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Favorite Saxophone Solos?

By October 4, 2012saxophone songs

I once went to see the great rock, R&B sax player Jr Walker. You may know some of his Motown hits like What Does It Take and Shotgun. Jr Walker could sing and he could play some nice riffs on his sax, and his altissimo range (super high register) was second to nobody.

At one point in his set he played a song I recognized from the rock band Foreigner. The song was called Urgent and it had a really good sax solo on it but it wasn’t until I heard Jr Walker play it that night that I realized he was the guy on the Foreigner session. I shoulda known, and I was mad (maybe embarrassed) that I didn’t!

Anyway, I’ve come across some people putting down the 80’s sax soloing to being pretty bland, typical, calculating etc but when you hear that solo forget about it! Which brings the question….

What’s a sax solo, song or even hook, from any decade that won you over, or influenced you into playing or just made you take notice?

I’ll start things off with two:

  • Junior Walker with Urgent
  • Edgar Winter with Easy Street

Most people who know about Edgar Winter don’t even know he is also an alto sax player besides being a great singer and keyboard player. His solo on Easy Street is a killer and when David Lee Roth recorded it on his solo record after leaving Van Halen, he brought in Edgar to lay it down on his version, except they only used 8 bars, whereas in Winter’s version it was a 16 bar solo.

63 Comments

  • Johnny Johnny says:

    Just realized the sax "actor" looks like the short guy from Hall & Oates!

  • Avatar Ian says:

    I think one of the most hair lifting and memorable sax solos is Clarence in Bruce Springsteens. Born to run. Just something about that solo that makes it legendary! 

  • Well – when I was at school (some time ago!) all my friends were into electric guitars which I never really got on with – however the two tracks that really made me sit up and think "wow – what a cool sound"  and were instrumental (pardon the pun) in me taking up the saxophone were the sax solo in Pink Floyd's "money" – it just sounds fantastic to me and a sax solo in Roxy Musics original album called "Remake, remodel" I think.  I didn't really know originally what the instrument was that made that sound – but with a bit of research I found out it was a saxophone.  I couldn't afford one at the time (or rather my parents would not commit to buying one at the tender age of 12 or so) but what I could get was a cornet for (then) around £25 – which I played up until I was around 16.  You have to understand that it wasn't cool to play brass instruments at that age so bowing to peer pressure I sold my cornet and didn't pick up another instrument for 20+ years – by which time kids and schools and music were getting my attention again.  I did buy a second hand Boosey&Hawkes Tenor – joined a local swing band and switched to baritone.  However up until now – I've never thought of trying to find "those" sax solos again!  Thanks for the reminder!

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      Yes, Money was one of the ones that turned my head around to the sax sound too!
      There’s another one on that record I like to play sometimes…”Us & Them”

      Sounds like Dick Perry to me…

  • Avatar Dale Eiermann says:

    My all time favorite is Harlem Nocturne, the Viscounts version.
    http://youtu.be/qfWbRWTfKFg the long version
    God I wish I could play this.  I haven't been able to find sheet music for it.

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      Ya, I have a cd that has about 20 tracks, all different versions of Harlem Nocturn!
      I may have the music for that.

    • Avatar MITCHHAWK8 says:

      Hi there,,here is a transcribed version of Harlem Nocturne, the Viscounts version. I don`t write music notation so my version is like a tab,,sorta,,I hope this is a start,as I worked it out myself,,
      G F# E, C~C# E~~~
      E F# A B A D~~~~~~~~A B C
      A E D~~A B C
      D E A D ~ G C F Bb ~ Eb G# C# F# ~B~ E D `B C# E G# B

      A~~E A G “EE D C#~ A E A G “EE D C#~ A

      E G ~~ G F# E C~C# E

      E F# A B A D~~~~~~~~A B C
      A E D~~A B C
      D E A D ~ G C F Bb ~ Eb G# C# F# ~B E – A D – G F#~~~~

      F# `C# F# G#~~~~ A~~~F~~~~~~~~
      F# C# A F#~~ G#~A C# B~
      B F# B C#~~~~ D~~~Bb~~~~~~~~~~
      B A F# D C#~~ G# G F#

