World's Greatest Tenors

1. Sony Stitt
2. Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
3. Illinois Jaquet

What do ya think?
Assuming jazz tenor sax, is John Coltrane too obvious an answer?
Gordon MacRae impressed me!!
These don't seem to be the kind of tenors you had in mind, but IMO:

1)Jussi Björling
2)Enrico Caruso
3)Luciano Pavarotti

-- Al
+1 Al. I was getting my list together.
Al, touche!
Mario Lanza?
Classical: Fritz Wunderlich singing Schumann: Dichterliebe
Jazz: John Coltrane
Three great tenor players. But, the best? Wow! I don't know how its possible to list the three greatest and not include Trane and Sony Rollins. My top three.

Coleman Hawkins
Mel Collins has played sax on many of my favorite rock recordings over the years.
I love ALL the Tenors listed, and would add Stan Getz and Wayne Shorter, but I cannot bump Hawkins,Trane or Sonny.
I like your list if you're going to limit it arbitrarily to 3 tenor saxophonists.
Are we talking overall influence and stature or who we enjoy the most to
listen to? If it's the fomer criteria it's impossible to omit John Coltrane and
Coleman Hawkins . I'd replace Rollins with Lester Young, I know obviously
both are jazz icons and either is worthy. For pure listening pleasure I love
Dexter Gordon. Sonny Stitt was simply a master of both the alto and tenor
saxophones and one of my favorites. So many great ones to talk about .
Don't get me started on the trumpeters.
Tia Fuller "Decisive Steps" Tenor Sax player. Incredible!!
(Christian McBride on a couple tracks, no more need to be said:)
Ben Webster
Bill Pierce is always overlooked.
There are the absolute legendary forefront artists, to be sure.
Music is both science and magic. The first has to be learned to a point where it can then be put away and forgotten, then the art begins.
All new and fresh things. Music is the truest art form.
I would like to add the following

Jazz - my personal favorite is Dexter Gordon
Opera - not sure if he qualifies "yet" for world's greatest but he is on the top the list of current tenors, Juan Diego Florez. Specially when comes to Rossini operas.
Btw, Tia's band is all female. (beside the trumpeter) Yeah, the drummer also, really :)
Charles, agree on Dexter, and "Prez" would have been on my list if it had been four instead of three. I listed three only because the OP listed three. Since he didn't say "favorite" but "greatest", "greatest" seems to imply "most influential" since anything else is subjective. I think who the most influential have been is pretty well established and agreed upon by knowledgable fans and critics. I also like Acman3's choice of Wayne Shorter, besides being a great player was one of the very best jazz composers. So, for stature and influence:

Hawkins, Prez, Trane, Sonny, and I am tempted to add Joe Henderson

For listening pleasure:

The above and I would add Dexter, Getz, Zoot Sims, Charles Lloyd, Johnny Griffin, Hank Mobley

And for sheer virtuosity (ability to do anything on the instrument from a technical standpoint), IMO the greatest ever virtuoso on the instrument has to be Michael Brecker.
Hi Frogman,
Good points,
Virtuoso? wow, really tough to say. Certainly Coltrane and I'd have to put James Carter on this plane as well. Joe Henderson is an under appreciated but massive talent! You could make a very favorable comparison of his work vs Wayne Shorter(the better known). The more I think about it Sonny Stitt was a virtuoso if there ever was one, total mastery of the saxophone in any genre he chose. I could discuss this topic for days as I have such admiration for these extraordinary musicians.
You always present a very reasoned perspective and commentary which I sincerely appreciate. On pure technical prowess I get your point about Brecker's status. The thing is though I approach music as such an art form that I judge the musicians on the overall package they have to offer and my emotional reaction to how they play. So the ones who pull me into their music the deepest (and keep me there as well) are more compelling and influential in my estimation.

On technique I've read the same about Jimmy Dorsey on alto sax (flawless they said) yet I'll take Charlie Parker in an instance for actually listening to and enjoying (no slouch when it comes to technique eithe). I'm most moved by the musician's ability to communicate and connect with emotion.
Charles, all good points.

Michael Brecker had an ability to overcome the technical obstacles posed
by the instrument that put him in a league of his own. I know some will be
surprised by this comment, but not even Coltrane had such a flawless
facility and ability to play in any register, at any speed, with flawless
intonation and utter control; he was a freak of nature. His ability to play in
the the"altissimo" register of the instrument is a case in point.
This is an extremely difficult technique used more and more by modern
players, and involves playing above the natural range of the instrument by
manipulation of the harmonics created by the notes in the natural range.
This allows the player to play in the range of the alto and soprano (much
higher). He was able to do this in an effortless way and as if it were the
natural range of the horn and not just an "effect". Stylistic
considerations are a different matter and subjective. There is only so much
that I can take of his post-Coltane/with-a-little-funk-thrown-in style. Still
credit should be given where credit is due.

