Monday, July 26, 2004

Illinois Jacquet and the Great Tenor Solos

Illinois Jacquet, one of the great tenor saxophone players in jazz history passed on July 22. While never accorded "superstar" status, which is, after all, more the result of marketing than artistic merit, he recorded one of the landmark tenor solos and pioneered two widely imitated tenor techniques: honking and altissimo playing. The New York Times obit is here (registration required)

Jacquet was a youngster in 1942 when Lionel Hampton tapped him to solo on a recording of "Flying Home." A discussion of that solo (original source not identified) makes this point

Jacquet became an overnight star with the solo and the solo actually BECAME part of the song. Saxophone players had it written into their contracts that when the song was played, they had to play it like Jacquet. One saxophone player interviewed on the NPR program said during his life, he only memorized 2 solos: Coleman Hawkins' legendary Body and Soul solo and Illinois Jacquet's Flying Home solo.

This inspired me to come up with

My Top Ten Tenor Sax Solos

1. Coleman Hawkins Body and Soul
2. Illinois Jacquet Flying Home (Lionel Hampton)
3. Paul Gonzalves, Dimuendo and Crescendo in Blue (Duke Ellington)
4. Lester Young Lester Leaps In
5. Sonny Rollins Blue Seven
6. Wardell Gray Twisted
7. Ben Webster Cottontail
8. Lucky Thompson Walkin’ (Miles Davis)
9. Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt Blues Up and Down (Boss Tenors)
10. John Coltrane Giant Steps

Subject to revision and second thoughts, of course. Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, Booker Ervin, Hank Mobley, Charlie Rouse, Joe Henderson, and Joe Lovano have also recorded great solos

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