10 Legendary Saxophonists and Their Instruments

The saxophone has become an iconic instrument in the jazz world, with many legendary musicians shaping the sound of the genre with their playing styles. Here are some of the top legendary jazz saxophonists, and the saxophones they played.

1. Charlie Parker. Known as the "Bird", Charlie Parker is considered one of the greatest jazz saxophonists of all time. He played the alto saxophone, primarily a Conn 6M and later a King Super 20.

Charlie Parker KGUmusic2. John Coltrane. John Coltrane is another saxophonist who revolutionized the jazz genre with his unique sound and improvisational style. He played the tenor saxophone, primarily a Selmer Mark VI and later a Selmer Super Balanced Action.

John-Coltrane-KGUmusic3. Sonny Rollins. Sonny Rollins is known for his powerful tone and impressive technique on the saxophone. He played the tenor saxophone, primarily a Selmer Mark VI and later a Selmer Reference 54.
Sonny-Rollins-KGUmusic4. Lester Young. Lester Young, also known as "Prez", was a prominent saxophonist in the swing era and is known for his smooth and relaxed playing style. He played the tenor saxophone, primarily a Conn 10M.
Lester Young KGUmusic
5. Coleman Hawkins. Coleman Hawkins is considered the father of the tenor saxophone and is known for his innovative playing style. He played the tenor saxophone, primarily a Conn 10M and later a Selmer Balanced Action.
Coleman Hawkins6. Stan Getz. Stan Getz was known for his warm and lyrical tone on the saxophone, particularly on the tenor saxophone. He played a Selmer Mark VI.
Stan Getz KGUmusic
7. Wayne Shorter. Wayne Shorter is known for his complex and innovative compositions as well as his unique playing style on the saxophone. He played the tenor saxophone, primarily a Selmer Mark VI.
Wayne Shorter KGUmusic
8. Joe Henderson. Joe Henderson was known for his versatility on the saxophone, playing both the tenor and the alto saxophone. He played a Selmer Mark VI.
Joe Henderson KGUmusic9. Cannonball Adderley. Cannonball Adderley was known for his soulful and bluesy playing style on the saxophone, particularly on the alto saxophone. He played a Selmer Mark VI.
Cannonball Adderley10. Dexter Gordon. Dexter Gordon was known for his big and bold sound on the tenor saxophone. He played a Selmer Mark VI.
Dexter Gordon KGUmusic
In conclusion, these legendary saxophonists have left a lasting impact on the jazz genre with their unique playing styles and innovative techniques. They have also played some of the most iconic saxophone models in the industry, with Selmer and Conn being the most popular brands.

7 comments

A few issues here: Coltrane played a Selmer SBA for most of his career, and only played a Selmer Mark VI at the end, so you’ve got it backwards. Lester Young played a Conn New Wonder, not a 10M. Coleman Hawkins played a Selmer Mark VI for the last decades of his life, not a Selmer SBA.

Ben March 21, 2024

People saying Cannonball played a King Super 20 are right but in his last years he played a Mark VI just as many from that time period switched to the Famous Mark VI.

Ben Hostetler March 13, 2024

People saying Cannonball played a King Super 20 are right but in his last years he played a Mark VI just as many from that time period switched to the Famous Mark VI.

Ben Hostetler March 13, 2024

I would dispute some of these.Bird and Cannonball both played King Silversonics

Brian Matthews October 25, 2023

Both Bird and Cannonball at the end of their careers played King Super 20 Silversonic altos. I’ve seen pics of Bird playing Conn 6Ms and pre Balanced Action and Mark 6 Selmers. I’ve never seen a pic of Bird playing a Mark 6. Bird’s Silversonic is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

Ken Duck October 25, 2023

You’re wrong about Cannonball. He played King Super20’s.

jeff jones October 25, 2023

Cannonball played a King Silversonic

Gary Edighoffer October 25, 2023

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