The Ten Best Saxophone Blowing Sessions Ever

The Ten Best Saxophone Blowing Sessions Ever

This guest post is from Sam Sadigursky of

Here’s a list of my favorite records that feature multiple saxophonists locking horn-to-horn. By my definition, a blowing session tends to be a minimally written affair, usually featuring the horn players playing over standards and generally minimally rehearsed. As far as I know, most of these groups were never working bands. These were impromptu studio affairs (not live concerts or jam sessions), either arranged by the leader or sometimes even the label or record producer.

Most of these records wouldn’t really qualify as saxophone battles, an old tradition dating from the early big bands of having saxophonists push one another to their outer limits. Instead, these are great opportunities for us as listeners to hear sometimes very different saxophonists side by side and explore both their common lineages and different approaches. There is a camaraderie to these records that’s infectious – you can really hear how much each saxophonist admires the others while also asserting their individuality.

I’m sure I left out some great recordings, so feel free to comment with some of your own contributions to the list.

1. Tenor Conclave

Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane

2. Benny Carter – Further Definitions

Benny Carter, Charlie Rouse, Coleman Hawkins, Phil Woods

3. Dizzy Gillespie – Sonny Side Up

Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt

4. Sonny Rollins – Tenor Madness

Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane (the only time they ever recorded together!)

5. Sonny Rollins – Sonny Meets Hawk

Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins

6. Paul Desmond, Gerry Mulligan – Quartet

7. Lee Konitz with Warne Marsh

8. Johnny Griffin – A Blowin’ Session

Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley

9. Sonny Stitt / Gene Ammons – Boss Tenors

10. George Garzone – Fours and Twos

George Garzone, Joe Lovano

Honorable Mention*

1. Branford Marsalis – The Dark Keys

Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett

2. Pat Metheny – 80/81

Michael Brecker, Dewey Redman

3. Billy Drummond – Dubai

Chris Potter, Walt Weiskopf

4. Gathering of Spirits

Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Michael Brecker

5. Bill Stewart – Telepathy

Steve Wilson, Seamus Blake

6. Elvin Jones – Live at the Lighthouse

Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman

* Many of these don’t fit the definition of a blowing session quite perfectly, either because they were working bands (like Saxophone Summit or Elvin Jones), or the music is not standard-oriented (80/81 and Telepathy), but they are well worth checking out!