Your Top 5 Sax Players?

Ok jazz heads I know there are tons of Tenor and Alto players out there that can impress you on any given day, but who would qualify to be on your ALLTIME great list of five? I know it is hard to limit it to just five, but that is just to make you think a little harder on who really gets to your heart and soul the most. Some guys had very short careers and others had very long ones with many great recordings of exceptional merit. Some were better live and others were better in the studio, but what we want to know is who could REALLY play? Here are my five.

1. Stan Getz
2. Sony Rollins
3. John Cotrane
4. Sonny Stitt
5. Ben Webster
cannonbal adderly....eddie harris......junior walker....charles lloyd.....roland kirk
I think that Charlie Parker and Lester Young would have to be on the list. I agree that Coltrane belongs on the list as well. Other candidates would include:

Ben Webster
Stan Getz
Coleman Hawkins
Johnny Hodges
Sonny Rollins
Hank Mobley
Ornette Coleman
Cannonball Adderley
Dexter Gordon
Wayne Shorter
Sonny Stitt

Of course, if you limit your list to five or ten, there are a lot of great sax players who would not make the cut, including Chu Berry, Teddy Edwards, Wardell Gray, Ike Quebec, Don Byas, Harry Carney, Sidney Bichet, Steve Lacy, Paul Desmond, Booker Ervin, Gerry Mulligan, Serge Chaloff, Warne Marsh, Eric Dolphy, Pepper Adams, Roland Kirk, Cecil Taylor, Albert Aylor, Al Cohn, Flip Phillips, Zoot Sims, Johnny Griffin, Illinois Jacquet, Gene Ammons, Sonny Criss, Arnett Cobb, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Lou Donaldson, Stanley Turrentine, Jimmy Giuffre, Sam Rivers...
If we talk about "favorites", then my list includes Joe Henderson, John Stubblefield, John Handy, Lee Konitz, and Gary Bartz.
William Jefferson Clinton........LOL!
John Coltrane
Albert Ayler
Tim Berne
David S. Ware
Peter Brotzmann

The list could go on and on, but if I had to pick 5 then it would be these guys.
Just to clarify Cincy Bobs list, Cecil Taylor does not play sax, he plays piano. His main man sax player was Jimmy Lyons who would make my top 10 if this was a top 10 list.
Sorry, that was a slip on my part.
Lester Young, Jerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker, James Carter, and Joe Lovano.
Cincy_bob's list is pretty extensive & he's covered ALMOST all my favourite sax players. I'd like to add one more - Art Pepper.
On a much lighter note I do like Clarence Clemmons (who used to play in Bruce Springsteen's E-street Band) & also John Helliwell, who used to play in the Supertramp band.

in no particular order...

ornette coleman
john coltrane
charlie parker
sonny rollins
eric dolphy
michael brecker
ornette coleman
john zorn
evan parker
ravi coltrane
1. Johnny Hodges
2. Gene Ammons
3. Stanley Turrentine
4. Stan Getz
5. John Coltrane
The Five rule is masochistic and it makes otherwise highly deluxe members (Ejlif for example) commit horrible crimes of omission. Anyway here are a few more that shouldn't ought to be left out:

Ken Vandermark
Scott Rosenberg (Rosenberg's Red/Owe)
Tom Guralnick (Pitchin')
Anthony Braxton (Start w/ 8 Standards on Barking Hoop)
John Gilmore
Jean Derome
Thomas Chapin
Dewey Redman
David Jackson (Van der Graaf)
Ned Rothenberg
Kurt McGettrick, Motorhead Sherwood, Ian Underwood (FZ)
Rich Halley
Jindra Dolansky (Uz Jsme Doma)
Dirk Bruinsma (Blast)
Charlie Kohlhase
Sabin Hudon (Miriodor)
Odean Pope
Johannes Pappert (Kraan)
James White
Archie Shepp
Pierre Labbe
Louis Sclavis (usually clarinet/ sometimes sax)
Yochk'o Seffer
michael brecker,phil woods,don potter,jan garberek,coltrane.potter is my favorite to this date though!
stan sulzman,paul mc,candless,stan turin!dgoosen nice choice of none con-ventional! so many!!!!
Wow! Not an easy task...but if I had a gun put to my head this is what I'd say:

Of those I've heard live and in no particular order:
David Murray, James Carter, Pharoah Saunders, Stan Getz and Sonny Rollins

