13 of the Greatest and Most Famous Baritone Saxophonists

While the saxophone is a relatively recent instrument that was only invented in 1841, there are plenty of famous artists out there, even Barry’s saxophone. Listening to some recordings of greats and live performances can help young saxophonists work on their voice.

So, to celebrate the instrument, we have compiled a list of 14 of the greatest and most popular baritone saxophonists that you need to check out. Let’s start with our favorite – Jerry Mulligan.

1 – Jerry Mulligan (1927-1996)

First, we have one of the greatest sax players of all time, Jerry Mulligan.

Part of Kings of Jazz Saxophone, he played with Miles Davis and was part of a celebrity Cole’s birth recordings. Other collaborations include work with Dave Brubeck, Chet Baker and Astor Piazolla.

In 1951, Mulligan formed a piano-sans quartet, and helped pave the way for the sound of “West Coast Jazz.”

Besides performing, Mulligan was a composer, wrote for orchestra and wrote music for films. Later, he eventually added the piano again to the jazz quartets.

2 – Pepper Adams (1930-1986)

Next, we have Pepper Adams who has frequently performed as a baritone for saxophonist and has a long record. A lot of his recordings were for his own quartet, and he debuted in his twenties.

Adams was a founding member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band. He later made a solo career in California, and went on tour in Europe.

His first baritone saxophone lasted 30 years before he chose to replace it!

Later in his life, he sustained a leg injury that prevented him from playing for a few months. However, he eventually started performing again before he died of lung cancer in 1986.

3 – Ronnie Cooper (1941)

Ronnie Cooper is a great Barry Sacks player and it was a great start to his performing career. He started as a bandleader, arranger, and composer in his teens, and has been a huge hit ever since.

Some of the most successful parties include playing Aretha Franklin and playing sax solos with the Lee Konitz group.

Besides jazz, Cooper has played blues, rock, pop, and Latin music. Latin jazz and hard bop are his signature style as a bandleader.

Outside of his bands, he has played with BB King, Eric Clapton, and other artists. If you like to listen to his recordings, you can learn a lot about music and jazz.

4 – Harry Carney (1910-1974)

Harry Carney was part of Duke Ellington’s band, and had an amazing career as a parry saxophonist. He started with clarinets before moving to Alto and later to Saxe-Alpari.

Carney played with Ellington for 47 years, and in that era Carney began focusing on the lower end of the saxophone department.

Carney and Ellington were great friends too, and they would travel with each other for gigs. Also in his career, Carney played with Benny Goodman.

The saxophonist was also an early adopter of circular breathing, which allows wind players to play without stopping to breathe. Saxophonists and other musicians are using this technique more and more.

5- Hamit Beloit (1940-2018)

Hamiet Bluiett was another excellent barry sax player and one of the best barry specialists of his generation.

He had great control over his horn and had a massive voice from low log to high log. This helped him develop a unique solo voice that you can hear.

Bluiett later founded the World Saxophone Quartet, and played with some other great saxophonists. He was also a recording artist and had a long list of recordings.

Even if you’re not a saxophone player, you may be able to learn to recognize Bluiett’s voice.

6- Cecil Payne (1922-2007)

One of the greatest bebop musicians, saxophonist Cecil Payne has played with Dizzy Gillespie. His biggest influence was Lester Young, and he inspired Young Payne’s recording to play the sax.

Later, he played with Pepper Adams and John Coltrane along with Count Basie and Tadd Dameron.

Pine eventually toured Europe while participating in Charlie Parker’s musical life.

Later in his life, Payne stopped performing and touring while his vision declined. But he was able to return to performing before the end of his life.

7. Ronnie Ross (1933-1991)

born in india, Ronnie Ross moved to England as a teenager. In the following decade, he began playing tenor saxes with the likes of Tony Kinsey and Ted Heath.

While working with Don Rendell, Ross turned to playing Barry Sax before later forming his own music group.

