Influential Tenor Saxophonists

John Coltrane:

Giant Steps is one of Coltrane’s legendary songs. The lighting-speed fast notes known as the “sheets of sound” is one of his significant trademarks. Coltrane was not only a skilled tenor saxophonist, but a great composer at the same time. He wrote lots of songs that are still commonly played nowadays. “Masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.” was how the Pulitzer Prize Board described him in 2007. Without him, our jazz now will be completely different.


The fast notes played in the song ‘Giant Steps’ is definitely incredible and unbelievable. The way Coltrane plays it seem impossible for any other saxophonists to imitate it. The cool, easy-going tone was my favorite part.

Like other jazz musicians, Coltrane couldn’t escape the indignities of racism. His best friend was beaten to death by the police, and other ones only received worse consequences than him. But Coltrane didn’t give up on his music life, and this is something that made me very respectful toward him. In the early 20th century, the fact that you are black can determine the way others treat you. Black jazz musicians weren’t accepted by the majority of the society. But Coltrane still continued his dream of being a saxophonist. And from this, I learnt that you have to be strong. Be confident in order to let the society hear you.

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Sonny Rollins:

Sonny Rollins is considered as one of the greatest tenor saxophone artists in the jazz history, and known primarily for his work in the field of post-bop.Instead of playing plane music from the music sheets, Rollins is better at thematic improvisations. He likes to play the song until every direction and emotion has been expressed. His unique style of playing was very influential to all the jazz musicians.

What I learnt: For Rollins, there is no limitations on music. Being an saxophonist who put his emotions into his music by improvisations, he was very successful. I learnt from his music that you have to put efforts, and your feelings in the music which you play, in order to let the audiences really understand your music. You are the one who gives your music a soul, so try your best to put your emotions in it.

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Coleman Hawkins:


Hawkins was called the man for whom Adolphe Sax invented the horn, from Singer Jon Hendricks. Hawkins possessed an incredible amount knowledge of chords, and his masterpiece introduced in 1939, “Body and Soul,” stands as one of the most important recordings in the history of jazz. He had one of the most unique and recognizable voices in jazz history with his tone and flowing lines. Hawkins’ records evaluated over time tell the modern musicians a great deal about jazz’s growth and how the artist shaped and responded to them.

His melodic and relaxed tones made me feel very comfortable. The swingy long tones made the song feels endless. Hawkins do a lot of improvising tones as well, which I found very common in many famous jazz players. Improvisations don’t necessarily means changing the whole song, but changing the music to a version where you can release your emotions better. I as well do improvising on piano music sheets, and I prefer my ‘own’ version way more than the original one.

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