Sax Appeal!


I may have mentioned once or twice that I like sax …

… based jazz; I think the saxophone is also a sadly overlooked instrument in rock music. It’s three years since Clarence Clemons the sax play in the E-Street band died and I thought I would take a moment to share with you my appreciation of Clarence and the saxophone in “rock” music and also play a few choice jazz pieces too.

The photo above is the “other half” of one of the most famous Springsteen albums: Born To Run, yep that arm resting on Clarence’s shoulder is The Boss.

Before we get into some of the best (once again my humble opinion) rock songs that feature stunning sax I’ll share with you a much-loved jazz piece. If you look up the top jazz saxophonists this person rarely figures; you’ll see Coltrane, Bechet, ‘cannonball’ Adderley, Getz and Rollins (one from him later) however the one that I turn to more often than not is Ben Webster and my favourite tune has to be Chelsea Bridge.

I could write a whole piece on jazz sax but this is about the sax in rock and popular music and how it adds a warmth and vibrancy that a guitar, well as awesome as it is just cannot.

First up well it’s Logical isn’t it? Supertramp and John Helliwell’s playing in The Logical Song.

Back to the early seventies and another incredible album, though I know that some Spillers have ‘issues’ with Pink Floyd but Us and Them from DSOTM really demonstrates the beauty of the sax, just drift away; it’s sublime. But who played those brilliant solos; it was Richard “Dick” Parry a friend of Gilmour’s.

To the eighties and Hazel O’Connor and Will You. The player on this is Wesley McGoogan. What have I found out about him, well he’s from Hastings and played with The Beat and Billy Ocean.

During saneshane’s recent J’s posting Billy Joel was nominated several times so here’s Scenes From An Italian restaurant and Richie Cannata: white, red or perhaps a rose instead?

Bowie’s Young Americans features David Sanborn a session player who started at 14 playing blues for Albert King but has a very long list of credits havingย worked with The Dead, Eagles, Paul Simon and hey guess who, yes Springsteen.

Arriving at Springsteen there are numerous sax ‘solos’ in his songs, one of the most well known is Jungleland, but what about Born To Run or a tune that’s heard less often Drive All Night.

Before Clarence died his nephew Jake Clemons also played with Bruce on tour so here’s a clip comparing their playing on Drive All Night and in the playlist the full version with Clarence plus those two other classic songs.

I’ll close off with another jazz tune, this time from one of the top 10 list: Sonny Rollins and Silk N Satin.

40 thoughts on “Sax Appeal!

  1. Great listening, had forgotten all about Hazel O’Connor and the sax definitely adds tons to that track. Not much of a Springsteen fan but the sax on Jungleland is fabulous. Thank you.

    • Hi Brendan, thanks for popping by taking a listen, perhaps I can convert you to The Boss, there’s a challenge. Wholeheartedly agree with you on “Will You” it really makes that song something special.

  2. A personal favourite from Born To Run is She’s The One – the itchiness of the short line in the lyrics:
    ”cause she knows that it kills me’
    as well as the Bo-Diddliness of the riff, but the thing that first hooked me was the call-and-response with Clarence in the first ‘chorus’. is a live version; can’t seem to lay hands on the studio original.

    Also liking stuff from Hank Carter in the early 4-man version of the Destroyers, including the reed abuse in Bad To The Bone, as well as the understated gravelliness of Miss Luann.
    No idea about technical difficulty levels, but I think the sax contributes fundamentally to the whole song in each case. Word too for the crystal production on the BTTB album, from which each is lifted.

    • Thanks for popping by williamsbach, don’t see you on The Spill very often so much appreciated that you took the time to listen and post some decent tunes too.

      I have no technical ability when it comes to music nor much technical knowledge so always pleased to learn new things about musicians or their instruments.


  3. By the way, that Boss/Clarence pic above when viewed whoe shows Bruce with his modified Esquire – when Fender brought out the Telecaster, they made a cheaper single-pickup version called the Esquire. Because the body they used was the same (routed for the front pickup, but with a blank scratchplate), many/most Esquire owners simply cut a hole in the plate and fitted the front pickup. Cheaper than buying a Tele. Original, uncut Esquires are big money these days, but Bruce presumably, and typically, was more concerned with the sound than the resale value. That’s true whether or not he did the modification or bought the guitar like that.

  4. Quick gander at your list is all i have time for tonight – i too love the Big Man – and love the sax in Rosalita. Bowie wouldn’t have been the first thing that popped into my mind – but you’re right, forgot he played! Love the sax on Changes. Bobby Keyes’ sax makes so much of Exile on Main Street – Rip This Joint and Let It Loose just for two. Edgar WInter. INXS. Magicman plays hisself some sax i believe, Roxy’s Andy McKay is one of his faves i think. Also donding Williamsbach’s Destroyers.

      • Are you trying to force me to listen to some Stones (against my better judgement) just to check out the sax???? ๐Ÿ™‚

        You’re right about INXS, there are some great sax pieces in their tunes. I didn’t know that about Magic, but doesn’t surprise me, he comes across as both knowledgeable and talented (I did know about the Beach Boys tribute band)

      • try it, you just might like it ๐Ÿ™‚

        Magic really is a multitalented guy – musician, successful actor, and he said his academic background is law.