Part of the modern jazz quartet, Ross has toured Europe and the United States. He also played on an album for the Beatles, although that recording was on Tenor Sax.

Ross also taught David Bowie to play the saxophone and was the soloist on Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side. Barry Sacks has also recorded parts for a number of other artists’ albums.

8 – Lauren Sivian (1979-)

Lauren Sivian is one of the most famous female saxophonist and has won many awards during her career, such as Baritone Saxophone of the Year.

Sivian attended Manhattan School of Music and began touring with the Arte Shaw and Diva Orchestra after her graduation.

She has performed as a bandleader and even co-founded Lioness, a group for women musicians.

During her career, she has released multiple albums, and she performs in various situations as a versatile player. Her performance took her all over the country and the world, including Australia.

9. Bob Gordon (1928-1955)

In his 27 short years, Bob Gordon has managed to become one of Barry’s most famous saxophonists of all time.

He’s been a player on the West Coast, and he’s done a lot of work sessions with various artists including Shorty Sherrock and Billy May.

As an artist, his primary goal was to express himself, not to be a revolutionary. Being a musician by nature, he was able to become excellent in his craft.

He did not switch from playing the alto or tenor, which made him very suitable for the baritone saxophone.

10- Gary Smolyan (1956-)

Gary Smolyan started playing the saxophone like many young players. While in high school, he got to perform with some of the jazz greats like Lee Konitz.

Eventually, Smolyan shifted his focus to Barry Sacks, and continued his successful career.

He has served as a bandleader and backing man and has played with BB King and in the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band.

Smolyan’s tone is large and expressive, and this helped him win a large number of awards. He remains one of Barry Sachs’ most influential players, and students can learn a lot from him.

11. Howard Johnson (1941-2021)

Howard Johnson was a versatile musician, playing everything from baritone sax to trumpet and trumpet.

In his twenties, Johnson moved to New York to start playing with Archie Shep, Hank Crawford and Charles Mingus. He also played with Jill Evans for nearly 20 years from the 1960s to the 1980s.

While he was a great saxophonist, he is best known as a tuba player. However, Barry sax players can listen to Johnson to learn how to get a good sound on a low instrument.

The musician’s legacy will live on, and students will be able to learn from it for years.

12- Leo Pellegrino (1991-)

Leo Pellegrino, a young and influential Barry saxophonist, has had an amazing career to date.

He used to play in the brass band Lucky Chops and now plays in the Brass House.

Pellegrino was able to incorporate dance into his performances as a saxophonist. This is not easy with a huge machine.

He also distinguishes himself with his clothes and hair, so you can recognize him when he’s on stage.

However, his playing is such a big part of his career which is what brought him to where he is now. It will be interesting to see where his career goes from here.

13. Claire Daly (1958-)

Claire Daly started playing the saxophone in her early teens and says it changed her life forever.

I first heard a big orchestra shortly after the instrument started, and loved every minute of the performance, especially when saxophones had one instrument.

Over the years, she has played with James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and other notable musicians. Daly has also received awards from the Downbeat Critic and the Jazz Journalists Association.

For the past 16 years, I’ve worked to find hidden gems in the jazz world. She also toured the United States.

She’s an excellent player to listen to if you want to learn from someone with experience in the field.

14. Lisa Simpson

Finally, we have perhaps the most famous cartoon musician of all time, Lisa Simpson who actually played the baritone saxophone.

She appeared playing the saxophone in the opening scene and there were a number of episodes she was playing.

One particular episode to check out will be Lisa’s Sax (the third episode of Season 9), which has a lot of parts where you play the sax.

Summing up our list of the greatest baritone saxophonists

Whether you like to play Barry sax or just love his sound, you should know some of the famous baritone saxophonists.

Next, you can find a lot of cut-off recordings over the last century.

Be sure to listen to a few of the greats to help make your musical choices.

Soon, you might be the next famous Barry player.

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