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295 voters

The Best Saxophonists in the World

Updated May 8, 2020 1.6k votes 295 voters 7.9k views48 items

List RulesVote up your all-time favorite saxophonist who's alive today.

The saxophone is one of the most popular and diverse musical instruments in the world. It's permeated through dozens of genres of music, lending itself to help create some of the most moving and emotional pieces of music in history. The people on this list are masters of reed instruments and are considered giants in the musical world.  

Whether you recognize these musicians or not, they've all carved a place out for themselves in the music world and have become influential and prominent figures in the industry. If you love geeking out on music, we definitely recommend finding some of their music. 

This list is votable and rerankable, so take a look through and vote up your favorite saxophonists. If you don't see someone on here who should be, feel free to add them, but this list is for living musicians only.
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  • 1
    Charlie Parker
    78
    13

    Charlie Parker

    Portrait, Bird: The Complete Charlie Parker on Verve

    Genres (Music)Jazz, Bebop

    Charles Parker Jr. (August 29, 1920 – March 12, 1955), also known as Yardbird and Bird, was an... more on Wikipedia

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    #56 of 152 The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40#1116 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time

  • 2
    John Coltrane
    78
    25

    John Coltrane

    A Love Supreme, My Favorite Things

    Genres (Music)Avant-garde jazz, Hard bop, Post-bop, Jazz, Bebop

    John William Coltrane (September 23, 1926 – July 17, 1967) was an American jazz saxophonist... more on Wikipedia

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    The Best John Coltrane Albums of All Time#269 of 363 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

  • 3
    Ornette Coleman
    50
    22

    Ornette Coleman

    The Shape of Jazz to Come, At The "Golden Circle" Stockholm

    Genres (Music)Avant-garde jazz, Jazz fusion, Free funk, Jazz, Free jazz

    Randolph Denard Ornette Coleman (March 9 or 19, 1930 – June 11, 2015) was an American jazz... more on Wikipedia

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    The Best Ornette Coleman Albums of All Time#10 of 69 The Greatest Jazz Saxophonists of All Time

  • 4
    Sonny Rollins
    50
    30

    Sonny Rollins

    Sonny Side Up, Planet Jazz: Sonny Rollins

    Genres (Music)Hard bop, Jazz

    Walter Theodore "Sonny" Rollins (born September 7, 1930) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist... more on Wikipedia

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    The Best Sonny Rollins Albums of All Time#3 of 190 The Greatest Saxophonists of All Time

  • 5
    Ravi Coltrane
    42
    21

    Ravi Coltrane

    Moving Pictures, In Flux

    Genres (Music)Post-bop, Jazz

    Ravi Coltrane (born August 6, 1965) is an American jazz saxophonist. Co-owner of the record... more on Wikipedia

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    #14 of 26 Celebrities Who Practice Hinduism#284 of 346 Famous Saxophonists

  • 6
    Chris Potter
    44
    33

    Chris Potter

    Critical Mass, The Sirens

    Genres (Music)Classical music, Post-bop, Jazz

    Chris Potter (born January 1, 1971) is an American jazz saxophonist, composer, and... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    John Zorn
    32
    19

    John Zorn

    50th Birthday Celebration, Volume 4

    Genres (Music)Dark ambient, Noise rock, Klezmer, Avant-garde jazz, Electronic music

    John Zorn (born September 2, 1953) is an American composer, arranger, record producer,... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Joe Lovano
    31
    19

    Joe Lovano

    I Have the Room Above Her, Symphonica

    Genres (Music)Hard bop, Post-bop, Jazz, Modal jazz

    Joseph Salvatore Lovano (born December 29, 1952) is an American jazz saxophonist, alto... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    Johnny Hodges
    22
    11

    Johnny Hodges

    Everybody knows Johnny Hodges, Compact Jazz

    Genres (Music)Ballad, Swing music

    Cornelius "Johnny" Hodges (July 25, 1907 – May 11, 1970) was an American alto saxophonist,... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Donny McCaslin
    23
    13

    Donny McCaslin

    Exile and Discovery, Casting for Gravity

    Genres (Music)Classical music, Post-bop, Jazz

    Donald Paul "Donny" McCaslin (born August 11, 1966) is an American jazz saxophonist. He has... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Lou Donaldson
    23
    14