    • Avatar MITCHHAWK8 says:

      sorry missed a part,, here`s the whole thing didn`t cut and paste it right ,,har har

      F# `C# F# G#~~~~ A~~~F~~~~~~~~
      F# C# A F#~~ G#~A C# B~
      B F# B C#~~~~ D~~~Bb~~~~~~~~~~
      B A F# D C#~~ G# G F#
      F# C#~ C~ B~ Bb A~~~E F# G~~
      B Bb~A,, E F# G~~
      B Bb~A,, E F# G~~
      G F# E, C~C# E
      E F# A B A D~~~~~~~~A B C
      A E D~~A B C
      D E A D ~ G C F Bb ~ Eb G# C# F# ~B~ E D `B C# E G# B

      A~~E A G “EE D C#~ A E A G “EE D C#~ A

      E G ~~ G F# E C~C# E

      E F# A B A D~~~~~~~~A B C
      A E D~~A B C
      D E A D ~ G C F Bb ~ Eb G# C# F# ~B E – A D – G F#~~~~

      F# `C# F# G#~~~~ A~~~F~~~~~~~~
      F# C# A F#~~ G#~A C# B~
      B F# B C#~~~~ D~~~Bb~~~~~~~~~~
      B A F# D C#~~ G# G F#

  • Avatar Chazz Pratt says:

    As far as more Contemporary songs featuring Sax Players, Forget Me Nots by Patrice Rushen features Gerald Albright on Sax (solo starts at 3:00 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2XhhuM9GZo). Another favorite is Candy by Cameo featuring Michael Brecker on Sax (Michael is not in the video, but you can definitely recognize it's his Sax work). I didn't know these two Saxophone Greats were the soloists on these R&B Hits until much later on in life, but I quickly recognized the versatility both Players have in various styles.
    That said, one of my first Mainstream Jazz Saxophone solos comes from Stanley Turrentine. His tune called Pieces of Dreams hit my ears back in about 5th grade. My good Friend from up the street also played Sax and his Dad had the album and Pieces of Dreams is the title cut. My Friend's Dad had a new stereo and we wore that song out (and the stereo too!)
    Turrentine combine strings with the Sax (not common practice) and I just stopped in my tracks when I heard that song! As a 10 year old hyper-energenic kid back then, that would have taken a lot to do! 
    Thanks for the walk down musical memory lane Johnny!
    Here's the song Pieces of Dreams:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5lvVPA8g5o

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      Ya, big fan of Turrentine as well. Played one of his tunes in college “Sugar” very cool tune. Piece’s of Dreams is nice with the strings…
      He did a lot of stuff with organist Jimmy Smith as well… I think his wife also played hammond and they cut a record too. sax and hammond organ, that’s a good combo!
      thanks Chazz

  • Avatar BillyboyG says:

    I think I was first attracted to the sax as a kid listening to Fats Domino, 'I'm in love again', 'Let the four winds blow' etc. Now I love all those greats like Dexter Gordon, Lester Young, Ben Webster, Turrentine, Stan Getz.
     I took up blues Harp when I was fifty and after playing with musician pals in pubs thought Sax would be a breeze! I re-learned to read music and can follow a melody ok, but improvising I can't get my head around. Your intro into improvising has re-ignited me Johnny, explained the simple beginnings and a light switched on in my head. So thanks, the horn is coming out of the cupboard.
    I read that Clarence Clemmons wasn't that brilliant at impro, Springsteen and he used to work out his solos and he stuck to that on the live shows. I want to be able to play along to 'Badlands', among others. Cheers, Billy.

  • Avatar Neil Hicks says:

    Going back to the 70's, I was really taken by David Sanborn's work on David Bowie's Young American's.  I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) David Bowie was somewhat of a sax player himself and he definitely put together a winner here for me.
     

