Learn about the 10 best current saxophonists!
James Carter, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, Kenny G…
1. Kamasi Washington
Curiosities about Kamasi:
- Comic Book Enthusiast: Kamasi Washington has a deep love for comic books. In fact, he has mentioned in interviews that he often draws inspiration from the visual storytelling techniques found in comics and incorporates that into his own musical compositions.
- Musical Family: Washington comes from a highly musical family. His father, Rickey Washington, is a jazz flutist, and his mother, Valerie Washington, is a vocalist. Growing up in such a musical household undoubtedly influenced and nurtured his passion for music.
- Musical Encounter at a Party: Washington’s musical journey took an interesting turn at a party. While attending a gathering, he ended up meeting and jamming with the renowned saxophonist Wayne Shorter. This encounter left a lasting impression on him and inspired him to pursue music more seriously.
Kamasi through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Kamasi Washington.
2. Chris Potter
Chris Potter is an exceptional American saxophonist and composer known for his remarkable talent and versatility. Born in 1971 in Chicago, Potter began playing the alto saxophone at a young age and quickly developed a reputation as a prodigious musician. He transitioned to the tenor saxophone in his teens, and his virtuosic abilities and musical maturity caught the attention of the jazz community.
Potter’s career has been marked by constant innovation and exploration. His playing style encompasses a wide range of influences, blending elements of post-bop, modern jazz, fusion, and world music. Renowned for his technical brilliance and deep musicality, Potter’s improvisations are characterized by their fluidity, harmonic sophistication, and emotional depth.
Over the years, Potter has collaborated with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, and Dave Holland. He has also led his own groups and released numerous critically acclaimed albums as a bandleader, showcasing his prowess as both a composer and performer. His compositions often demonstrate intricate arrangements, highlighting his ability to weave together complex harmonies and engaging melodies.
What sets Potter apart is his unwavering commitment to musical exploration. He consistently pushes the boundaries of the saxophone, seeking new sounds and textures while maintaining a deep respect for jazz tradition. His dedication to his craft and constant evolution as an artist has earned him widespread recognition, numerous awards, and a dedicated following of fans worldwide.
Chris Potter’s contributions to the saxophone and his impact on the jazz genre as a whole have solidified his place as one of the most influential and respected saxophonists of his generation. With his exceptional talent, boundless creativity, and unwavering passion for music, he continues to captivate audiences and inspire fellow musicians around the globe.
Curiosities about Chris:
- Socks and Sandals: Chris Potter has been spotted wearing socks with sandals on occasion, much to the amusement of fans and fellow musicians. It seems that comfort takes priority for him, even if it means rocking the unconventional socks-and-sandals combo.
- Obsession with Coffee: Potter is known to have a deep love for coffee. He has mentioned in interviews that he is a self-proclaimed coffee addict and cannot start his day without a strong cup of joe. It seems that caffeine plays a vital role in fueling his musical endeavors.
- Basketball Enthusiast: When he’s not immersed in music, Potter enjoys playing basketball. He has revealed in interviews that he grew up playing the sport and remains an avid fan. It’s not uncommon to find him shooting hoops and enjoying a friendly game during his downtime.
Chris through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Chris Potter.
3. Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman is an esteemed American saxophonist and composer hailed for his dynamic and soulful approach to jazz. Born in 1969 in Berkeley, California, Redman was exposed to music from an early age through his father, the renowned saxophonist Dewey Redman. Joshua quickly developed his own musical voice, gaining attention for his remarkable technical proficiency and expressive playing style.
Redman’s career skyrocketed in the 1990s when he won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991, launching him into the international jazz scene. His debut album, “Joshua Redman,” was released in 1993 and garnered critical acclaim, solidifying his status as a rising star. Known for his rich tone, melodic ingenuity, and dynamic improvisations, Redman has become one of the most influential and recognizable saxophonists of his generation.
Throughout his career, Redman has collaborated with a diverse array of musicians, including Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and The Bad Plus. His ability to seamlessly blend elements of bebop, post-bop, and contemporary jazz has allowed him to cross stylistic boundaries and attract a wide range of listeners. Redman’s compositions reflect his deep musicality and exploratory spirit, often striking a balance between accessibility and artistic integrity.
