The saxophone is one of the most dynamic of the instruments used in jazz. It has a vocal tonality that can range from raspy to airy and go from high and soaring to low and deep. On the morning of the photo shoot, thirteen of the most influential jazz saxophonists were photographed. Some of them, from first glance, may not be as recognizable as others but guaranteed their music speaks volumes. These men redefined the sound and structure of jazz and created opportunities, whether in the States or abroad, to play the music they wanted to play, the way they wanted to play it. The breadth of talent and the tenacity that they displayed is truly inspiring. With that said, we now present part two of the “A Great Day In Harlem” series, the distinguished practitioners of the saxophone.

Bud Freeman (1906-1991)


(Benny Goodman, Louie Armstrong, Jimmy McPartland…)

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*Tenor saxophonist credited with innovating the vintage Chicago-style jazz. He was a clarinetist and an important player in the Big Band Era.

Benny Golson (1929-)


(Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie…)

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*Golson plays the tenor sax and is the only living jazz artist who has written eight jazz standards and has written scores for TV and films as well as music for commercials.

Johnny Griffin (1928-2008)


(T-Bone Walker, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Wynton Kelly…)

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*Tenor saxophonist from Chicago whose speed, control and harmonic acuity made him one of the most talented American jazz musicians of his generation. Dubbed the “Little Giant” for his speed in bebop improvising marked him as the Fastest Gun in the West;

Gigi Gryce (1925-1983)


(Charlie Parker, Donald Byrd, Thelonious Monk, Art Farmer…)

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*Alto saxophonist who stopped playing in 1962 and became a teacher. Although his career was short it was extremely impactful. Several of his compositions have been covered extensively including, “Minority,” “Social Call,” and “Nica’s Tempo”. In later years, Gryce changed his name to Basheer Quism.

Coleman Hawkins (1904-1969)


(Fletcher Henderson, Django Reinhardt, Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins…)

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*Nicknamed the “Hawk” and the “Bean”. Considered the first great tenor saxophonist of jazz.

Hilton Jefferson (1903-1968)


(Cab Calloway, Coleman Hawkins, McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, Duke Ellington…)

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*Alto saxophonist and clarinetist, best-known for leading the saxophone section of Cab Calloway’s band in the 1940’s. He is also a masterful clarinest. Jefferson is said to have been “a soft, delicate saxophone player, with an exquisite sensibility.”

Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996)


(Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Lester Young, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Jack Teagarden, Dave Brubeck…)

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*Given the nickname “Jeru” by Miles Davis, Mulligan is primarily known as one of the leading baritone saxophonists in jazz history (he also played the alto sax). He also formed one of the first pianoless quartets and was also a notable arranger and composer.

Rudy Powell (1907-1976)


(Rex Stewart, Fats Waller, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, Gene Rodgers’s Revellers…)

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*He never recorded as a leader, but worked extensively as a sideman throughout his career.

Sonny Rollins (1930-)


(Bud Powell, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach…)

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*Given the nickname “Newk” because he looked like Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Don Newcombe. Rollins pioneered a formation known as “strolling”, which uses the bass and drums, without a piano, as accompaniment to his saxophone solos.

Scoville Browne (1909-1994)


(Fred Avendorph, Louie Armstrong, Fats Waller, Claude Hopkins, Lionel Hampton, Buck Clayton…)

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*Browne, nicknamed “Toby,” played the alto sax and was also an accomplished clarinetist. He worked as a bandleader but never recorded as one.

Sahib Shihab (1925-1989)


(Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Kenny Dorham, Benny Golson, Tadd Dameron, John Coltrane…)

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*Formally known as Eddie Gregory, Shihab played the baritone, alto, and soprano saxophone as well as the flute.

Ernie Wilkins (1922-1999)


(Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Clark Terry…)

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*Played the tenor saxophone and was a writer and arranger. Made his reputation as one of the principal arrangers in Count Basie Band of in the early 1950s.

Lester Young (1909-1959)


(Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Nat “King” Cole)

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*Nicknamed “Prez,” Young was a tenor saxophonist and clarinetist. Known for wearing porkpie hats and playing the saxophone sideways, Young was also one of the talented musicians to rise to prominence under the direction of Count Basie in his Orchestras.

 

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