This guest post is from Sam Sadigursky of SamSadigursky.com
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.
Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Hank Mobley, John Coltrane
Benny Carter, Charlie Rouse, Coleman Hawkins, Phil Woods
Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt
Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane (the only time they ever recorded together!)
Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins
Johnny Griffin, John Coltrane, Hank Mobley
George Garzone, Joe Lovano
Branford Marsalis, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett
Michael Brecker, Dewey Redman
Chris Potter, Walt Weiskopf
Joe Lovano, Dave Liebman, Michael Brecker
Steve Wilson, Seamus Blake
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!