Beyond his saxophone prowess, Redman is highly regarded for his engaging stage presence and captivating live performances. His energy and connection with the audience make his concerts an immersive and memorable experience. With numerous accolades, Grammy nominations, and a discography of acclaimed albums, Joshua Redman continues to push the boundaries of jazz, leaving an indelible mark on the genre while captivating fans with his remarkable talent and genuine passion for music.
Curiosities about Joshua:
- Improv Comedy Skills: In addition to his saxophone skills, Redman has demonstrated a talent for improv comedy. He has made appearances on comedy shows and even participated in comedic skits during some of his live performances. His ability to think on his feet and bring humor to the stage adds an unexpected and entertaining element to his shows.
- Unexpected Musical Collaborations: Redman has surprised audiences on several occasions by collaborating with musicians from genres far removed from jazz. He has shared the stage with artists like The Roots, jamming with them in a fusion of jazz and hip-hop. These unexpected and genre-bending collaborations showcase Redman’s willingness to explore different musical territories and have some fun in the process.
- Hidden Talent as a Juggler: In a lesser-known talent of his, Joshua Redman has showcased his juggling skills. He has been spotted juggling objects like tennis balls during downtime between sets or during interviews. This playful display highlights his dexterity and coordination beyond the saxophone.
Joshua through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Joshua Redman.
4. Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis is an acclaimed American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader, known for his virtuosic playing and multifaceted musical career. Born in 1960 in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, Marsalis hails from a highly musical family. His father, Ellis Marsalis Sr., was a renowned jazz pianist, and his brothers Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason are all accomplished musicians in their own right.
Branford first gained recognition as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers in the 1980s. He then rose to prominence as the musical director and saxophonist for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Marsalis’ playing style spans a wide range, encompassing elements of bebop, post-bop, and contemporary jazz. His tone is characterized by its warmth, lyricism, and expressive phrasing.
Beyond his stellar saxophone skills, Marsalis is also recognized for his compositional talents. He has released numerous albums as a bandleader, showcasing his ability to craft intricate and melodic compositions. Marsalis has collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including Sting, Miles Davis, and Herbie Hancock, demonstrating his versatility and ability to adapt to various musical contexts.
In addition to his jazz endeavors, Marsalis has explored classical music and even performed as a soloist with leading orchestras. He has also delved into teaching, serving as an educator and mentor to aspiring musicians.
With multiple Grammy Awards to his name, Branford Marsalis has cemented his status as one of the most influential and respected saxophonists of his generation. His unwavering commitment to artistic integrity, technical brilliance, and diverse musical explorations have made him a true icon in the world of jazz and beyond.
Curiosities about Branford:
- Sense of Humor: Branford Marsalis has a playful and witty sense of humor, often showcasing it during interviews and performances. He is known for his quick and clever remarks, injecting humor into conversations and interactions with fellow musicians and the audience.
- Basketball Passion: Marsalis is an avid basketball fan. In his free time, he enjoys watching games, analyzing plays, and discussing the sport with friends and colleagues. His passion for basketball often finds its way into conversations and interviews, adding a fun and relatable dimension to his personality.
- Musical Pranks: Marsalis has been known to play pranks on fellow band members during live performances. These pranks can range from subtle musical jokes and unexpected musical quotes to playful improvisational challenges. These light-hearted moments add an element of surprise and amusement to the stage, creating memorable and enjoyable experiences for both the musicians and the audience.
Branford through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Branford Marsalis.
5. James Carter
James Carter is a highly acclaimed American saxophonist known for his virtuosity and versatility across a wide range of musical styles. Born in 1969 in Detroit, Michigan, Carter started playing saxophone at a young age and quickly gained attention for his prodigious talent. He is renowned for his exceptional technical skills, captivating stage presence, and ability to seamlessly navigate various genres, including jazz, blues, classical, and avant-garde.
Carter’s unique playing style encompasses influences from legendary saxophonists like John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, and Sonny Rollins. He possesses a rich and powerful tone that he masterfully employs to create an array of expressive and dynamic musical landscapes. With a strong command of his instrument, Carter fearlessly explores the boundaries of improvisation, often incorporating innovative techniques and pushing the saxophone’s limits.
