Developing the Total Saxophone Section

The following offers a list of historical big band arrangements that emphasize the saxophone section that can be used by high school jazz bands as well as college jazz ensembles. These charts will enhance the students understanding of different styles of big band orchestration as well as saxophone section performance. Also listed are a variety of materials that relate to saxophone ensemble playing, saxophone study and notable artists on the various saxophones.

Notable Jazz Saxophone Section Solis on 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)
    • Rose Room (1939)
  • Benny Goodman:
    • Sometimes I’m Happy (1935)
    • Cherry (1937/1941)
    • Wrappin’ It Up (1938)
    • 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)
  • Bob Mintzer:
    • Who’s Walkin’ Who? (2005)
    • When the Lady Dances (2016)
  • Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland: Get Out of Town (1968)
  • 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)
  • Dave Berger: “Fancy Footwork: The Art of the Saxophone Soli” (

Saxophone Quartet Recordings

  • Daniel Deffayet Quartet: Le Saxophone Français (EMI Classics)
  • Marcel Mule Quartet: Marcel Mule (Clarinet Classics)
  • The Rascher Saxophone Quartet: Music for Saxophones
  • New York Saxophone Quartet: Urbanology
  • Jean Yves Fourmeau Saxophone Quartet: The Art of the Jean Yves Fourmeau Quartet

Saxophone Methods, Etudes and Books

  • L. Bassi: Twenty-Seven Virtuoso Studies
  • 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
  • Ernest Ferron: The Saxophone is My Voice
  • Arthur Weisberg: The Art of Wind Playing

Saxophone Quartets

  • John Carisi: Quartet No. 1
  • Alfred Desenclos: Quatuor
  • Alexander Glazounov: Quatour
  • Milan Kaderavek: Saxophone Quartet #1
  • Gary Lindsay: School Yard Suite
  • Astor Piazzolla: Histoire du Tango
  • 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
  • Charlie Fowlkes
  • Gerry Mulligan
  • Pepper Adams
  • Ronnie Cuber
  • Nick Brignola
  • 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-faced tip openings with medium chambers and facing-lengths work best in order to create a saxophone section blend in a jazz ensemble; smaller tip openings with longer facing-lengths and larger chambers are preferable for concert band, chamber ensembles or orchestral settings.

Reeds: In order to accommodate the mouthpieces described above, the reeds used should 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. Synthetic reeds are also a choice for band directors in K-12 since they do not deteriorate as fast as cane reeds and therefore might end up saving money in the long term for students and schools alike.

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 never 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 saxophone section in a school ensemble can be equipped with similar model horns by the same manufacturer, there is a greater chance for achieving a good section blend.


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