  • Avatar art dubois says:

    I guess I'm showing my age here, but my all-time sax favourite is "Yakkety Sax"…..also love "Us and Them" by Pink Floyd……and "Rebel Rouser", which was originally a guitar solo by Duane Eddy, then became a sax favourite by many Rock 'n' roll bands in the day….

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      We’ve had several votes for this so here’s a great live version. This is Boots at his finest, tempo is faster than he originally recorded it and he also adds a few new parts in the middle…very nice:

  • Avatar art dubois says:

    And if I can add some others……"Harden My Heart"……"Maneater"….."It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"…and lastly, "Waiting on A Friend"….by Bobby Keys of the Stones…also a good one is "Brown Sugar", a good, dirty rock 'n' roll tune……
    Enough, Johnny???? :>))

  • Johnny Johnny says:

    Interesting, I 've never heard that about CC. The great Lee Allen would have played on much of that Fat's stuff, he also was the main tenor guy with little Richard.

  • Avatar John S says:

    One of the things I liked best about Rindy Ross's solos in Quarterflash were the ones where the sax lead was doubled/harmonized with the electric guitar (like at the end of Find Another Fool).   I just think that a cool blend of sounds.  

  • Avatar kevin gray says:

    im really interested in the 80’s solos like the sax solo in Neighbours by the Rolling Stones.

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      That is also Sonny Rollins one of the all-time master jazz saxophonists, which definately brought a unique sound and approach to the Stones already unique sound. It was a real treat when that album came out in the very early 80’s.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbDGrHzx6j0&feature=player_detailpage
    If you have this in tenor, don't worry, I will transpose to alto, is a Latin Jazz genre…
    Thank you and have nice thanks giving.

  • Avatar Ken Brown says:

    My all time favorite is Junior Walker's "What Does It Take (to Win Your Love).   If I could sound like anyone, it would be Junior Walker.

  • Avatar Neil Hicks says:

    I'd like to add one for my dad who has passed on.
    Illinois Jacquet with Flying Home
    My favourite story is how my dad skipped school to go see him play in Detroit.  A most worthy sacrafice.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZuDnPWSAEE

  • Avatar Peter Rabot says:

    Always loved Stones Sweet Virgina. Love the Jump,Jive, Wail solo too. I can play it but can't hit altissimo. (Any tips on grow? Can't comprehend how to get enough air through the sax while 'garrgling'.

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      Do you mean growling? I don’t think you want to gargle while playing sax!
      If you’re having trouble getting enough air it might be because you are letting too much growl voice come through in relationship to sax tone – try less growl and more sax tone.

  • Avatar Adrián says:

    Hi!!
    i will like to hear an have the scores (If is possible) of "You decorated my life" by Kenny Rogers
    I'm planning to play it for my mom's birthday!!
     

  • Avatar Nick says:

    The solo that inspired me to take up the sax was on Hazel O'Connor's track 'Will You'. It blew me away!!  The others were 'Baker Street' Gerry Rafferty and 'Urgent' Foreigner.

  • Avatar Clive Betts says:

    Hi, just listened to Edgar Winter's Easystreet, never heard it before, what a brill live performance – well reccomended. Give me a couple more months practice I might sound that good. Also love the sax solo from Pink Floyds Money, am trying to nail it but with not much sucess! By the way – love a lot of the cheesy 80's stuff.

  • Avatar Alan Sizer says:

    Hi Johnny,
    What a great initiative. Some great suggestions above. It might sound a bit cheesy, but what about the signature lines from Abba's "I do x5"? There were some pretty decent sax riffs in some of their other songs as well – might be worth a look.
    Cheers

  • yakkety Sax is there written music for it, I cannot find it here, has somebody got it , love a copy.
    By the way I am Marqueritte Clasquin from the Netherlands I have been followint this site for quite a while and love it and learned alot from it.
    When I played guitar there was a site like this and once a week he would send us a new riff is that an idea  as with riffs we can do quite a bit.
    See ya all
    Marqueritte
    http://www.marqueritte.nl

  • Avatar tinaG says:

    My all time favorite is "Harden My Heart" by Quarterflash. Just bought an alto sax yesterday…it was one of the things on my bucketlist…to learn the sax