Throughout his career, Carter has collaborated with a diverse array of artists, ranging from jazz luminaries like Wynton Marsalis and Dee Dee Bridgewater to rock legends such as the late Lou Reed. His ability to seamlessly integrate different musical styles has earned him critical acclaim and a devoted following. Carter’s discography boasts a wealth of highly regarded albums, each showcasing his immense talent and fearless musical exploration.
James Carter continues to captivate audiences around the world with his electrifying performances and boundary-pushing artistry. His innovative approach to the saxophone, paired with his deep respect for jazz tradition, has solidified his place as one of the most exciting and influential saxophonists of his generation. Whether he’s delving into bebop classics or pushing the boundaries of avant-garde jazz, James Carter’s exceptional skill and musicality shine through, leaving an indelible mark on the world of jazz.
Curiosities about James:
- Multi-instrumentalist Extraordinaire: In addition to his mastery of the saxophone, Carter is a skilled multi-instrumentalist. He can play a wide range of instruments, including the clarinet, flute, and trumpet. His ability to switch seamlessly between instruments adds a dynamic and surprising element to his performances.
- The Saxophone Whisperer: Carter has developed a reputation for his ability to coax unique sounds and effects out of his saxophone. He is known to experiment with unconventional techniques, such as beatboxing through the saxophone or using circular breathing to sustain long, uninterrupted notes. These playful and unexpected sounds demonstrate his willingness to push the boundaries of the instrument.
- Stage Antics: Carter is known for his charismatic and energetic stage presence. He incorporates playful movements, dance-like gestures, and comedic interactions with his bandmates into his live performances. These stage antics not only entertain the audience but also reflect his joyful and passionate approach to music.
James through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by James Carter.
6. Kenny G
Kenny G is a highly successful American saxophonist, composer, and producer known for his smooth jazz sound and melodic style. Born Kenneth Bruce Gorelick in 1956 in Seattle, Washington, Kenny G began playing the saxophone at a young age and quickly honed his skills. He rose to prominence in the 1980s and became one of the most successful instrumental musicians of his time.
Kenny G’s distinctive sound, characterized by his smooth tone and soaring melodies, captivated listeners around the world. His albums, such as “Duotones” and “Breathless,” achieved immense commercial success, selling millions of copies and topping the charts. His soothing saxophone melodies became a trademark of contemporary instrumental music.
Throughout his career, Kenny G collaborated with a diverse range of artists, including Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Bolton. He also explored different genres, infusing elements of pop, R&B, and Latin music into his repertoire. Despite criticism from some jazz purists, his accessible and melodic style resonated with a broad audience, contributing to his enduring popularity.
Beyond his music, Kenny G has actively engaged in philanthropic endeavors, supporting causes such as education and healthcare. He has received numerous accolades for his contributions to the music industry, including Grammy Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Kenny G’s smooth jazz sound, melodic sensibility, and impressive commercial success have established him as one of the most recognizable saxophonists of all time. His enduring popularity and ability to connect with listeners through his soothing melodies have made him a household name in contemporary instrumental music.
Curiosities about Kenny:
- Record-Breaking Long Note: In 1997, Kenny G held a remarkable note on his saxophone for an astonishing 45 minutes and 47 seconds. This feat earned him a place in the Guinness World Records for the longest sustained note ever recorded on a saxophone. It’s an impressive display of his breath control and endurance.
- Unlikely Collaboration with Warren G: Kenny G surprised fans and critics alike when he collaborated with rapper Warren G on the song “Regulate.” This unexpected pairing brought together the worlds of smooth jazz and hip-hop, resulting in a memorable and humorous musical fusion that defied genre expectations.
- Satirical Appearance in “The Simpsons”: In a playful nod to his commercial success and smooth jazz image, Kenny G made a guest appearance on the animated television show “The Simpsons.” In the episode titled “Bart Gets Famous,” he is humorously depicted as part of a dinner party serenading the guests with his signature saxophone sound.
Kenny through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Kenny G.
7. Donny McCaslin
Donny McCaslin is an acclaimed American saxophonist and composer recognized for his innovative and boundary-pushing approach to jazz. Born in 1966 in Santa Clara, California, McCaslin was exposed to music from a young age, thanks to his father, a vibraphonist. He began playing the saxophone as a teenager and quickly gained recognition for his technical proficiency and adventurous spirit.