Of those I've heard only on record:
Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane
steve marcus cica 72 with larry coryell call to hiher con,those were some times.w/roy haynes,
All TIME GREAT has to mean those who were most influential, changed the stylistic course of saxophone playing, and were most emulated. Using those criteria the first four on my list are no-brainers, the last will be controversia. In chronological order:

Sidney Bechet (played soprano, but has to be on the list)
Lester Young
Charlie Parker
John Coltrane
Dave Sanborn

Before you jump all over me for my fifth choice, like it or not, Sanborn was almost singlehandedly responsible for the
prevalence of the saxophone in pop music beginning in the early '70's. While clearly not a giant as far as harmonic sophistication in his improvisations, his style, way with a tune, and just plain "feel" in the context of most pop genres are unmatched. He spawned a slew of "Sanborn clones" and probably was responsible, as much as anyone, for the "smooth jazz" movement. Why is that important? Because at a time when jazz was in danger of becoming even more of an obscure art form than it already was, "smooth jazz", as much as we like to put it down, opened the door for many listeners who went on to understand and appreciate real jazz.

Lots of great choices in the previous posts, but most of them have roots that can be directly traced to Bechet, Young, Bird or Coltrane. Other greats, not mentioned, that are personal favorites:

Gene Quill
Charlie Mariano
Bob Mover
Jimmy Heath
Tina Brooks
Ike Quebec
Serge Chaloff
Pete Christlieb
Dave Liebman
Steve Grossman
Bob Berg
Kenny Garrett
Frank Wess
Frank Foster
Zoot Sims
Harold Land
James Moody
Sal Nestico
Benny Golson
Earl Bostic
Sonny Criss
Jackie McClean
Bud Shank
David Newman
I agree with Bombaywalla, that Art Pepper belongs among the all time best, along with the living legend Charles Lloyd.

It's also nice to have so much new talent to enjoy like:
Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Vincent Herring and Steve
Joe Henderson

Josh Redman and Chris Potter: way underated who will be greats.
While I don't have a problem with smooth jazz or David Sanborn, and using your criteria of most influential and changed the style of saxophone playing how could Stan Getz not be on your list? That is a complete mystery to me.
What about "Bleeding Gums Murphy" boy can he play a mean saxamaphone.
Eddinanm3, that's the problem with limiting the list to five choices; although by limiting it, we are forced to narrow things down to the truly innovative. As I said in my post, most of the mentioned players have roots in Bechet, Prez, Bird or Trane. Stan Getz, while unquestionably one of the greatest and certainly one of my favorites had a style, in a not so broad sense, clearly steeped in the Lester Young tradition. A softer edged sound, laid back swing feel, and while far more harmonically adventurous than Prez, not nearly as influential in a strict sense as Prez. Who are some players that you feel were heavily influenced by Getz? And how? Was Getz's presence on the jazz scene a turning point in the stylistic evolution of jazz saxophone playing? I really don't think so. A major contribution, but not a turning point. I can't imagine not including Bechet, Prez, Bird, or Trane in the top five. And if you remove Sanborn, who then, is representative of the style of post-Coltrane jazz/rock/pop saxophone playing prevalent over the last thirty years?

Here's 5 who are perhaps underappreciated, compared with the justly celebrated likes of Coltrane and Rollins:

Coleman Hawkins
Hank Mobley
Art Pepper
Stanley Turrentine
Hamiet Bluiett

Pleased to see all mentioned above, save Bluiett. For a sense of him, try the excellent Bluiett, Jackson, and El'Zabar, "The Calling."

There was no shortage of players around to develop strains of the smooth jazz pathogen, Paul Desmond might be viewed as a source. Tom Scott, John Klemmer, Klaus Doldinger and Jan Garbarek (all great players) probably would have pumped out the same generic swill with or without David Sanborn, (they all put out records that pre date Sanborn's first record). Hoardes of others could have crossed any microscopic artisic chasm that existed prior to the smooth stuff in the early and mid 70's. No one person can legitimately be blamed or credited for the birth of McJazz.
Well, we've pretty well scoured the roster for the 'Five Top Saxists', but no list can be complete without the inclusion of Curtis Ousley, aka King Curtis, Plas Johnson, Red Holloway, Curtis Amy, Paquito D'Rivera or Willis Jackson. (My top five? Parker, Young, Trane, Rollins and Stitt. I agree that Sidney Bechet deserves attention here, as does Coleman Hawkins.) BTW, the discussion of 'smooth' jazz is, with all due respect to Yogi, deja vu all over again. Even before Creed Taylor filled the record bins with his CTI version of smooth jazz, many traditionalists had already blasted various artists - not the least of which was Miles Davis - for abandoning what they felt was hard, traditional jazz: an act of heresy. Jazz simply can't be defined in such narrow terms.
Paul Desmond a source in the smooth jazz genre as we define it today? I don't think so. I'm afraid that the point I was trying to make has been, as expected, not understood. My choice of those five players have to do with the main contributors to the stylistic development of jazz SAXOPHONE playing. No claim as to who was responsible for the birth of smooth jazz as a genre was made, but rather the stylistic development of saxophone players in that genre. Wether we like the genre or not is not the point. Sanborn's style on the saxophone is without a doubt the most emulated of any saxophone player over the last twenty to thirty years; with the possible exeption of Michael Brecker, but his style in clearly rooted in Coltrane. Sanborn's style, when all is said and done, is far more more individualistic. Please don't misunderstand, I am not defending the genre, nor am I giving it as much credibility as, swing, bop, or hard bop.