Brecker: v=m5l1OTkNGFk>

Coltrane: v=03juO5oS2gg>

I find it interesting that after listening to Brecker's version, Coltrane's seems
almost polite; slower, less fire. Until one feels the slow simmer in
Coltrane's; the incredible building of tension. Brecker can fly down the
highway because he has driven it many times before and was given
directions by Coltrane. Coltrane is driving down the road for the first time,
looking for the address and exploring. That's what made him the genius he
was, and his version is, ultimately, better music; IMO. Still, as far as
playing the instrument Brecker was like no one else; but, a little bit like a
great ss amp that does every thing "perfectly": amazing clarity, incredible
bass, staging, etc. and still.....something missing.


Charles, we are, as they say, in violent agreement; and I think my last post
shows that. My point is simply that there is more than one perspective and
consideration when appreciating and judging (if we must) what any given
player brings to the table. Understanding "both sides of the
coin" enhances our appreciation of each; and it certainly doesn't have
to detract from our appreciation. In a nutshell, the point is: a technical
virtuoso is not necessarily an artist, and an artist is not necessarily a
technical virtuoso. Regards.
Hi Frogman,
We're in agreement. Here's one for you, I'm more moved and get more enjoyment from Theloneous Monk than the rightfully esteemed Oscar Peterson(how's that for a minority view?)
Agreed! Oscar Peterson has never been a favorite. Ask piano players, however, and Peterson will be preferred in more cases. Interesting you should mention Jimmy Dorsey and Charlie Parker. It is well documented in the various Bird biographies that Dorsey was one of Bird's favorite alto players. Another fascinating account is that Bird died in his hospital bed while watching the Dorsey Brother's TV show.

It's a fascinating subject, that of personal preferences. My feeling, which obviously doesn't have to be everyone's recipe for musical enjoyment and appreciation, is that the growth and development of our musical acumen (wether one is a listener or a musician) is an important goal and only helps us to enjoy our preferred genres and artists even more. When I read that Bird loved Jimmy Dorsey I want to try and understand why that was. BTW, it was mutual admiration between Parker and Dorsey. Once, when Dorsey went to hear Parker play he gave Parker one of his saxophones as a gift. Bird proceeded to pawn it :-)

Frogman! This is the first time I've had to correct you on anything, and I wouldn't now; but, "Another fascinating account is that Bird died in his hospital bed while watching the Dorsey Brother's TV show." Where did you get that from?

- Parker died on March 12, 1955 in the suite of his friend and patron Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter at the Stanhope Hotel in New York.

Case closed

Enjoy the music.
"Bird proceeded to pawn it" Sad but not surprising given Parker's unfortunate addictions.
It's really interesting that a jazz colossus such as Miles was in absolute awe and near worship of Bird. Miles says even the very best musicians(regardless of instruments played) of that era simply deferred to Parker's genius and playing ability, so great was his influence. So your insightful story about Dorsey and Bird makes perfect sense.

There's nothing I hate worse than getting into the middle of other people's conversation; but this time I'm compelled and can not resist my compulsion.

Since we're acquainted, I do so with the greatest respect for the honorable Frogman, and Charles1dad. Miles Davis was "nobody" when he went to New York looking for Bird.

"I was standing outside the club on the corner when I heard this voice from behind me say "Hey Miles! I heard you been looking for me!"

"I turned around and there was Bird. When he remembered where he had met me, I was the happiest MF on earth." That was in 1944, and for years, if you saw Bird, Miles wasn't far behind.

Now that I've crashed someone else's thread, I'm obligated to answer the question; while Trane is number one, Sonny Rollins and Ike Quebec are my personal preferences; at the same time, I wouldn't care to debate other preferences; the best tenor is usually the one I'm listening to at that time.

Enjoy the music.
We're talking jazz tenors... not singers
"It's really interesting that a jazz colossus such as Miles was in absolute awe and near worship of Bird"

Charles that's probably because technically he wasn't as good. As great as Miles was as a musical innovator I just don't hear the greatness in his playing, certainly not in the realm of Armstrong, Hawkins, Coltrane, Monk, Beiderbecke (YES, Bix) or a host of others as a musician's musician. I'm sure he well knew it but that wasn't his legacy. Miles was a great facilitator and a very creative tinkerer and innovator, THAT is his genius. IMHO. Funny, I remember almost 50 years back as a freshman band member in HS having the SAME arguments with fellow trumpeter, head tilted down with his mute in hand, who absolutely idolized Miles. Well before some of his milestone achievements, Bitches Brew and Tutu albums.