McCaslin’s musical journey has been marked by a fearless exploration of various genres and collaborations with renowned artists. He has worked with jazz legends such as Gary Burton and Maria Schneider, as well as ventured into the realms of rock and electronic music, collaborating with artists like David Bowie and Mark Guiliana. McCaslin’s willingness to merge different styles and embrace experimentation has led to the development of his own unique sound.
In recent years, McCaslin gained widespread acclaim for his work on David Bowie’s final studio album, “Blackstar,” for which he served as a key collaborator and saxophonist. The album’s fusion of jazz, rock, and electronic elements showcased McCaslin’s versatility and ability to push musical boundaries.
As a bandleader, McCaslin has released numerous albums that display his virtuosity, emotive playing, and sophisticated compositions. His music often incorporates intricate harmonies, pulsating rhythms, and memorable melodies, captivating listeners with its intensity and depth.
With multiple Grammy nominations and critical acclaim, Donny McCaslin has solidified his position as one of the most exciting and forward-thinking saxophonists of his generation. His willingness to embrace diverse influences, his technical brilliance, and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of jazz have earned him a dedicated following and respect within the music community.
Curiosities about Donny:
- Skateboarding Saxophonist: McCaslin is an avid skateboarder. He has mentioned in interviews that skateboarding is one of his favorite hobbies outside of music. This unexpected combination of interests showcases his adventurous and free-spirited nature.
- Love for Coffee: McCaslin has expressed his deep appreciation for coffee. He is known to be a coffee connoisseur, often seeking out quality brews and enjoying a good cup of joe before performances or during breaks in the studio. His love for coffee adds a touch of personality and enjoyment to his music-making routine.
- Musical Impressions: McCaslin has been known to entertain his bandmates and fellow musicians with playful impressions of various musical styles and artists. Whether mimicking iconic saxophonists or imitating the vocal nuances of famous singers, his musical impressions create light-hearted and enjoyable moments during rehearsals and jam sessions.
Donny through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Donny McCaslin.
8. Kenny Garret
Kenny Garrett is a highly acclaimed American saxophonist and composer known for his powerful and energetic approach to jazz. Born in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan, Garrett’s musical journey began at a young age when he picked up the saxophone. He quickly gained recognition for his remarkable technical skills and his ability to infuse his playing with intense passion and emotion.
Garrett’s musical career took off when he joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the 1980s. Since then, he has performed and recorded with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Miles Davis, Art Blakey, and Herbie Hancock. His distinct sound, characterized by his searing tone and dynamic phrasing, has made him a sought-after soloist and bandleader.
Known for his versatility, Garrett effortlessly traverses various jazz styles, from bebop and post-bop to fusion and contemporary jazz. His compositions often blend complex harmonies, infectious grooves, and memorable melodies, showcasing his skills as both a performer and a composer.
Garrett’s incredible stage presence and magnetic charisma captivate audiences worldwide. He is known for his high-energy performances and his ability to connect with listeners on a profound level. His improvisational skills, combined with his charismatic persona, create an exhilarating live experience that leaves a lasting impression.
With multiple Grammy nominations and numerous acclaimed albums under his belt, Kenny Garrett has solidified his place as one of the most influential and celebrated saxophonists of his generation. His unwavering commitment to pushing the boundaries of jazz and his dedication to preserving the spirit of the music have made him a true icon in the genre.
Curiosities about Kenny:
- Early Start in Music: Kenny Garrett began playing the saxophone at the age of eight. His father, a tenor saxophonist, introduced him to the instrument, and his early exposure to jazz music helped shape his musical journey.
- Mentorship by Miles Davis: In the 1980s, Kenny Garrett had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with legendary trumpeter Miles Davis. He played in Davis’ band and contributed to albums such as “Amandla” and “Live Around the World.” Working closely with Davis greatly influenced Garrett’s musical development.
- Grammy Recognition: Kenny Garrett has been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards throughout his career. He received nominations for his albums “Seeds from the Underground,” “Beyond the Wall,” and “Standard of Language.” These nominations reflect his continued commitment to musical excellence and innovation.
Kenny through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Kenny Garret.