    Lou Donaldson

    LD + 3, Blues Walk

    Genres (Music)Hard bop, Jazz blues, Bebop, Soul jazz

    Lou Donaldson (born November 1, 1926) is a jazz alto saxophonist. He is best known for his... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Wayne Shorter
    29
    22

    Wayne Shorter

    The Young Lions, 1+1

    Genres (Music)Crossover jazz, Third stream, Hard bop, Jazz fusion, Post-bop

    Wayne Shorter (born August 25, 1933) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Shorter... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    Branford Marsalis
    29
    23

    Branford Marsalis

    The Majesty of the Blues, Crescent City Christmas Card

    Genres (Music)Classical music, Post-bop, Jazz

    Wynton Learson Marsalis (born October 18, 1961) is an American virtuoso trumpeter, composer,... more on Wikipedia

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    #3 of 60 The Best Trumpeters in the World#10 of 177 The Greatest Trumpeters of All Time

  • 14
    Lester Young
    19
    11

    Lester Young

    Billie Holliday With Lester Young: Lady Day & Prez 1937-1941, The Quintessence

    Genres (Music)Jazz

    Lester Willis Young (August 27, 1909 – March 15, 1959), nicknamed "Pres" or "Prez", was an... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Joshua Redman
    35
    32

    Joshua Redman

    Spirit of the Moment: Live at the Village Vanguard, Beyond

    Genres (Music)Jazz

    Joshua Redman (born February 1, 1969) is an American jazz saxophonist and composer. In 1991,... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    Eric Alexander
    18
    13

    Eric Alexander

    The First Milestone, Nightlife in Tokyo

    Genres (Music)Jazz

    Eric Alexander (born August 4, 1968) is an American jazz saxophonist.
  • 17
    Steve Coleman
    18
    14

    Steve Coleman

    Drop Kick, The Sonic Language of Myth

    Genres (Music)Jazz

    Steve Coleman (born September 20, 1956) is an American saxophonist, composer, and bandleader. ... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Albert Alva
    17
    13

    Albert Alva

  • 19
    Kenny Garrett
    29
    31

    Kenny Garrett

    Dreyfus Night in Paris, Introducing Kenny Garrett

    Genres (Music)Jazz fusion, Post-bop, Jazz

    Kenny Garrett (born October 9, 1960) is a Grammy Award-winning American post-bop jazz... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    James Carter
    23
    23

    James Carter

    Chasin' the Gypsy, At the Crossroads

    Genres (Music)Avant-garde jazz, Smooth jazz, Jazz fusion, Post-bop, Jazz

    James Carter (born January 3, 1969) is an American jazz musician. He is the cousin of jazz... more on Wikipedia

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    #65 of 68 The Greatest Flautists of All Time#159 of 241 The Very Best Jazz Musicians & Artists

  • 21
    Scott Hamilton
    14
    11

    Scott Hamilton

    Late Night Christmas Eve, Swing Brothers

    Genres (Music)Jazz

    Scott Hamilton (born September 12, 1954) is an American jazz tenor saxophonist associated with... more on Wikipedia

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    #6 of 45 The Best Jazz Saxophonists in the World#4 of 75 The Best Musical Artists From Rhode Island

  • 22
    Eric Marienthal
    15
    18

    Eric Marienthal

    Easy Street, Turn Up the Heat

    Genres (Music)Jazz

    Eric Marienthal (born December 19, 1957) is a Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles-based... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Bob Berg
    1
    0

    Bob Berg

    Reflecting Times, Short Stories

    Genres (Music)Hard bop, Post-bop

    Robert Berg (April 7, 1951 – December 5, 2002) was an American jazz saxophonist originally... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    David Sanborn
    24
    30

    David Sanborn

    Lethal Weapon 3, Another Hand

    Genres (Music)Pop music, Rock music, Smooth jazz, Jazz fusion, Rhythm and blues

    David William Sanborn (born July 30, 1945) is an American alto saxophonist. Though Sanborn has... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Stuart Matthewman
    1
    0

    Stuart Matthewman

    The Astronaut Farmer, Twin Falls Idaho

    Genres (Music)Downtempo, Space age pop, Chill-out music, Acid jazz, Dub

    Stuart Colin Matthewman also known as Cottonbelly, is a Grammy-winning songwriter,... more on Wikipedia