Waiting for the sparks to fly! All I can say is, it's a matter of taste and nothing is absolute! Oh Charles, we're in agreement on the Monk/Peterson comparison.
Hi Tubegroover,
No need for sparks to fly and others have said the regarding Mile's technical facility, I'll just respectfully disagree with you on this one. Mile's point was no matter the status or reputation of the musicians their feeling of Bird amongst them was universal.
Tubegroover I always appreciate your contributions on this site. No law says we have to always agree (that'd be no fun). This is no different than if we were discussing who are the most beautiful women or the best athlete ever.
Informed opinions are great.
I listen to Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, Wayne Shorter, Zoot Sims, John Coltrane, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Coleman Hawkins, Joe Henderson mostly
While it certainly could be argued that Miles didn't quite have the "chops" of some of the other great jazz trumpeters, he certainly had enough. I would agree with Tubegroover that he was not the technician that players like Clifford Brown or (later) Freddie Hubbard were, but he could definitely play the trumpet. His contribution was much more than being a conceptualist band leader; there are few jazz trumpet players whose playing is completely free of Milesisms. Anyone who could keep up with Bird in a bebop setting clearly had a lot of chops. I think that in keeping with his enigmatic persona, his playing, from a technical standpoint, reflected a certain "attitude" that is sometimes misconstrued as lack of chops. It is sometimes pointed out how often he "fracked" (missed notes) or played with a sloppy and less than perfectly focused sound. I think a lot of that was by choice and not because he couldn't play otherwise. It's an attitude of "the feeling is what matters and if the note doesn't come out, well, whatever..." This attitude is in keeping with another aspect of his concept that defined him: "the spaces between the notes (the silence) is more important than the notes themselves". This is why his playing was so sparse at times; it wasnt about playing a lot of notes, but letting a single note "tell the story". Wayne Shorter is the same way, his playing got less and less notey over the years; perhaps it was Miles' influence.
Miles played the way he 'felt' the music and via his unique interpretation. He mentioned that himself when talking about his great 1950s group that included Coltrane and Julian "Cannonball". Saying that Coltrane played "sheets" of sound and that he (Miles) was much more inclined to play fewer notes and instead use space (which he did beautifully). Listen to his playing with his second great quintet in the 1960s, there's no lack of technique. Clifford Brown is of course on the Mount Rushmore of trumpeters and was influenced by the nearly forgotten (but superb) Fats Navarro . I'd say in terms of similar technical approach Thad Jones was closer to how Clifford played.
Mingus thought Thad was better than Clifford and Miles. We all have opinions don't we?
How does a discussion of tenor players get so far off the point?
****How does a discussion of tenor players get so far off the point?****

Well, why don't you grab the bull by the horns (pun intended) and get it back on point; using your criteria? Then we'll see where it takes us. Who are your greatest tenors and why?
I'll apologize for taking the thread off course. When discussing music and
musicians I can get very passionate and a bit carried away. When someone
like Frogman joins the fray I just have to respond to the many interesting
and fine comments he has to offer. There's so much to be said about these
types of topics that it's easy to go astray. The music talk is more fun than
the equipment discussions.
Zoot45 yes,the OP listed jazz tenor saxophonists to get this initiated. .
O-10, busted, guilty as charged! You are correct about where he was when
he passed. Brain fart likely due to recently having been talking to a friend
about another alto giant, Johnny Hodges, and his recording of "Blood
Count" by Billy Strayhorn; which Strayhorn wrote while dying in his
hospital bed. What Bird was doing, which was the part germane to the
discussion (his admiration of Dorsey), is well documented and part of jazz
lore. Man, I have to tighten up my game :-) Regards.
We forgive this transgression, now carry on sir.
OK tenor saxophone fans, four of the greatest, including one who is rarely
mentioned (Al Cohn). Can you identify the order of the solos by each of the
four tenor players? Two hints: 1) the four tenor solos each begin at :47,
2:24, 4:00 and 5:31 respectively. 2) the stated order in the Youtube
"comments" is incorrect. Any takers?


And no cheating! :-)
The only one I'm sure of is Coltrane is the fourth tenor.
I'll say Sims, Mobley, Cohn, Trane. Hope you're grading on a curve Frogman. Thanks for the music.
Charles, good calls on Cohn and Trane. First two are Mobley and then Sims. The first two are tough. I remember the first time I heard this being surprised at how Sims (second solo) sounded more muscular than Mobley, not what I expected.
Hi Frogman,
It's funny as I went back and forth with the first two exactly for the reasons you wrote! Trane and Cohn have more distinctive signatures that I can recognized. I'd probably do better with the jazz trumpeters.
Here is a link to CBC radio's opinion on the sexiest sax solo. I think the guy in the last video should make the list here.
Looking through my collection it seems I am short on Sonny Stitt recordings. Any recommendations?
Hard to find a bad Sonny Stitt recording. A couple of favorites are "Sonny Stitt Plays", "Sonny Stitt Blows The Blues", "So Doggone Good" and "Interaction" with Zoot Sims. If memory serves he plays both tenor and alto on all. Enjoy.
I'll suggest,
1) "Constelltion"alto and tenor sax, Bop and Ballads features Barry Harris and Sam Jones.
2) "Stitt Meets Brother Jack" All tenor sax very bluesy with organist Jack Mc Duff.
3) "Sonny Stitt" Jazz masters 50 on Verve. Alto and tenor sax, compellation and very good! Blues, Bop and Ballads .
4)"Sonny Stitt with The Oscar Petterson Trio" A very good session,It just swings.
Thanks guys, Picked up Burnin and Night Letter today. Need to clean them. I think I saw McDuff and a Gene Ammon's with Stitt. I will go back tomorrow.
If you can find them on vinyl , good for you. My recommendations were the CD versions and all of them have exceptional sound in addition to the wonderful music.