25 ago. 2009

From the mid thirties, with the rise of Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young, to the death of Coltrane in 1967--a thirty year stretch more or less--is what I could call the golden age of the saxophone. Dominant swing era sax players, aside from Bean and Pres, include Ben Webster, Chu Berry, Johnny Hodges, and Benny Carter. Charlie Parker revolutionizes jazz and the 50s show a plethora of postbop players: Dexter Gordon, Cannonball, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh, Art Pepper, Gerry Mulligan, Paul Desmond, Wayne Shorter. At the end of the period we have avant-garde players: the later Coltrane, Ornette, Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp--Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet should be be included since he also played sax.

This is only to mention really major, innovative and/or influential or popular figures. A complete account would include Hank Mobley, Harold Land, Al Cohn, Zoot Simms Sonny Stitt, and a host of "minor" figures. The tradition is incredibly deep, in the sense that if you made a list of the twenty "greatest" or your twenty favorites, the 21st would still be formidable, on the level of a Joe Henderson, say. Don Byas, anyone? Lucky Thompson? Illinois Jacquet? Flip Phillips? Houston Pearson?

The tradition doesn't end with the death of Coltrane. Lee Konitz and Sonny Rollins are still playing some good sax, and the Joshua Redman / Branford Marsalis / Joe Lovano generation cannot be discounted. It seems to me, though, that this 30 year stretch is the golden age. This just so happens to be the golden age of jazz itself. The fluency and power of the instrument is such that many of these figures are among the greatest improvisers ever: Bird, Getz, Rollins, Konitz. The only instruments that rivals the sax in this regard are the trumpet and the piano.

For a free year's subscription to Bemsha Swing give me the name of the most significant sax player I did not mention in this post.

18 comentarios:

Vance Maverick dijo...


zbs dijo...


bradluen dijo...

David Murray: probably the major sax player to emerge after 1970, and probably the only one to inspire obsessive experts like this guy (an academic, naturally) who's tracked down almost all of Murray's 150+ records as leader:


Vance Maverick dijo...

Lacy! (Though I fear submitting two names disqualifies me for the subscription.)

Tom King dijo...

John Zorn
Michael Brecker
Chris Potter
Phil Woods
Bob Berg
Gerry Mulligan
Dewey Redman
Sam Rivers
Gene Ammons
Hank Crawford
Geo Coleman
RR Kirk
Ph Sanders
Lockjaw Davis
Fathead Newman
Bud Shank
Booker Ervin

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, I can name additional saxes too, but give me the ONE who is most significant. I'm partial to Rouse because of the great work he did on those Monk albums.

Jonathan dijo...

There's also Frank Foster and Tina Brooks, Lou Donaldson...

Vance Maverick dijo...

J, if you're challenging us to name the player you're thinking of, then the right strategy for us is to name as many players as possible. Are you asking us each to name one player, for conversation's sake? Or to defent the selection?

Jonathan dijo...

The challenge is to name the most significant player I did not mention--whether or not it was the most significant player I was already thinking of or not. The one I was thinking of was Bechet, in fact, but Davis Murray is a strong candidate as well. So ZBS and Bradluen get free subscriptions to Bemsha for the remainder of 2009. You will pay NOTHING for reading Bemsha. The rest of you will have to go on paying the usual subscription fee.

Andrew Shields dijo...

Murray was the first one I thought of, but your emphasis on "significant" makes me lean to Lacy, with Murray a close second. (Because of Lacy's development of the soprano.)

Herb Levy dijo...

While Eric Dolphy may have done more than anyone else to bring the bass clarinet into jazz, I think most people would think of him primarily as a saxophonist. Certainly he played that instrument most on the available recordings.

And by the end of 1967, Anthony Braxton had virtually no presence outside of Chicago. The first recording he was on, Muhal Richard Abrams Levels & Degrees of Light, wasn't released until 1968. (Which doesn't mean that Braxton may not have been mentioned in a review of a live show in the Chicago-based magazine Downbeat. Still no one outside of Chicago would have had any idea what he sounded like.)

Jonathan dijo...

My own listening, though, is heavily skewed toward Dolphy on bass clarinet: the work with Coltrane at the Village Vanguard and Olé Coltrane, with Mingus on Mingus at Antibes, with George Russell on Ezz-thetic, on Ornette's Free jazz, on his own Out to Lunch, on records by Andrew Hill, etc... I might not be the typical listener but I don't think "most people" would necessarily think of him mostly as a saxophonist as opposed to a bass clarinetist. I'm trying to think if I own any records where he plays sax.

JforJames dijo...

I'm not an expert in this area, but
Albert Ayler's name comes up from time.
In fact I remember the poet (& jazz buff) August Kleinzahler mentioned him here:

Andrew Shields dijo...

Dolphy plays some sax on Mingus Presents Mingus, doesn't he? And he plays sax on all three records that I have under his own name (Out to Lunch, Out There, Outward Bound ... hmm, I notice a trend here).

But I'm with Herb on this one: I definitely think of ED as a saxman (but also as a multi-instrumentalist).

Jonathan dijo...

On out to lunch I think he plays bass cl on two tracks, alto sax on two, and flute on one. So there might be a perception bias. I think of that as a bass clarinet album and you think of it as an alto sax album, when actually it's a multi-wind album.

Herb Levy dijo...

Dolphy's definitely a multi-instrumentalist. Alto was his first instrument and Dolphy & La Monte Young were rivals for the first chair alto of their high school band in Los Angeles.

FWIW, Dolphy never released an album under his own name on which he didn't play alto, flute AND bass clarinet. Even as a player in other people's bands, he usually all three horns.

& he's credited as playing only bass clarinet on only a few albums led by other band leaders (in addition to the two takes of Coleman's Free Jazz, there's a disc by Teddy Charles I didn't see any others, but I wasn't studying this in minute detail): http://www.jazzdisco.org/eric-dolphy/catalog/

John dijo...

E.D. also played clarinet on one of his albums. The greatest bass clarinetist and far and away the greatest flautist of his era, with few rivals on either instrument. Great alto player too.

The FIRST sax player I didn't see listed who came to mind as the ONE: Paul Gonsalves. Fantastic player.

I wouldn't have said Bechet because I don't think of him as a '37 to '67 figure. He made some great sides in that period, but it was in a style that he had established by -- when? 1924?

Another player from that era who came to mind: Harry Carney.

Disappointed that I didn't think of Pharoah Sanders -- glad to see him on others' lists.

Huge Roscoe Mitchell fan. For me, the great era of jazz goes through the mid-'70s, with electric Miles and classic Art Ensemble of Chicago stuff not sounding like what had come before.

But the ONE sax player missing (also with classic, searching, unprecedented work into the '70s, but also before '67): Rahsaan Roland Kirk, insanely great tenor player, 2nd greatest flautist ever (after Dolphy), a champ on obscure reeds, and one of the Top 3 jazz composers ever, with Ellington/Strayhorn and Mingus, or maybe Top 5 with Monk & Coleman too. Seriously. For wild gorgeous melodic deeply innovative & textural composing, check out the album "Prepare Thyself To Deal with a Miracle." Lives up to its title.

Jonathan dijo...

No one mentioned Jackie McLean either.