15 Glimpses Into the Minds of History’s Great Saxophone Players

The Saxophone GreatsThis week I wanted to do something a bit special. Rather than rattling on with my views on saxophone playing and music in general, I thought I’d leave it to the saxophone greats to share their wisdom and insights with you.

Between all of the combined quotes below is centuries worth of knowledge on topics such as playing the saxophone, originality, improvising, composing, the music business and more. So give it a read and let me know if your concept of music hasn’t expanded at least a little bit.

The Quotes

“The saxophone is an imperfect instrument, especially the tenor and soprano, as far as intonation goes. The challenge is to sing on an imperfect instrument that is outside of your body.”
– Stan Getz

“My dark sound could be heard across a room clearer than somebody with a reedy sound. It had more projection. My sound always seemed to fill a room.”
– Stan Getz

“You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.”
– John Coltrane

“I understood that if I wanted to work, the saxophone was the main instrument. The clarinet was what we call a double.”
– Lee Konitz

“Play difficult and interesting things. If you play boring things, you risk losing your appetite. Saxophone can be tedious with too much of the same.”
– Steve Lacy

“Saxophone is one thing, and music is another.”
– Steve Lacy

“Its all about finding the right note at the right place and knowing when to leave well enough alone. And that’s a lifelong quest.”
– David Sanborn

“I’ll just sit at the piano a lot an play like through different chord exercises and kind of just throwing my hands down on the piano from one chord to the next to see what happens.”
– David Sanborn

“I like to play things that people understand, or maybe tunes that they could recognize. And so — I play for the people, just as much as for myself. Because, as I say, I still like to play.”
– Ben Webster

“Humans are imperfect. That’s one of the reasons that classical and jazz are in trouble. We’re on the quest for the perfect performance and every note has to be right. Man, every note is not right in life.”
– Branford Marsalis

“When you know the lyrics to a tune, you have some kind of insight as to it’s composition. If you don’t understand what it’s about, you’re depriving yourself of being really able to communicate this poem.”
– Dexter Gordon

“The only element of jazz that I keep is improvisation.”
– Jan Garbarek

“Originality is the thing. You can have tone and technique and a lot of other things but without originality you ain’t really nowhere. Gotta be original.”
– Lester Young

“As long as you’ve got your horn in your mouth, you’re developing.”
– Zoot Sims

“If you’ve only got one horn playing, I still want the sense of ensemble.”
– Gerry Mulligan

Photo by minimoniotaku