BTW, as is usually the case, by using labels, we tend to lump worthy contributors to a genre with the hoardes putting out drivel. I stand by my choices. Look at the issue in a broad, forward looking way, and it will become obvious.
Sweet Lou Donaldson
Cannonball Adderley
Ike Quebec
John Klemmer
Hank Mobley
It's obvious that you like some great stuff and i'd be hard pressed to disagree wit ya most of the time, but this thread is about looking back not forward, (it's also about whose playing you like most, not who was most influential). If you listen to the records and check out the dates on em' the fact that Sanborn was not almost singlehandedly responsible for the prevalence of the saxaphone in pop music beginning in the early 70's is pretty irrefutable. I'm not really a big fan of Paul Desmond but he was a guy who steered the instrument toward a whitebread sensibility that's at the core of the dreaded smooth jazz saxaphone. Hey at least we both spelled hordes wrong.
I'm glad that Kenny G is excepted from everyone's lists.
Yeah Kenny G, that begs the question if an artist finds a niche and crosses over to the mainstream selling audience ala Chuck Mangione,John Klemmer,George Benson is it still jazz. I dug John Klemmer and included him on my list because he put out some pretty trippy stuff in the late 70's but it wasn't traditional jazz. Hey I dig Paul Desmond and play his Mosiac box set every now and then and say what you will about the guy but he could rip with the best of them.Nuff said.
Desmond and Klemmer blow me away. Klemmer's "Eruptions" record (1970) is an amazing brain scorcher w/ tons of depraved guitar work, "Constant Throb" and "Intensity" are also excellent.
Duanegoosen, point well taken; almost. As I see it, Edinanm3 asks for two different things, really. ALL TIME GREAT has to mean most influential. By the same token, those five may not necessarily be one's favorites. So, using your interpretation of this thread's original calling, my top five are:

"Lockjaw" Davis
Johnny Hodges
Hank Mobley
Joe Henderson
Wayne Shorter

Why, because they "really get to (my) heart and soul the most"

I have to respectfully and strongly disagree with you about both Desmond and Sanborn. Desmond's sophistication of swing and sound, and subtlety of phrasing are extremely respected by most players. The "whitebread" sensibility you talk about is an unfair characterization of his artistry. Just because he doesn't swing "hard" in the obvious sense, or because he had the courage (like others such as Mulligan, or Konitz) to play without sounding like his horn was going to split at the seams all the time, does not mean that he was not playing at an extremely high level.

As far as Sanborn goes, my comments had nothing to do chronology. Yes, there were others playing in a pop/jazz bag before he did; although there is plenty of work by him as a sideman before he recorded as a leader. Check out some of his work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, or the Gil Evans Orchestra. If that doesn't qualify him as a great and highly individualistic saxophone player, I don't know what does. Anyway, the vast majority (and I mean VAST) of contemporary alto players playing our pet-peave-genre "smooth jazz", owe their sound to Sanborn, and they would be the first to admit it. That was my point.

Three more for the list:

Joe Farrell
Eddie Harris
Georege Coleman

BTW, a friendly aside: If you want to really bug a saxophone player, call it a saxAphone.

