My favorite instrument in the jazz idiom is the saxophone. I love the vocal quality of its sound, and in my opinion, it is the instrument that best expresses emotion and feeling. While I have a lot of favorites who play this instrument, including but not limited to John Coltrane, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins, George Coleman, Cannonball Adderly, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Eric Dolphy, Sonny Stitt and many more, I have a special love for the sound of Jackie McLean and Gene Ammons. Their playing really sends me. I discovered them both in my teen years and have continued my love affair with their music until now. For an exciting taste of these two greats, check out “The Happy Blues”, recorded in 1956, on which these jazz masters are playing together. You want some feeling, there it is.

Both of these men struggled with a heroin addiction, as many in their generation did. This did nothing to detract from their music. Both players were steeped in the blues, which deeply informed their playing. In my opinion, this is what made their music absolutely transcendent.

Alto saxophonist, Jackie McLean transcended various genres of jazz, but was a master extraordinaire of the bebop and hard bop forms. What I really like about his playing is the blue feeling and the ultimate expression of deep melancholy in every note and line. His tone cuts right to the heart and literally transports you. When I hear a tune on the radio, I can always identify Jackie’s playing. His tone stands out like a blue-white beacon of light. Two of my favorite Jackie-Mac albums are “Swing, Swang, Swingin” and “Destination…Out!” Check them out along with anything else he might have played. He recorded with almost everybody over the years.

Tenor saxophonist, Gene Ammons is an absolute solid sender. There was a period when I played his music every night to fall asleep to. He has more feeling in just one note than anyone can conjur up in an entire line. He was facile with the bebop form, but was also a progenitor of the soul jazz movement. His playing of a ballad will simply take you away. I think he is unsung and under-appreciated. To check him out at his best, listen to the compilation collection, “The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug”, all three volumes. Put on volume 3, and listen to the opening track, “Didn’t We”, and you will see what I am talking about. Put this on in the middle of the night and you won’t be sorry.

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