The saxophone is hands down the ruler of the jazz world.
With its round sound and agility, it completely dominates the epitome of all a jazz solo needs to be.
If you’re getting into Jazz, looking for sax solos to practice or learn from or simply enjoy listening to, we’ve got you covered in the massive list of 33 amazing jazz saxophone solos with videos.
Let’s blow Daddio! (Yes, I’m a lover of cheesy jokes and segues…)
Table of Contents
Cherokee: Sonny Stitt
First up on our list, we have the legendary Sonny Stitt with one of his best tracks from the album, Kaleidoscope.
Recorded in the early 1950s and released in 1957, this album showed off the alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone skills of this sax icon.
Sonny is known for his speed, but this album really shows off his grace and musicality too.
Blue Rondo a La Turka: Paul Desmond
Paul Desmond playing the alto saxophone for this jazz standard is something every aspiring saxophonist needs to listen to.
Written by Dave Brubeck and released as part of the album Time Out in 1959.
What’s really interesting about this solo and chart is how it uses some rhythmic material and inspiration from Mozart’s iconic Rondo Alla Turka.
Giant Steps: John Coltrane
There is no jazz saxophone solo more iconic or important than John Coltrane’s Giant Steps.
It inspired so many saxophone players, soloists, and jazz music in general after its release in 1960.
The chord patterns and changes used in the piece challenged and pushed Jazz into a new era, using what came to be known as Coltrane Changes.
The chart features Coltrane on his tenor saxophone, but the name comes from the “loping” steps the bass line takes during the piece.
Several recordings of Coltrane playing this piece are out there, and all of them are worth listening to.
Koko: Charlie Parker
Ko-Ko is a 1954 bebop recording written by alto saxophone master Charlie Parker.
It also features other prominent jazz musicians of the day, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Curley Russel, and Max Roach.
This piece is considered one of the first bebop charts ever recorded and released, and it showcases Charlie Parker’s skill on alto on top of his amazing songwriting technique.
Deluge: Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter is another saxophonist and jazz composer who played with many of the great jazz composers.
He also played in the Miles Davis Quintet on top of recording his own albums.
His fifth album, JuJu, is where we see Deluge.
It was released in 1965 and featured Shorter on the tenor saxophone.
While this chart as a whole didn’t receive the love of some of his other pieces, the jazz saxophone solo in this one showcases his skill and musicianship at its best.
Blue In Green: John Coltrane
This is the third song from Miles Davis’ 1959 album, Kind of Blue.
This album is iconic for bringing together many of the best jazz musicians of the day for a stellar set of tunes.
Here, we again see John Coltrane’s jazz tenor saxophone shining.
If you love Cannonball Adderly’s alto on this album, this is the one tune he sat out on.
But look for more of him later on this list.
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight: Michael Brecker
This song was written by James Taylor and released in 1972.
Technically, it’s a folk-rock song and not a jazz one, but Michael Brecker’s work on the tenor saxophone here helped to remind the public why the saxophone is such a killer instrument.
Since then, the saxophone has been featured in mainstream pop and Jazz all the time.
Love For Sale: Eddie Harris
Love for Sale came from Eddie Harris’ 1966 album, The In Sound.
While not as famous as the John Coltrane’s of the jazz world, Eddie Harris’ sweet tenor sax sound in Jazz is well worth a listen, and this track is one of his best.
I’ve Got Rhythm: Charlie Parker
I don’t know if George Gershwin realized what a hit he had on his hands when he wrote this song in the 1930s, but it’s one of the most covered tunes of all time.
Charlie Parker’s cover of this popular musical song takes it to a whole other level.
Fun fact: Did you know Charlie Parker’s nickname was “Bird” or “Yardbird.”
High Wire: Chris Potter (Tenor)
Chris Potter is a modern American jazz saxophonist and bandleader.
His track High Wire showcases his jazz tenor sax solo skills in a way that most people find quite accessible.
A number of his works are covered and studied by aspiring jazz musicians in college.
I Got Rhythm: Don Byas
Here we see this chart featured again on our list, but this time we get to see a different version played by Don Byas on the tenor saxophonist.
The opening airy and gentle quality of his playing makes the contrast to his breezy, rapid runs later even greater.
Peace: Ornette Coleman
1959 was a huge year for Jazz and the saxophone especially.
Ornette Coleman’s album, The Shape of Jazz To Come, is where we find this chart.
Peace indeed, this song’s beautiful melody meanders around in a pleasant way contrasting with the double bass’s simple yet haunting long tones.
Fun fact: Did you know Coleman played on a plastic Grafton saxophone for this album?
Your Lady: John Coltrane
It’s hard not to feature someone like John Coltrane multiple times on a list of the best jazz saxophone solos.
His tenor sax sound and contributions to the instrument and Jazz at large cannot be denied.
This track features him performing on soprano saxophone (which is in the same key as the tenor, though at a higher octave).
Something Else: Cannonball Adderly
Julian “Cannonball” Adderly was a monster on the alto saxophone and contemporaries of other jazz greats such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Something Else, both the track and the album, which was released in 1958, showcase a range of skill and intentionality on the saxophone many have tried to imitate but few have achieved.
Make Believe: Chris Potter
This track from the album Prime Directive features an ethereal feel that matches the title of the tune perfectly.
Aside from Chris Potter’s sweet (and unerringly accurate) playing, we get to hear some vibraphone features to add to the mysterious yet alluring tone of the work.
Of course, any time you hear the whole Dave Holland Quintet play Jazz, you’ll never be disappointed.
“Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section”: Art Pepper
Art Pepper was a great alto sax player in Jazz who died way too young.
A lot of people agree that this album, Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section, is his greatest work.
Every track is engaging and classic, featuring him on his alto (and a couple of other instruments, too!).