  • Hey I bought the E- Book for the first time in my life sstrange buying something and it is on a site at Amazone not even on my own site or computer maybe I am getting old. Anyway I love it , love it , love it, have I told you yet that I love it, no well I love it’s exactly what I was looking for.  Thanks a million looking foward to your next E- Book.
    Regards and keep on saxing.
    Marqueritte Clasquin
    'The Netherlands – it Heidenskip
    http://www.marqueritte.nl

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      Hey Marguerite you’re awesome! I just released it and you are the very first one who bought it! I have sold many CD’s but this is my first book and I’m so glad and proud about your compliments. Thank you for being a valued member here and for supporting what I am doing!

      And please remember to post any questions regarding the lessons in the forum, in the section “Sax lessons and books” so everyone can get the relevant information.

      cheers
      Johnny
      PS
      May I take your “love it” comments and use them on my eBook promotions page?

  • Avatar art dubois says:

    After reading a bit from your book, Johnny, I googled a few of the great sax players you quoted, and then watched a couple of YouTube vids.  Sam Taylor playing "Summertime" was great, although not really rock ' n' roll. But Big Jay McNeely playing "Deacon's Hop" (again, more bluesy than rock) was out-of-this-world. The range of sounds, and the differences of tones are remarkable!! Seems like he could play each of those seven notes thirty different ways!!!

    • Johnny Johnny says:

      Sam Taylor, like many of the players who got hired for rock and pop sessions were also jazz musicians that had a good feel for rock music… this may sound obvious but many jazz players didn’t, and don’t.

  • Don't get me wrong! I love Jazz and rocknroll, my favorites are Michael Brecker, Jan Garbareck, Chris Potter, Joshua Redman, etc, etc…
    Speaking of classical music (first lines on this thread) Amy Dickson's soprano performance on this link is breathtaking (wonder where she gets so much air!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdUWPA_AX6o
    WOW!

  • Avatar bloozer says:

    Hi Johnny,
    as of November 14th, login on your web site doesn’t work.

    Cheers Dietmar

  • Avatar dragz says:

    anything by ‘Johnny and the Hurricanes’ especially ‘Rocking Goose’ is it a sax solo or is he dueling with the guitarist?

  • Never thought I would say this but I have just about given up golf for my just purchased tenor SAX.Wow am I hooked.

  • Avatar SaxoKlaus says:

    I’m looking for notes of the Sax solo of Foreigner’s ‘urgent’.
    Does anyone have it or any idea where I can find it ?

  • Avatar Vinnie says:

    One of my all time favorite sax solo’s is by Micheal Brecker on ‘Still crazy after all these years’. His first note just does it for me!

  • Johnny Johnny says:

    Hey good find on that transcription… hope you got your altissimo ready!

  • Avatar MITCHHAWK8 says:

    sorry missed a part,, here`s the whole thing didn`t cut and paste it right ,,har har

    F# `C# F# G#~~~~ A~~~F~~~~~~~~
    F# C# A F#~~ G#~A C# B~
    B F# B C#~~~~ D~~~Bb~~~~~~~~~~
    B A F# D C#~~ G# G F#
    F# C#~ C~ B~ Bb A~~~E F# G~~
    B Bb~A,, E F# G~~
    B Bb~A,, E F# G~~
    G F# E, C~C# E
    E F# A B A D~~~~~~~~A B C
    A E D~~A B C
    D E A D ~ G C F Bb ~ Eb G# C# F# ~B~ E D `B C# E G# B

    A~~E A G “EE D C#~ A E A G “EE D C#~ A

    E G ~~ G F# E C~C# E

    E F# A B A D~~~~~~~~A B C
    A E D~~A B C
    D E A D ~ G C F Bb ~ Eb G# C# F# ~B E – A D – G F#~~~~

    F# `C# F# G#~~~~ A~~~F~~~~~~~~
    F# C# A F#~~ G#~A C# B~
    B F# B C#~~~~ D~~~Bb~~~~~~~~~~
    B A F# D C#~~ G# G F#

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