During the heyday of jazz, saxophone solos were remarkably popular. Alto and tenor sax artists still rock the stage with solo performances. But the legacy started by some of the maestro jazz saxophonists is somewhat lost.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the famous sax solos. The most astounding solo and instrumental performances came from jazz musicians like John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and their likes. The jazz instrumentals still receive a lot of praises, but solo performances by saxophonists are not as popular as the instrumentals.
Why such a disparity exists?
There are some reasons behind this. Jazz instrumentals are often used in movies as background scores, which makes audiences more familiar with them than with sax solos. Besides, they instrumentals are available in different formats; you can download them from the web, buy a music CD, etc.
The popularity of sax solos, however, depends largely on the performer and the jazz artists of the present can be hardly be compared with the legendary artists of the 40s, 50s and 60s.
Some of the most celebrated sax solos are below;
Body and Soul by Coleman Hawkins
Coleman recorded this solo in 1939. Later, in 1956, he released an album with the same name. The 1956 album contains some famous recordings of Coleman such as My Blue Heaven, Say It Isn’t So, I Love Paris, The Sheik of Araby, etc.
The solo wasn’t only popular for its artistic appeals, but also for being a must study transcription for the saxophonists. At the time of reviewing the solo, the critics focused on two elements; the stepwise resolutions and the repetitive figures. The solo as a whole has been regarded as one of the most straightforward solos of all time.
Technicalities apart, there are some emotive elements that make this solo one of a kind. Hawkins put so much emotion into the mix that the solo virtually interacts with the listeners.
All the Things You Are by Charlie Parker
The song was originally composed by two musicians called Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II. Charlie Parker’s adoption of this song made it incredibly popular. A jazz critic name Gary Giddins praised Parker’s adoption of the song and remarked that Parker turned “All the Things You Are” into a jazz standard in his 1947 composition “Birds of Paradise”.
Parker was one of the most influential soloists of his time. He successfully overcame the challenge that the harmonic elements of Kern and Hammerstein II posed. His short, introductory passages easily made peace with the harmonics of the two musicians. The jazz historians and critics are of the opinion that such a perfect combo of harmonic sequences and melody is a rarity.
The melody in “All the Things You Are” is stupendous. As mentioned already the changes are harmonically challenging, jazz musicians find it fun to improvise on them. The tune has a AABA chord structure, a common standard in jazz. The first and second A sections (8 bars) are same, barring a little difference; the first A section moves through the AB and C-Major keys whereas the second A section moves through the keys of Eb and G-Major.
Giant Steps by John Coltrane
Coltrane released on his album of the same name in the year 1959. Critics and audiences alike were totally mesmerized by the solo. The solo was regarded by them as one the most colorful solos of all time.
The solo has been identified by some critics as a stupendous piece of music. According to them, the aesthetic energy that this solo contains can virtually numb the listeners. The solo has a final version and an alternate take, which lacks the musical energy that the final version contains.
Autumn Leaves by Cannonball Adderley and Stan Getz
The solo by Getz perfectly brings the essence of a calm autumn day. Imagine the sun is out on the sky and the leaves are falling from the Maple trees. The birds are tweeting as if they are bidding farewell to someone. When listening to the solo, your mind is definite to visualize all these imageries. The melodic elements are so refined in the solo that it maintains a calm and composed tone from the beginning to the end.
Adderley’s recording of a solo of the same name saw Miles Davis participating in it.
The solo is not so gentle like that of Getz, it is more personified and has a wildness in it that often takes the listeners to a roller-coaster ride.
The four sax solos, discussed in this article are unmatched when it comes to popularity and artistic appeal. They are celebrated solos and will always remain so. If you are a music lover and never listened to these solos before, then don’t wait anymore.