It’s a great listen or download if you want to expand your listening past the really big sax players.
Human Nature: Kenny Garrett
Kenny Garrett received the honor of playing along with Miles Davis in this 1990 track.
Garrett starts his alto solo in this chart by doing a little call and response with Miles before taking over and building into an engaging and modal solo.
As he builds up, the juxtaposition of the scales his riffs on contrasts sharply with the key of the rhythm section, creating a surprising feel.
“Go”: Dexter Gordon
This album by Dexter Gordon was released in 1962.
His tenor saxophone playing in this album, especially my personal favorite track, Cheese Cake, showcases an accessible skill with the saxophone.
The catchy and toe-tapping solos draw you in as if you almost feel like you are a part of the music.
“Saxophone Colossus”: Sonny Rollins
I love listening to this album because it’s so unique to me.
There’s so much to listen to, from the composition of the songs to the sweet, airy tone of Sonny Rollins.
Released in 1956, I feel like this album shows the transition Jazz was going through at the time, from the clear yet cool stylings of Bebop to the Jazz wave that would come in the late 50s and early 60s with its boundary-pushing chord progressions and scales.
Metamorphos: Chris Potter (Alto)
If you’ve never heard this track, you needed to give it a listen yesterday.
Chris Potter kills it on the alto, and for the purposes of this list, that’s all you need to know.
But for all lovers of Jazz, this opening bass solo shreds.
It’s an amazing way to set up a chart, and the rest of the tune doesn’t fail to deliver.
Eternal Triangle: Sonny Stitt and Sonny Rollins
Getting a double bang for your buck in terms of saxophone, this chart is a Dizzy Gillespie legend, and it features both performers on the tenor saxophone.
Upbeat with a flurry of notes, you can’t help but bounce along as you listen and imagine their fingers flying over the keys.
Body And Soul: Coleman Hawkins
Going back to the beginnings of Jazz, we need to take a look at one of the founding fathers of jazz saxophone, Coleman Hawkins.
Body and Soul was recorded way back in 1939, and it’s a joy to listen to.
Hearing his sweet tone and vibrato as he floats around the melody makes you feel like you’re sitting in a living room with your beau dancing sweetly to the radio.
Cottontail: Ben Webster
Duke Ellington’s 1940 chart here is rhythmic and catchy, exactly what you’d expect from the Big Band of that era.
After these big hits and the initial statement of the melody, we get Ben Webster taking over with a pure and hopping solo which rises into some edgy tones providing the perfect climax of phrasing.
Alter Ego: Antonio Hart and David “Fathead” Newman
From The Vibe album in 1992, this groovy chart features both Antonio Hart on alto sax and David “Fathead” Newman on the tenor.
Hart’s opening solo on alto is emblematic of jazz music during this period.
It flies around with a controlled, round sound.
Though, if I’m being honest, one of my favorite parts of this tune is when the two of them play together.
They blend so well and fit each other perfectly; it’s less about two saxes playing together than one mega-sax.
Star Crossed Lovers: Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges gets the lead on alto saxophone with this song by Duke Ellington, and he doesn’t disappoint.
The sweet melody is a lesson in musicality for any musician, let alone the jazz saxophone player.
From his spot-on tuning to his artful crescendoes and decrescendos, it doesn’t get much more spot-on than this for a ballad.
Georgia On My Mind: Gerald Albright
If you want a modern blues cover featuring a sick jazz saxophone solo, this track is perfect.
Gerald Albright is a solid sax player who doesn’t get enough love, in my opinion.
Sure, this cover doesn’t push boundaries like some of the other solos on our list, but it doesn’t need to.
It sounds like all on its own.
- Thomas: Joshua Redman
Is it possible to make a single note entertaining and engaging enough to kick off an epic solo for 60 seconds straight?
Joshua Redman says, “Heck yeah!” and this solo shows exactly how.
Using both his low range and altissimo, he makes the first few minutes of the piece sound like a full band without using anyone else except himself.
Gladys: Stan Getz
Less a tenor saxophone solo track and more of a vibraphone/tenor sax duet, this whole album and specifically this track show off the skill of Stan Getz on sax and Lionel Hampton on vibraphone.
Gladys is one of the best charts on their duet album, and it gives them both a chance to show off as soloists and together.
Autumn Leaves: Cannonball Adderly
I almost didn’t include this one on the list.
Autumn Leaves is one of those jazz tracks every plays and is associated with Jazz so much that many players don’t actually like it.
But if you’re going to look at jazz solos, this Miles Davis version of Autumn Leaves with Cannonball Adderly is the one to listen to.
It starts in a relatively standard way, but once he comes in around the two-minute mark, you get to hear how the group takes the song to a new place.
Corcovado: Cannonball Adderly
Can you tell who one of my favorite jazz saxophone soloists is?
Cannonball’s Corcovado is a bossa nova solo, and it serves as a good example of another way Jazz can be performed.
Give this one a listen for something a little different than everything else on the list.
Englishman in NY: Branford Marsalis
Sting may be a rock singer, but he also has some sweet jazz pipes.
Branford Marsalis’ soprano saxophone is subtle and smooth as butter.
This live video from Berlin in 2010 is my favorite version of this tune.
I Will Always Love You: Kirk Whalum
Kirk Whalum is the perfect marriage of Jazz, Funk, and Soul.
He plays with raw power and heart that few can match.
This cover of the famous song may not be true Jazz, but dang, it’s worth a listen.
Parker’s Mood: Charlie Parker
We’ll round out our list with a traditional jazz saxophone solo from Charlie Parker, named after himself!
Parker’s Mood is Jazz to a T.
Starting with a recognizable melody and chord progression, it then moves onto a flurry of amazing licks through different scalular patterns.