The 25 Best Saxophone Songs Of All Time

June 1, 2020


The 25 Best Saxophone Songs Of All Time

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Jazz genre is blessed to have quality music that fans can enjoy. If you are a sax player, fan or a follower, then you probably have several songs in mind that stand out. Below is a list of top songs that have dominated the industry over the years. Check them out and decide if they are the best of the best out there.

1. Gerry Rafferty – ‘Baker Street’

We start off the list with one the best song in the 70’s. Baker Street was released in 1978 as a part of Gerry Rafferty album ‘City to City’. The song took the British market by storm reaching an incredible 3rd place in a short time. Interestingly, the sax player who made this song a hit didn’t smile all the way to the bank. Raphael Ravenscroft received a bounced cheque of £27.

2. The Rolling Stones – ‘Brown Sugar’

The Rolling Stones is an established band which managed to produce great songs from its reception in 1962. The reason this song stands out is that of their lead saxophonist Bobby Keys. Having performed with the band in all their live performances from 1970, you can feel his presence in this masterpiece.

3. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band – ‘Born To Run’

Born to Run is the first song of Springsteen’s album with the same name. It sold over 3 million copies and broke in the top 3 of Billboard 200. If you listen to the song, you can’t help but notice the talent and mastery of the sax performer ‘The Big Man’ Clarence Clemons. He is the main reason this song is among the best in the Rock N Roll genre.

4. Stan Getz – ‘O Grande Amor’

Stan Getz better known as the sound is a household name for Jazz and bossa nova lovers. Released in 1964 ‘O Grande Amor’ is the perfect song if you need to understand why Getz is among the legends of jazz music. Bearing a mixture of Brazilian bossa nova and jazz genre this song will blow your mind away.

5. Coleman Hawkins – ‘Body and Soul’

If people like Hawkins never played the sax maybe the instruments would not have gained worldwide popularity. ‘Body and Soul’ is among if not the best of Hawkin’s work. Officially performed in 1939 the song the exhibited the sax as one of the most important musical instrument.

6. Lester Young – ‘Just You, Just Me’

‘Just You, Just me’ is now a jazz standard.  It has therefore been recorded and performed by different artists. When you listen to Lester Young version, however, you get the feeling the song has found its rightful owner. Lester talent on the horn is beyond doubt, and his work here is equally exceptional.

7. Sonny Rollins – ‘Oleo’

Oleo is one the earliest compositions of Sonny Rollins. Originally produced in 1954 it quickly became a fan favourite topping in major charts. Though several other artists have since recorded it the original Rollins version still stands tall.

8. Kenny G – ‘Songbird’

Jazz music fanatic will tell you that Kenny G usually doesn’t disappoint. While we are used to his high standards, ‘Songbird’ is in a class of its own. Upon its release in 1987, the song topped in most music charts worldwide. Exceptionally the song became the first instrumental release to reach the top five of Billboard top 100.

9. Branford Marsalis – ‘Dienda’

Branford Marsalis is arguably the most respected jazz saxophonist alive. Whether as a solo performer or part of the group Marsalis always delivers. ‘Dienda’ was released in 1986 and remains one of his most popular songs. It is still a hit among jazz fans hence don’t be surprised to hear in Jazz concerts.

10. Candy Dulfer – ‘Lily Was Here’

If you have never heard of this song, then it’s high time you reviewed your music preference. First produced in 1989 in the Netherlands ‘Lily Was Here’ went on to dominate in most European countries. By the time it was released in America around 1991 it had already achieved major success. The song further enhances Candy Dulfer reputation as the leading female saxophonist of smooth jazz.

11. Charlie Parker – ‘Ornithology’

This song was first recorded in 1946 by Charlie Parker and Trumpeter Benny Harris. Since then it has become a mainstay in the jazz music world gathering a lot of positive reviews. In 1989 it was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame thus cementing it place one of the best Bebop songs ever produced.

12. John Coltrane – ‘Equinox’

John Coltrane in his short life managed to propel jazz music and in particular sax performances to new heights. While some of his best works were released after his death, ‘Equinox’ was exceptional. He managed to perform the song live on several occasions before its release in 1964 gathering lot of acclaim in the process.

