Wayne Shorter is one of the most unique saxophonists on our Advent List.
Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1933, Wayne Shorter first shot to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, becoming the bands musical director in the later 1950’s. When John Coltrane left Miles Davis’ band, it was Wayne Shorter that he recommended to Miles, but Miles couldn’t get Shorter to leave Art Blakey until 1964. Wayne joined Miles’ ‘second quintet’ alongside Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums.
Wayne also made some significant recordings as a band leader on Blue Note records during this time, before leaving Miles to form the fusion group Weather Report in 1971.
Shorter remains one of the greatest composers and most important saxophonists as he continues to perform in his ninth decade.
Walter Theodore Rollins, ‘Sonny’ was born on the 7th September 1930 and is without doubt, the ‘Saxophone Colussus.’
Sonny grew up in Harlem, New York to parents of Caribbean heritage. He started on the piano, then the alto saxophone, before moving onto the tenor in his teens. His saxophone idol was Coleman Hawkins and he used to hang out near ‘Hawk’s’ home in order to meet the great man and pick up tips!
Have a watch of my 300th Vlog Episode and check out the special, Sonny Rollins Advent Playlists below.
We’ve two amazing contemporary saxophonists for Day 20 of our saxophone advent calendar, Joshua Redman & Chris Potter.
Joshua Redman was born in 1969 and is the son of free jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer librarian Renee Shedroff. He grew up in California, graduating from Berkley High School in 1986. He graduated from Harvard and had a place at Yale Law School, which he deferred in order to enter the Theolonius Monk competition in 1991, which he won, (and never went to Law School!) Redman signed for Warner Bros records after the competition and his career has flourished since.
Chris Potter was born in 1971 in Chicago, but grew up in South Carolina. Very much a child prodigy, Potter was picking up gigs aged 14 and moved to New York aged 18, attending the Manhattan School of Music. Whilst studying in New York, Chris joined BeBop legend and former Charlie Parker trumpet player, Red Rodney. He also played with Dave Holland, Kenny Werner, Joe Lovano and Paul Motion. He’s probably one of the most copied saxophonists today and his YouTube videos often go viral amongst saxophone nerds!
Enjoy this joint playlist of two of our best contemporary saxophonists.
Julian, ‘Cannonball’ Adderley moved the Alto Sax on after Charlie Parker, straddling Bop, Modal and Funk Jazz.
Originally from Tampa, Florida, Adderley moved to New York in 1955. His nickname derived from “cannibal”, a title imposed on him by high school colleagues as a tribute to his voracious appetite.
Cannonball moved to Tallahassee, when his parents obtained teaching positions at Florida A&M University. Both Cannonball and brother Nat played with Ray Charles when Charles lived in Tallahassee during the early 1940s. Adderley moved to Broward County, Florida, in 1948 after finishing his music studies at Florida A&M and became the band director at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale, a position which he held until 1950. Cannonball was a local legend in Southeast Florida until he moved to New York City in 1955.
Cannonball played on the seminal Kind of Blue album and his forays into Funk with the Joey Zawinul piece, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ opened his music up to a new generation of fans.
Sonny Stitt was born in 1924 into a musical family. His biological father was a baritone singer and music professor and his mother was a piano teacher.
Sonny was given up for adoption in 1924 by his father. No one seems to know why Sonny was
given away, but the child was adopted by the Stitt family, who raised him in Saginaw. He later began calling himself “Sonny”. While in high school in Saginaw, Stitt played in the Len Francke Band, a local popular swing band.
In 1943, Stitt first met Charlie Parker, and as he often later recalled, the two men found that their styles had an extraordinary similarity that was partly coincidental and not merely due to Stitt’s emulation. Parker is alleged to have remarked, “Well, I’ll be damned, you sound just like me”, to which Stitt responded: “Well, I can’t help the way I sound. It’s the only way I know how to play.” Kenny Clarke remarked of Stitt’s approach: “Even if there had not been a Bird, there would have been a Sonny Stitt”.
Sitt played Alto Sax alongside Dexter Gordon and Gene Ammons in Billy Eckstien’s Big Band, but spent time in prison for selling drugs at the end of the 1940’s. Stitt switched to tenor saxophone as the comparisons to Charlie Parker started to affect him. His command of the Bebop language on both tenor and alto could only be said to be second to Parker, and on tenor he, (in my opinion) sounds better than the handful of recordings we have of Bird dabbling on the larger saxophone!
In 1957, Stitt recorded Sonny Side Up with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins, it is still considered one of the finest ‘two tenor’ battle recordings out there. Stitt replaced Coltrane in Miles Davis’ band in 1960. Stitt was not a good fit. Some stories are that he and Miles didn’t see eye to eye musically, others say Stitt’s drinking annoyed Miles so much that he fired him.
Stitt recorded a number of memorable records with his friend and fellow saxophonist Gene Ammons, interrupted by Ammons’ own imprisonment for narcotics possession. The records recorded by these two saxophonists are regarded by many as some of both Ammons and Stitt’s best work, thus the Ammons/Stitt partnership went down in posterity as one of the best duelling partnerships in jazz, alongside Zoot Sims and Al Cohn, and Johnny Griffin with Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. Stitt would venture into soul jazz, and he recorded with fellow tenor saxophonist Booker Ervin in 1964 on the Soul People album. Stitt also recorded with Duke Ellington alumnus Paul Gonsalves in 1963 for Impulse! on the Salt And Pepper album in 1963. Around that time he also appeared regularly at Ronnie Scott’sin London, a live 1964 encounter with Ronnie Scott, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, eventually surfaced, and another in 1966 with resident guitarist Ernest Ranglin and British tenor saxophonist Dick Morrissey.
Branford Marsalis has had the biggest influence on my life outside of my family. A generous, inspiring musician he is someone who displays incredible integrity both on and off the bandstand.
Born in Louisiana in 1960, Branford is the eldest son of the Marsalis family, one of the foremost musical families in America. His father, Ellis Marsalis is one of the most accomplished Modern Jazz pianists in New Orleans, and one of the most respected jazz educators in America.
Whilst younger brother Wynton was the star of the 1980’s jazz scene, Branford has carved out his own illustrious career, starting with Art Blakey in the early 80s, playing some of the best pop saxophone ever recorded with Sting and The Grateful Dead and then leading one of the most hardworking jazz quartets of the past twenty years.
Initially starting out on Clarinet, (learning from New Orleans master, Alvin Baptise,) Branford was not a jazz fan as a teenager, preferring the funk and soul music of James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone and even Elton John! He attended the Berklee College of Music and joined Art Blakey’s band after younger brother Wynton in the early 80s. World Tours with Blakey, Herbie Hancock and others led to Wynton creating his own band, which Branford left in 1985 to join Sting’s first band after the Police.
After spells composing film music, (Mo Better Blues & The Russia House) Branford was the bandleader on the ‘Tonight Show’ before heading back into jazz in the late 90s, firstly with fellow Sting band mate, Kenny Kirkland on piano, then after Kenny’s untimely death, Joey Calderazzo took over on piano. Branford kept the same band together for over twelve years and produced some of the best modern, acoustic jazz of the late 20th and early 21st century.
An outspoken critic of many of the current jazz education programs, Branford is an incredible musician and inspiring teacher, who is worth listening to with or without a saxophone in his mouth!