9. Eric Marienthal
Eric Marienthal is an acclaimed American saxophonist known for his remarkable talent and versatility in the world of contemporary jazz. Born in 1957 in Sacramento, California, Marienthal’s passion for music developed at a young age. He began playing the saxophone in his teens and quickly established himself as a rising star in the jazz scene.
Marienthal’s playing style is characterized by his technical prowess, melodic inventiveness, and emotive approach. He effortlessly weaves together elements of jazz, fusion, and pop, creating a unique and captivating sound. His ability to navigate complex improvisations and deliver soulful, expressive solos has garnered him recognition and respect from fellow musicians and fans alike.
Throughout his career, Marienthal has collaborated with an impressive roster of artists, including Chick Corea, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder. He has released numerous successful solo albums, showcasing his ability to craft engaging compositions and showcase his dynamic saxophone skills.
Beyond his accomplishments as a performer, Marienthal is also an esteemed educator, sharing his knowledge and passion for music through workshops, clinics, and instructional materials. His commitment to nurturing the next generation of musicians has made a lasting impact on the jazz education community.
With his exceptional talent, versatility, and dedication to his craft, Eric Marienthal has firmly established himself as one of the most respected and influential saxophonists in contemporary jazz. His contributions to the genre, both as a performer and educator, have solidified his place among the jazz greats.
Curiosities about Eric:
- Hidden Soccer Skills: In addition to his saxophone prowess, Marienthal is an avid soccer player. He has been known to join friendly games and showcase his skills on the field. This unexpected athletic ability adds a fun and active dimension to his personality.
- Saxophone Serenades: Marienthal has been known to surprise unsuspecting individuals by giving impromptu saxophone serenades. Whether it’s playing for friends, family, or even strangers, he enjoys bringing joy and laughter through his spontaneous musical performances.
- Coffee Enthusiast: Eric Marienthal has expressed his deep love for coffee. He appreciates the taste, aroma, and ritual of brewing a good cup of joe. His passion for coffee often finds its way into conversations and social media posts, showcasing his enjoyment of the caffeinated beverage.
Eric through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Eric Marienthal.
10. Seamus Blake
Seamus Blake is an esteemed Canadian-born saxophonist who has made significant contributions to the jazz world. Born in London, England, in 1970, Blake began his musical journey at a young age, studying the piano before transitioning to the saxophone. His exceptional talent and dedication to his craft led him to pursue studies at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Blake’s playing style is characterized by his virtuosity, lyrical approach, and rich tone. He effortlessly weaves together elements of bebop, post-bop, and contemporary jazz, creating a distinctive and captivating sound. Known for his impressive improvisational skills and melodic inventiveness, Blake has been recognized as a highly influential saxophonist of his generation.
Throughout his career, Blake has collaborated with numerous jazz luminaries, including John Scofield, Bill Stewart, and Kurt Rosenwinkel. He has released a prolific discography as both a bandleader and a sideman, with albums such as “Eternal” and “Bellwether” receiving critical acclaim.
Blake’s dedication to his craft extends beyond performance, as he has also become a respected educator, sharing his knowledge and passion for music with aspiring musicians. He has taught at esteemed institutions such as the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City.
With his impressive talent, artistic vision, and extensive contributions to the jazz world, Seamus Blake has firmly established himself as one of the leading saxophonists of his generation. His ability to effortlessly traverse various musical styles and captivate audiences with his expressive playing has earned him a well-deserved reputation and a dedicated following.
Curiosities about Seamus:
- Multinational Background: Seamus Blake was born in London, England, but raised in Vancouver, Canada. His mixed heritage includes Irish, English, and Native Canadian ancestry, which adds to the rich tapestry of his musical influences and perspectives.
- Early Musical Beginnings: Blake started his musical journey on the piano before transitioning to the saxophone. This early exposure to different instruments likely contributed to his melodic sensibility and unique approach to improvisation.
- Nickname: Blake is affectionately known by some of his colleagues and fans as “Slammin’ Seamus.” The nickname reflects his dynamic and energetic playing style, characterized by his ability to deliver intense and captivating performances.
Seamus through his songs:
Now it´s time to know more about his music. There´s a short Spotify list with complete songs played by Seamus Blake.
This list is just a selection and there are many other great saxophonists. This top ten is made as a contribution to spreading the word of the saxophone world and the culture of this amazing instrument.
Odisei Music Team