13. Wayne Shorter – ‘Infant Eyes’

‘Infant Eyes’ is part of Wayne Shorter 6th album ‘Speak No Evil’ which released in 1966. Featuring hard pop and modal jazz genre the song would become Shorter’s signature songs. The song further confirms why Shorter is still one of the best tenor and soprano saxophone players out there.

14. Cannonball Adderley – ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’

It would be a great injustice if we compiled this list and failed to mention one the most popular soul jazz song. ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ ruled the soul chart upon its release going up to number 2 on the soul chart. Since then there have been multiple recording done some which have fared even better than the original song.

15. Ornette Coleman – ‘Lonely Woman’

Coleman released this song in 1959 as part of the album ‘The shape of jazz to come’. This album was an eye-opener to jazz fans on things to come. The song helped the album achieve several accolades most notably listing No. 3 on the best jazz album of all times at Jazzwise magazine.

16. Michael Brecker – ‘Two Blocks from the Edge’

This song was part of an album with the same name that released in 1998. Michael Brecker was a highly sought after individual because of his ability as a sax player. This song was one of best he ever did a leader of the band and became a global hit.

17. Ben Webster – ‘Chelsea Bridge’

Ben Webster is considered one of the three most acclaimed ‘swing tenors’. Chelsea Bridge is one of his many works which dominated the airwaves in the early 50’s. The song is still a popular selection up to date.

18. Johnny Hodges – ‘Jeep’s Blues’

Jeep’s Blues was one of the hit songs in the album ‘Ellington at Newport’ released in 1956. , but Jonny Hodges made the song and the album as a whole a major hit due to his sax performance. The song is among the 1001 Albums You Must Hear before You Die.

19. Chris Potter – ‘All the Things You Are’

Chris Potter is a sax player who is gifted both technically and musically. He has gathered nomination for Grammy Best Jazz instrumental solo among other awards. His song ‘All the Things You are’ is a must for any jazz lover because it represents him at his best.

20. lee Konitz – ‘I’ll Remember April’

Old is Gold. Thes saying sums up Lee Konitz story as a renowned saxophonist. Now around 90 yrs old, he continues to get better with the instrument. ‘I’ll Remember April’ is one Konitz many hits songs. He released it in 1954 and is still one of the fan favourites. Lee Konitz continues to get better with age, and his songs are an inspiration to other saxophonists.

21. Paul Desmond – ‘Take Ten’

This song is part of an album by the same name released in 1963. It is the perfect song to appreciate Desmond talent as a tenor saxophonist. The other songs in the album are also great and worth listening.

22. Phil Woods – ‘Samba du Bois’

Phil Woods is one of the best Charlie Parker students. He has produced some amazing works in his career and top among them is the ‘Samba du Bois’. This song is exceptional in that it captures the extraordinary imagination of Phil Woods. Released in 1974, it is a great song to see out an evening.

23. Eric Dolphy – ‘Hat and Beard’

‘Hat and Beard’ is the first song on the album ‘Out to Lunch’ released in 1964. The song and the album are one of the best recordings of the Blue Note label. Once you listen to the song, you agree that this song deserves a place in the history books.

24. Rahsaan Roland kirk – ‘Pedal Up’

Explaining alone is not enough. You need to hear the live recording of this song to know why Rahsaan Roland kirk is one the best sax players. The live recordings of this song are both humorous and engaging. You will be left asking for more.

25. Yusef Lateef – ‘The Plum Blossom’

The last on this list is the hit song by Yusef Lateef. The song is part of his 1961 album ‘Eastern Sounds’ which recorded considerable achievements. The song borrows heavily from Middle Eastern Music.  In that regard, it is unique and thus a great alternative to regular jazz music.

Final Thoughts

The songs above are just part of a bigger batch of saxophone melodies. Don’t limit yourself to these; search around for many others that will entertain you. All the sax players of the present and past deserve credit for their dedication to producing good music. To honor them use the list above as a benchmark to search for sax music that suits your preference.

Agnes holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and is an avid feline lover and adoring owner of two cats, Agnes’s love for music has led her to a successful career as a freelance writer specializing in the music space.
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