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Stanley Turrentine Practicing One Note in a Day?

In college I took sax lessons with with Kristen Strom, known for being in San Francisco’s Nuclear Whales sax quartet and more recently for leading her own group.

Stanley Turrentine

Stanley Turrentine

She has a lot of funny stories from her life as a musician. One day at a lesson, I turned to Stanley Turrentine’s “Sugar” to practice for a performance and she told me about how Turrentine’s dad made little Stanley play only one note per day for a while.

Probably not too much fun to do that, but it helped him get an incredible sound on all the notes.

I got a cassette tape with “Sugar” on it when I was about 12 years old and have always liked that song. Lately I’ve been working on transcribing some of Turrentine’s solos. Coming back to Turrentine’s solo on Midnight Special from the album with Jimmy Smith and from a few of his other pieces. Learned a bit from The Hustler.

You’ll find that some of his solos definitely extend into the altissimo range. Just something to be aware of.

I like Stanley Turrentine because of the soul he puts into the music, you can really hear the emotion.

Greatest Saxophone Player of All Time?

The greatest saxophone player of all time…..

Certainly up for debate.  But a number of saxophone players are definitely contenders.

Saw a poll on Sax on the web about who the greatest sax player ever is. Here are their results:

Charlie Parker 48 27.75%
Ornette Coleman 0 0%
John Coltrane 38 21.97%
Brecker 18 10.40%
Mule and Rascher 10 5.78%
Branford Marsalis 3 1.73%
Lester Young 11 6.36%
Plas Johnson 1 0.58%
Cannonball Adderley 14 8.09%

So Charlie Parker and John Coltrane get the top two spots. Makes sense. The other players on the list certainly sound great as well. Who do you think should also rank in the top tiers?

A few more contenders I would add to the list of possibilities would be-

Coleman Hawkins
Stanley Turrentine
Stan Getz
Sonny Stitt
Joe Henderson
Dexter Gordon
James Moody
Paul Desmond
Hank Mobley
Eddie Harris
Wayne Shorter
Sonny Rollins
Grover Washington Jr.
Benny Carter
Gene Ammons
Maceo Parker
Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis
King Curtis
Jimmy Heath
Jr. Walker
Louis Jordan
Gerry Mulligan
Illinois Jacquet
Earl Bostic
Johnny Hodges
Art Pepper

It’s somewhat a question of taste. Charlie Parker and John Coltrane were pioneers of bebop though.

Another question might be who you think the greatest living saxophone player is.

Sonny Rollins Drawing

Drawing of Sonny Rollins by EvilHairDay.  Saw Sonny Rollins at the Monterey Jazz Festival this last year.  He still puts on a great performance!

Sonny Rollins drawn by EvilHairDay

Sonny Rollins

Happy Birthday to Jimmy Heath! October 25, 1926

Tenor sax man Jimmy Heath is 86 today!  His brother Percy Heath plays the bass and Albert “Tootie” Heath plays the drums.  I saw Tootie Heath at a program called Jazz Camp West a few years back.

Jimmy Heath played with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, and many more great musicians.  He grew up in Philadelphia in a time that was filled with amazing music and musicians there.

Jimmy Heath actually wrote an autobiography and it’s is pretty good.  Check it out!


Happy Birthday John Coltrane! September 23, 1926

One of the greatest saxophone players. He influenced many musicians and helped pioneer bebop. In 1958, jazz critic Ira Gitle, coined the phrase ‘sheets of sound’ to describe his music. He played a lot of fast music, but also some beautiful ballads. “Naimia” is a great song by Coltrane, named after Juanita Naima Grubbs – his wife at the time.

Happy Birthday Sonny Rollins! September 7

Happy Birthday to great tenor sax man Sonny Rollins!  Turning 81 today.  I have had the fortune of seeing him live and he still puts on a great show!  Here he plays ‘Tenor Madness’.

Happy Birthday Wayne Shorter! August 25, 1933

Great tenor sax man Wayne Shorter was born August 25, 1933.  Performed with some amazing musicians and wrote some enduring jazz standards.

Shorter wrote Footprints, Speak No Evil, Fee Fi Fo Fum.  That third one I played at Santa Clara, a little bit less known than the first tune, but I like it a lot.  Try playing it!  You might like it too.

Wayne Shorter is definitely one of the top tier sax players.  Had his own style.  You will strengthen your own playing by learning his music and listening to his playing.

RIP Frank Foster September 23, 1928 – July 26, 2011

Frank Foster played a mean saxophone.  He also composed and arranged great music.  He’s known for working with Count Basie and did some amazing music on his own.

Here’s a song played by Foster and quartet: “The Leaving New York On a Rainy Friday And Arriving at 5:15at Logan Airport in Boston On a Rainy Friday and Having One Heck of a Time Getting to Wellesley Blues.”

Frank Foster-tenor saxophone
Rufus Reid-bass
Kenny Barron-piano
Terri-Lyne Carrington-drums

Willis “Gator” Jackson -Tenor Saxophone – Nuther’n Like Thuther’n

The other day, Joseph told me about a sax player I had never heard of before.  Decided to check it out.  And I liked his sound!

His solo is at about 3:52

Willis “Gator” Jackson – Nuther’n Like Thuther’n. On tenor saxophone. Will be checking out more of his music! Are you familiar with Willis “Gator” Jackson? And/or have some other musical recommendations?

What Saxophone Players Should I Listen to?

saxophone playerWhat saxophone player to listen to…….

The right players vs the wrong players?

Not exactly.

Got a question from Robert the other day.

What the best to CD to play for ideas for improvising….bird.? Can you make some thing out of a arpeggio so cool…Neal…any one… Improvising is hard, i have a tone and free playing reed.

My response:

Not necessarily bird, but if he’s your favorite player, sure. Even if he’s not your favorite player, you could probably learn a lot from him.  Listen to what you like and try and play it.  Could be saxophone players or other musicians.  There’s a lot of music out there!

Robert: I got bird c.d, that’s the only player i know..New to sax..Never been in to buying c.d…Got and names to listen to , so start me off, from the top of your head..?

Neal: My favorite is Stanley Turrentine, I like Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt. Check out this post and the comments: Greatest Saxophone Player? Should give your some ideas of sax players to listen to, especially if you’re not sure where to start.

Jackie McLean was born on May 17th 1931! Great Alto Sax Player

Jackie McLean recorded with Miles Davis on the album ‘Dig’ along with tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins and he was only 19 at the time.  He has written some other tunes that you probably have heard too. Also recorded with Mingus.

Another place you may have seen his face is on the cover of his Warmup Book for saxophone.  I have used that book frequently over the years.  Great way to warm up.

Here’s Jackie McLean playing some alto sax in Japan.