All the best.
Yeah but don't forget Touch,Barefoot Ballet and a very underated recording and my favorite Lifestyles. Sure it's not traditional jazz but it sure is spacey,dreamy,music to just float with after a hard day at the salt mines.
Frogman, I like your second list better than your first one, I guess they make more sense to me. And I almost completely forgot about Joe Farrell, I had a couple of his lp's from the 70's, can't remember their names, but they weren't bad.
While Desmond has been described here as a proponent of 'smooth' (more aptly known as 'cool') jazz, he was really much more than that. He employed adventurous time signatures and Brubeck acknowledges this in an intro during the 1963 Carnegie Hall performance. He had superb control and was a wonderful balladeer. His recordings with Gerry Mulligan and Jim Hall better demonstrate his talent than those he made with Brubeck, IMHO. Was he influential? Was he one of the best? I always find these questions troubling, just as I find it nearly impossible to limit my 'favorites list' to only five performers or performances. I really enjoy Desmond, as I do Konitz, and Benny Carter even though they each have a much different voice than Trane, or Ornette or Von Freeman...
My vote Goes to:
1) Ben Webster
2) Lester Young
3) John Coltrane
4) Sonny Rollins
5) Stan Getz
6) Charlie Parker
7) Johnny Hodges
8) Paul Desmond
9) Joe Henderson
10) Wayne Shorter
From The New York times

Jazz Review | David Sanborn
A Coolly Lyrical Sound, but Not Exactly Smooth

Published: November 10, 2005

When the alto saxophonist David Sanborn released his first album as a leader 30 years ago, there was no way of auguring the genre that would bubble up in his wake. Smooth jazz is unimaginable without Mr. Sanborn; his coolly imploring brand of lyricism runs through all its iterations, including the latest, urban jazz and chill.

This is a source of some ambivalence for Mr. Sanborn, whose playing has always suggested the grit of rhythm-and-blues. At the Blue Note on Tuesday night, he made a point of starting strong, with explosive and rhythmically complex strands of Latin jazz.

Mr. Sanborn has the right musicians for the task. The keyboardist Geoffrey Keezer, the bassist Mike Pope and the drummer Terreon Gully are a well-calibrated rhythm section, and the percussionist Don Alias brings a welcome layer of texture. On Horace Silver's "SeƱor Blues," the group backed Mr. Sanborn's chirping phrases with a satisfying heavy churn. The second song, Gil Fuller and Chano Pozo's classic "Tin Tin Deo," was even more doggedly propulsive, peaking with a blistering exchange between Mr. Alias, on timbales, and Mr. Gully, on snare drum and toms.

The remainder of the set was so much more temperate that it almost felt like a different show - the one, of course, that the audience had paid handsomely to see. There were scattered cheers when Mr. Sanborn introduced "Maputo," a polished track from his 1990 album with the keyboardist Bob James. A similar response greeted "The Dream," a treacly pop ballad by Michael Sembello that he inflated to grand dimensions, like a float in a parade.

Still, "smooth" is not the best characterization of Mr. Sanborn's style. His tone is tart, not velvety, and he often phrases in staccato bursts. He spends a lot of time straining for cathartic high notes and then holding them aloft - a gesture not so much of intimacy as of triumph. What distinguished his strongest playing of the set, on "Lotus Blossom" - not the Billy Strayhorn standard but a Don Grolnick ballad with a vaguely Brazilian lilt - was that he worked quietly and patiently, drawing the audience in before leaping into flight.
Yes, I saw Mr. Sanborn about a month and a half ago at Jazz Alley in Seattle and he did a good set, more uptempo than I would have imagined. And while his style and sound has grown on me over the years, I will still never put him in the same boat with Coltrane, Getz or Rollins.
Eddinanm3, I don't disagree with you. There is no question that Sanborn is not the kind of great artist that Coltrane, Getz, or Rollins (and many others) are. An artist he is, however; and as far as my strict interpretation of your original query (for better or for worse), there is also no question that he has been a major influence (IMO, more so than even Getz). I have already explained the reasons that I think that is so). Unfortunately, he is also a reflection of the state of music today. You can disagree with my interpretation of your original query, but not with my explanation of it. Let me put it this way: for better or for worse (and personally, I believe it's for the worse), I don't think a single day goes by that I don't hear a saxophonist on the radio or on television that does not clearly owe his/her style to Sanborn.

Is Sanborn's artistry on the same level, in absolute terms, as Getz's "Focus", or the Bill Evans sessions? Of course not. That wasn't my point.

John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Pharoah Sanders, Ornette Coleman, and Archie Shepp. I have to say that J.C. really does it for me, spiritually. Especially, the later quartet period of 1965. IMHO, no one else can compare! I mean the guy use to practice for 8 hrs. a day religiously, also meditating for long periods of his day. He got to the point that he didn't even need to blow through the SAX to practice, he just used the key pads. Talk about becoming ONE with your instrument!