The Masters of Saxophone Tone

by Mitchell Estrin


Although I have spent my entire career performing and teaching the clarinet, I have a special affection and appreciation for the sound of the saxophone. My father played lead alto with Tommy Dorsey and a number of other major big bands. On the classical side, he also performed as saxophone soloist with such orchestras as the Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, and New York Philharmonic. Listening to him play and hearing the sax players he admired when I was growing up fostered a lifelong appreciation for the instrument and those who truly made it sing. 

Here is a list of a few of my (and his!) favorite “hall of fame” saxophone tones. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, just some of our absolute favorites. Tone, of course, is always a matter of personal taste, but few players can match the tonal beauty, brilliance, and artistry of this stellar group of virtuoso performers.

For each artist, I have offered one link to pique your interest, but with a little further cyber exploration you can find many more. Happy listening!

Vincent Abato

Johnny Bothwell

Michael Brecker


John Coltrane

Paul Desmond

Paquito D'Rivera

Al Gallodoro

Stan Getz

Johnny Hodges

Marcel Mule

Charlie Parker

Gerry Mulligan

Zoot Sims

Phil Woods


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