Developing the Total Saxophone Section

The following provides basic information that can be used by high school and college band directors in order to develop their saxophone sections for large jazz ensembles.

Jazz Saxophone Section Charts & Recordings

  • Benny Moten: Toby (1932)
  • Benny Carter:
      • Symphony In Riffs (1933)
      • I Can’t Escape From You (1949)
      • Further Definitions (1961)
  • Artie Shaw:
      • What Is This Thing Called Love (1938)
      • Softly As In The Morning Sunrise (1938)
  • Benny Goodman: Benny Rides Again (1940)
  • Stan Kenton:
      • Opus in Pastels (1946)
      • Concerto to End All Concertos (1946)
  • Woody Herman:
      • Four Brothers (1948)
      • Early Autumn (1949)
  • Duke Ellington:
      • Cottontail (1940)
      • Such Sweet Thunder (1957)
      • The Queens Suite: Le Sucrier Velours (1959)
  • Count Basie:
      • Sweety Cakes (1955)
      • In A Mellow Tone (1959)
      • Counterblock (1959)
  • Thad Jones/Mel Lewis:
      • Little Pixie (1967, 1988)
      • Groove Merchant (1969, 1999)
      • Three and One (1966,1989)
      • Fingers (1970, 1999)
  • Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland: Get Out Of Town (1968)
  • Bob Mintzer: Who’s Walkin’ Who? (2005)
  • Supersax: Supersax Plays Bird (1973)

Jazz Saxophone Section Materials

  • Jim Snidero: Jazz Conception for the Saxophone Section (Advance Music)
  • Basie-Nestico Lead Sax Book (Kendor Music)
  • Thad Jones Lead Sax Book (Kendor Music)
  • Gordon Goodwin Big Phat Band Play-Along Series (Alfred)
  • Music Minus One: For Saxes Only (MMO 4006)

Saxophone Quartet Recordings

  • Daniel Deffayet Quartet: Le Saxophone Français (EMI Classics)
  • Marcel Mule Quartet: Marcel Mule (Clarinet Classics)
  • New York Saxophone Quartet: Urbanology

Saxophone Methods, Etudes and Books

    • L. Bassi: Twenty-Seven Virtuoso Studies
    • Ernest Ferron: The Saxophone is my voice
    • Eugene Bozza: Douze Etudes–Caprices (op. 60)
    • Paul de Ville: Universal Method for Saxophone
    • Jimmy Dorsey: Saxophone Method
    • W. Ferling: 48 Famous Studies
    • Greg Fishman: Jazz Saxophone Etudes, Books 1-3
    • Sigfrid Karg-Elert: 25 Capricen und Sonate (op. 153)
    • Dave Liebman: Developing A Personal Saxophone Sound
    • Jean-Marie Londeix: 150 Years Of Music For Saxophone
    • Bob Mintzer:
        • 14 Jazz and Funk Etudes
        • 14 Blues and Funk Etudes
        • 15 Easy Jazz, Blues and Funk Etudes
    • Marcel Mule: Trente Etudes
    • Sigurd Rascher: Top Tones for the Saxophone
    • Jim Snidero: Jazz Conception Series (easy, medium, advanced)
    • Arthur Weisberg: The Art of Wind Playing

Saxophone Quartets

  • John Carisi: Quartet No. 1
  • Alfred Desenclos: Quatuor
  • Alexander Glazounov: Quatour
  • Jean Rivier: Grave et Presto
  • Eddie Sauter: Quartet No. 1
  • Phil Woods: Three Improvisations

Saxophone Artists to Study


  • Sidney Bechet
  • John Coltrane
  • Joe Farrell
  • Pat LaBarbera
  • Lucky Thompson
  • Dave Liebman
  • Jean-Yves Fourmeau


  • Johnny Hodges
  • Benny Carter
  • Charlie Parker
  • Sonny Stitt
  • Cannonball Adderley
  • Phil Woods
  • Jackie McLean
  • Lee Konitz
  • Charles McPherson
  • Art Pepper
  • Dick Oatts
  • Kenny Garrett
  • Marshal Royal
  • Jimmy Dorsey
  • David Sanborn
  • Marcel Mule
  • Sigurd Rascher
  • Daniel Deffayet
  • Jean-Marie Londeix
  • Vincent (Jimmy) Abato


  • Coleman Hawkins
  • Ben Webster
  • Lester Young
  • Chu Berry
  • Don Byas
  • Stan Getz
  • Gene Ammons
  • Dexter Gordon
  • Sonny Rollins
  • John Coltrane
  • Warne Marsh
  • Joe Henderson
  • Wayne Shorter
  • Michael Brecker
  • Jerry Bergonzi
  • Joe Lovano
  • Chris Potter


  • Harry Carney
  • Serge Chaloff
  • Cecil Payne
  • Jack Washington
  • Charlie Fowlkes
  • Gerry Mulligan
  • Pepper Adams
  • Ronnie Cuber
  • Gary Smulyan
  • Jean Ledieu

Equipment Recommendations

Mouthpieces: Saxophone sections will blend better if everyone plays mouthpieces that have similar chamber styles and tip openings. Generally, medium facing tip openings and medium chambers work best in order to create a saxophone section blend in a jazz ensemble; smaller tip openings are preferable for concert or orchestral settings.

Reeds: In order to accommodate the mouthpieces described above, the reeds used must also be of medium to medium-hard strength reeds. While certain reed companies label their reed products “Jazz Style”, any quality reed cane can yield satisfactory results regardless of their designation.

Saxophones: Historically, some of the best saxophone sections in the Swing and Bebop eras generally played with saxophones produced by a similar manufacturer. In those days, the saxophone was going through many changes in construction and it was common for saxophone sections to be used as role models to market the latest horn. However, saxophone sections today are rarely marketed in this fashion. Soloists are the ones used to promote the latest developments in instrument construction. Also, there are many saxophone manufacturers today who produce acceptable instruments and the market for vintage saxophones is very extensive. Therefore, most professionals in large jazz ensembles have a variety of different model horns. Nonetheless, if a section can be equipped with similar model horns by the same manufacturer, there is a greater chance for achieving a good section blend.