- Ornette Coleman (b. March 9th, 1930)
Beginning his career playing blues and R&B music, Coleman turned heads in the 1960s with his “harmolodic” approach, a technique with which he sought to equate harmony, melody, rhythm, and form. His playing, which didn’t adhere to conventional harmonic structures, came to be called “free jazz,” and was wildly controversial. Coleman is considered the first avant-garde jazz musician, and since his early days of angering jazz purists, avant-garde improvisation has grown into a substantial and diverse genre.
- Joe Henderson (April 24th, 1937 - June 30th, 2001)
Schooled by absorbing the music all of the master saxophonists who preceded him, Joe Henderson developed a style that was both steeped in, and independent of tradition. He gained attention for his early hard bop work, including an outstanding solo on Horace Silver’s “Song for My Father.” Over the course of his career, he recorded albums ranging from hard bop to experimental projects, and thereby embodied the expanding and evolving jazz culture.
- Michael Brecker (March 29th, 1949 – January 13th, 2007)
Combining jazz and rock with supreme agility and finesse, Brecker rose to fame in the 1970s and 80s. He performed with pop acts Steely Dan, James Taylor, and Paul Simon as well as with jazz figures including Herbie Hancock, Roy Hargrove, Chick Corea, and dozens of others. His flawless technique raised the bar for jazz saxophonists to come, and he helped legitimize the role of rock and pop music in jazz styles.
- Kenny Garrett (b. October 9th, 1960)
Garrett rose to fame while playing with Miles Davis’ electric band in the 1980s, during which time he developed a novel approach to the alto saxophone. His solos are bluesy and aggressive, and tend to juxtapose long, wailing notes with clipped, abrasive melodic fragments.
- Chris Potter (b. January 1st, 1971)
A child saxophone prodigy, Chris Potter took saxophone technique to a new level. He began his career with trumpeter Red Rodney, and soon became the first choice tenor player for a number of notable bandleaders including Dave Holland, Paul Motian, and Dave Douglas. Having mastered the styles of previous jazz icons, Potter specializes at virtuosic solos built on motives or tone sets. The ease with which he plays in all registers of the saxophone is practically unmatched.
- Mark Turner (b. Novermber 10th, 1965)
Heavily influenced by both Coltrane and Warne Marsh, Mark Turner rose to prominence alongside guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. His dry tone, angular phrases, and frequent use of the uppermost register of the saxophone have allowed him to stand out among contemporary saxophonists. Along with Chris Potter, and Kenny Garrett, Turner is one of the most influential saxophonists in jazz today.