions notes per second will just make my mind go into that meditation state where the music is not only a background but also completely forgotten the second it stops. And there are many great names that have unfortunately gone into that category...

I'll try to find something more positive/constructive later, but my guess is that it will be less related to the saxophone, and more to the music itself.
 

s.mundi

Member
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575
I can appreciate and listen to all types of musicians but have a flavor of saxophonist that I enjoy listening to most. Joe Henderson, Zoot Sims, and Stan Getz would be top on my list for pleasing my ears. It's not what they say, but it's how they say it.
I'll give you one example.
I believe that women have pretty voices, but I've met only one woman that had that mesmerizing voice that kept me in a trance for hours.
 

Wade Cornell

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Like Hipparion I'm not specifically a sax listener and players who are generally in "show off" mode I find unmusical as they put themselves first/above the music.

OK maybe this is going to sound weird: They should sound as though they ARE the music, like a pure voice that communicates perfectly to a point that I'm not hearing technique, tone, or anything specific, it's a flow from the musician's soul to the listener. I don't know of anyone who plays that way all the time, but there are some who have achieved this at times, my list would include Hawkins, Webster, Desmond, Garbarek, and Mariano. I'm sure there are others, but most sax players disappoint because they haven't used the instrument as a means of communication. It's instead an object that's between them and the listener instead of an extension of themselves.
Coltrane is an interesting case as he definitely opened a window to himself, yet wasn't particularly interested in communicating. You could listen/observe, but there was always a separation. None of his music touched me, yet there were different and creative interesting things to hear/observe. For a long while I couldn't reconcile this as everybody went on and on about his being genius. Maybe Coltrane does touch some? Yea, totally subjective.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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They should sound as though they ARE the music, like a pure voice that communicates perfectly to a point that I'm not hearing technique, tone, or anything specific, it's a flow from the musician's soul to the listener.
Although I agree 100%, this is my concept and my eventual, far off goal. As we play the instrument, it's difficult NOT to listen to the saxophone playing part. It's equally hard to play without shifting into high gear if you're a virtuoso, but of course there are many who do manage. I would say that the early players almost all were the music. Despite Bird's incredible command, I think he was always the music. I don't feel Coltrane was showing off with all the fireworks, I believe he was what he played, so much so, that a lot of admirers don't care for his later stuff.

Back to who we listen to for the pleasure. I have listened to saxophone players for 50+ years, but since I have been trying to play the instrument, I listen to a very different thing. I'm listening to learn and analyse. Also, the course I'm following now uses a lot of Eric's recordings, which means you can learn many of the aspects of that one person's playing as well as general saxophonic stuff. By the way, the most fascinating part of studying in this way is finding out that what may have been a simple, "throw-away fill" is harder to execute (with feeling) than it sounds.
 
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randulo

randulo

Playing alto 2 ⅓ years
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Often a singing saxplayer. I think they are better "storytellers". I don't know why?
I would say that is because they know the words or are used to using the rhythm of words, which lends itself to storytelling.
 
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randulo

randulo

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Those who play both musically and melodically and with a beautiful tone!
I agree 100%, but now we get into a rathole, when we define what is musical? We probably all agree on what you just said, but that one word has to be subjective. I think melodically is an easier term to agree upon. There are simple melodies and complicated ones, but the word does have a commonly-agreed upon meaning.
 
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randulo

randulo

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I knew I'd leave something out!
Also, we didn't mention rhythmic sophistication, whether obvious (Sonny) or subtle (Desmond). Even if you're not thinking about it, I think it's an influence in the pleasure you get by the surprises it brings. Surprise in a story is important, think of any good book or movie.
 
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randulo

randulo

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Wow, surprise in music is an interesting thing in and of itself, right?
 

Halfers

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I like listening to myself ;) Not because I think I'm any good, or sound any good, or because I'm pretentious (moi?) But because that's where the most fun is. I get bored of myself quite quickly, mind, but I just put the horn down and come back again another time and start again. :p .I can though, start to hear where I want to be in some far off distant time and space....

I like Bob Reynolds. He's a bit better than me. For me, he gets that blend right between reaching backwards and moving forwards with his style of music. He's melodic, knows when to stretch it when he wants to, knows when to hold back. He plays with great guitarists.

I like Chris Potter. He was great live, great to listen to and watch, but I don't listen to a lot of his recordings. Something doesn't quite touch me.

I like Logan Richardson because he's challenging musically, but I don't quite always 'get' his music. The same with Marcus Strickland. Great playing, but again I don't always 'get' the music.

Loads of others probably for entirely different reasons.
 
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