  5. First thing that springs to mind is Gerry Rafferty and Baker Street. Next thing is Sade and Smooth Operator:

    tfd converted me to Bruce Springsteen; I was staying with her at the time that Clarence Clemons died and I had no idea who he was, so we had a Bruce Springsteen evening.

    David Sanborn is a blast from the past, my ex boyfriend, as was, was a big fan.

  6. I’ve always liked a bit of sax in rock music. I might do a list of my own.

    I love Clarence Clemmons’ work with Springsteen. The rapport between the two made the music so much better.

  7. I have to confess to not being the biggest fan of sax in rock music – I think too much exposure to the bad has inoculated me against the good. Will try to find time to listen to your list with an open mind…

    In the meantime, in a different sort of style, here are two of my favourites:

    • Not a big fan of Bjork, hey not a fan at all really but that was quite pleasant and liked the sax on it very much. Cheers for popping by and I do hope you find something to your liking.

    • Not sure what happened on the post but on the e-mail notification there’s also a Primal Scream tune: I’m Coming Down

      Nice mellow sax on this, livens up half-way through or so and gets a bit squally, nice one.

  8. Well who’d a’ thought it, there’s another sax fiend hereabouts and there’s me thinking I was the only one defending the cause! It’s wonderful to see a playlist headed by Big Ben and bookended by Sonny Rollins.
    I’ve been buying jazz albums for over 50 years and at some point way back I also decided that the sax was the ultimate jazz instrument and I’d buy anything by artists like Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, Zoot Sims, Lester Young amongst dozens of other tenor players and Charlie Parker, Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Paul Desmond, Cannonball and Art Pepper also from dozens more alto players; I think I got a bit obsessive about it because for a while I catalogued all my sax jazz by instrument rather than the group or the player but I finally incorporated ’em in with the rest alphabetically.
    Over the years here I’ve posted the odd piece featuring the sax, most recently Bechet but prior to that there was Ellington at Newport, Paul Gonsalves, Danny Boy by Ben Webster, some Johnny Hodges and a Charlie Parker come to mind. I’ve long thought of doing a jazz version of what Leave it.. has done here so this might be the catalyst that triggers something.
    I agree re. lack of the use of the sax or for that matter most jazz and classical instruments in rock/pop, the cuts that get my attention are those that use saxes, cellos, trumpets or any other ‘non traditional’ instruments. Us and Them has long been a favorite cut from Dark Side and Astral Weeks works because if it’s creative backing.
    I haven’t listened to the list yet but I look forward to it and I’m sure I’ll have some comments when I do, once more my thanks to Leave it… for this interesting post.

    • Hi goneforeign, I’m a mere novice I feel.

      I enjoy jazz when the moment takes me and the saxophone is definitely my preferred instrument and have had the occasional discussion on the Mothership with nilpferd about the genre but wouldn’t profess to have delved that deeply beyond the ‘recognised’ artists and their seminal works.

      I’d love to learn a bit more so look forward to you posting something in due course if you get time.

      Thanks for popping in and hope you find something of interest in the small selection I’ve suggested.

  9. I had an image in my head from a video and finally figured out which song it came from, this beauty from the delectable Mr. Ferry. Totally gratituous model babe with a sax, the actual player is David Sanborn who also played on Young Americans. Just checked to be sure, it was Bowie hisself who played sax on Changes.

      • Actually i didn’t know that. I have no idea which others he played on, but it most likely would have been during the long period of time when Mick banned Bobby Keyes from the Stones. For some sort of reason like he was supposed to be onstage, but they found him in a bathtub of champagne with some girl and he wouldn’t get out. He’s like Keith’s best buddy, they were born on the very same day. He figures in Keith’s book frequently.

  10. This is much harder than I thought it’d be, no problems with Ben and Sonny, they’re what I’m used to but I did have some problems with everything between Billy J and Springsteen. I’d never thought about this before and I realized that in all those tunes the sax was playing a very secondary role, often buried by the rest of the instruments and the voice. I’m used to it being number one, what the tune/album is all about, it’s why I listen, in fact I buy my sax albums by the name of the player, not the group he’s sitting in with. So even though I like Bowie and Joel generally the inclusion of the sax didn’t enhance ’em. Never been a Springsteen fan, he’s too bombastic, these didn’t change me. What I did enjoy more were Supertramp even though my prior comments apply to them also and Floyd and O’Connor where I thought the sax was used far more sensitively.
    I guess it’s a bit late to try and change these old jazz ears.

  11. I’m a bit late, Leavey, but the two I’d throw in for a bit of contrast are:

    UFO – Lonely Heart
    (Neil Carter, then newly installed as Paul Raymond’s replacement, brought his sax with him)


    Sting – They Dance Alone
    (Branford Marsalis on sax, putting in a rare appearance in the DsD music collection)

    • Didn’t expect an offering from UFO! Look forward to listening to that.

      BTW I’ve popped in to the Mothership, it was murder but I’ve nabbed an AC/DC tune that had your fingerprints all over it but hadn’t been nommed yet. Sorry ๐Ÿ˜‰

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