The Greatest Saxophone Solo

For gifts and all things jazz, turn to Jerry Jazz Musician. I was told of this site, online since 1998, when Brandywine Books was added to a page of literary and jazz blogs. Maybe Collected Misc. will be added too when you click through these links to read more.

The site publishes music opinions in its monthly “Reminiscing in Tempo,” which currently asks a handful of people in the world of jazz, “What is the greatest saxophone solo in the history of jazz?” Answers vary.

Composer and saxophone musician Salim Washington replies, “The obvious answer is that there is no such thing. There can be no such thing as the greatest saxophone solo, for several reasons. First, after a certain point the level of excellence achieved by some artists is so great, that the profundity of their contribution to the record of human feeling and experience renders it meaningless to subject their work to an hierarchical evaluation that is more akin to a sporting event than an artistic endeavor.” But he does choose John Coltrane’s 1963 “I Want to Talk About You.” The members of The Bad Plus also pick that song, but from a different performance.

Coleman Hawkins’ “Body and Soul” comes up a few times. Terry Teachout chooses Charlie Parker’s “Parker’s Mood,” and David Amram picks Charlie Parker’s “Night in Tunisia.”

About that first Hawkins piece, Kitty Margolis says, “It was so influential in my understanding of this music and specifically how a solo can be so logically constructed yet have an utterly transcendent effect. As a singer, hearing the original alongside Eddie Jefferson’s lyric version helped me connect the dots between voice and wind instrument, a concept which has informed my work ever since I started to grasp it.” But she concludes her opinion on sax solos with “The ‘greatest’ solo is the favorite one you’re listening to right now.”

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