There’s just about nothing that uber nerdy jazz fans like to do is make lists of their favorite players and albums. And I’ve found a new one that I think is pretty interesting. The good folks at the Burning Ambulance blog recently put together their top 50 greatest saxophonists of all time. While their list has a bunch of the same people my list would have, there are, I think, a few glaring omissions. While it’s awesome to see some younger and more contemporary saxophonists on there – tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen and alto saxophonist Matana Roberts especially – there are some players I felt were more deserving. Now by more deserving I mean not because they are necessarily better players, but because their legacy and influence is greater.
Those who didn’t make the Burning Ambulance list who are definitely in mine include: Johnny Hodges, Paul Desmond, Lee Konitz, Michael Brecker, Jan Garbarek (especially for his influence on European saxophonists, not so much in the United States), and Steve Coleman. Out of those seven, I was most shocked to not see Konitz and Brecker – especially because Brecker is maybe the most influential saxophonist since Coltrane.
To be fair – creating a list of the top 50 what/whoevers is an impossible task (what exactly does “greatest” mean?). I’m sure many people will take issue with my list. But, to put my money where my mouth is, here, in alphabetical order by first name – and with a few curveballs to provoke consternation – are my top 50 players:
Albert Ayler, Anthony Braxton, Archie Shepp, Art Pepper, Ben Webster, Benny Carter, Branford Marsalis, Charles Lloyd, Charlie Parker, Chris Potter, Coleman Hawkins, David S. Ware, Dewey Redman, Dexter Gordon, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Eric Dolphy, Frankie Trumbauer, Gerry Mulligan, Hank Mobley, Harry Carney, Henry Threadgill, Jackie McLean, James Carter, Jan Garbarek, Joe Henderson, Joe Lovano, John Coltrane, John Gilmore, John Zorn, Johnny Hodges, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, Kenny Garrett, Lee Konitz, Lester Young, Marshal Royal, Michael Brecker, Miguel Zenon, Ornette Coleman, Paul Desmond, Pepper Adams, Roscoe Mitchell, Serge Chaloff, Sidney Bechet, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Steve Coleman, Steve Lacy, Warne Marsh, Wayne Shorter, Yusef Lateef.
So there it is – love it, hate it, dispute it, accept it as the gospel truth (yeah, right). There are so many players who I could have put on there – especially more contemporary ones like Roberts and Allen, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, or Jon Irabagon, or Mark Turner or etc etc etc….You’ll see that I privileged section players a lot more than the Burning Ambulance list, thus Marshal Royal and Harry Carney. But anyways, there it is is. Who did I leave out?