5 Saxophone Players You Must Listen To

Love them or hate them, these top 5 saxophone players have significantly influenced the soundscapes and styles of playing saxophone.

Their music spans many decades.  They are masters of their saxophone craft.

If you play the saxophone, or are wanting to learn how to play the saxophone, please do yourself a favour and at least give these great saxophonists a listen.  You may or may not like their music, but you will appreciate their skills and dedication.

Which in turn will influence your playing and make you a better saxophone player !


Maceo Parker


Maceo Parker is arguably the funkiest saxophone player the world has ever seen.

Born in 1943, he got his start with James Brown in the mid 1960’s.  He played with James Brown on and off for many years in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, as well as Parliament-Funkadelic in the 1970’s, plus a long association with Prince playing in his band in the 1990’s and 2000’s.

Maceo played the famous sax lines in James Browns hit “I Feel Good (I Got You)” and has had a string of well known songs and bands lead by his Alto saxophone.  James Brown would also famously yell out, “Maceo, blow your horn !!” during live performances.

Pass The Peas, Shake Every Thing You’ve Got, and many other funky numbers featuring Maceo Parker and his sax have made audiences get up and groove all over the world.

His live album “Life On Planet Groove” is perhaps one of the best live audio recordings of his band.

“My First Name Is Maceo” is perhaps one of the best live video recordings of his band !  Click the play button on the video below to hear the song “Shake Everything You’ve Got”.


Candy Dulfer


Candy Dulfer has been playing saxophone all over the world with her own band and with other famous bands as well.

She also is a very funky saxophone player and her collaborations with Maceo Parker are just jaw dropping.

Born in 1969, Candy Dulfer is from The Netherlands and has played with Prince, Pink Floyd, Van Morrison among many others.

Her own band are amazing musicians and her albums “Sax-A-Go-Go” and “Candy Store” are worthy of seeking out.

Perhaps Candy’s best known commercial success is with Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics and their song “Lily Was Here”.


Cannonball Adderley


A jazz Alto saxophone player from the 1950’s and 1960’s, Cannonball Adderley is best known for his musical work with the great Miles Davis.

Born in 1928, Cannonball Adderley (real name Julian, but known as Cannonball) is one of the legends of jazz.  His solo in the song “So What” from the Miles Davis Quintet album “A Kind Of Blue” is arguably one of the best jazz alto saxophone solos ever.

Two of Cannonball Adderley’s more well known songs are “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (which has been sampled, re-sampled and remixed into many and various modern recordings) and “Work Song”.


John Coltrane


John Coltrane is another jazz legend from the 1950’s and 1960’s and was more known for his Tenor sax.

Coltrane’s style was defined by his speedy runs with many, many notes all rolled into the one phrase.  He was also featured in many famous Miles Davis recordings as well as many of his own solo albums.

The song “Blue Train” from the album of the same name by John Coltrane is perhaps his most well known and features several other jazz legends.  A must listen !


Kenny G


Kenny G (born 1956) is an amazing saxophonist.

More well known for his soft easy listening soprano saxophone instrumental music, he is the saxophone player that everyone loves to hate.

Having said that, he has sold over 75 million albums, so there are obviously a lot of people who love him !

Like the other saxophone players mentioned here, Kenny G is more well known for his particular genre of music.  Irrespective of whether you like that particular genre or not, you cannot argue that Kenny G is a master of his craft.

He has appeared an many and various recordings of pop stars and is known to occasionally rock out on his tenor sax (eg with Katy Perry in her song “Last Friday Night”) and various appearances at multiple Montreaux Jazz Festivals, but he has cornered the “easy listening” instrumental niche.

His most well known song is the easy listening from 1986, “Song Bird”.


Obviously there are MANY other saxophone players in the world over the last 100 years who have made their mark on the music industry.

Charlie Parker (Alto sax, jazz) and Clarence Clemons (Tenor sax, rock) are just two names who also could claim to be major influences in their musical genres.

And Zoot from The Muppets is obviously another inclusion in the Saxophone Hall Of Fame who has influenced saxophone players all over the world…..including me……and don’t forget Lisa Simpson……

Again, whether you like the genre or the specific songs of the individual saxophone player mentioned here is not the point.

The point is that these top 5 saxophone players have influenced millions of people all over the world.  They have individual styles, come from different decades and have played for or with many other influential musicians.

Listen to their music.Saxophone Players

Sure, decide if you like their music or not – and that’s ok – but listen and take notice of their style, their skill, their musicality and how they play their saxophones.

You will become a better saxophone player yourself if you do.

Who is your favourite saxophonist ?  Please let me know in the comments below 🙂




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