No, not this kind of tenor. I'm talking about the kind of saxophone that was played by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Frank Foster, and Hank Mobley, just to name a few of my favorites.
When it comes to tenor solos, I'm pretty particular. I love Wayne Shorter's playing (and I love his composing even more), but he was not one of the great soloists. Getz might have been the most original (well, after Trane), but he's not one of the top soloists, either.
Not surprisingly, my selections for the three best tenor soloists are also the three tenorists who are generally acknowledged as the three best of the hard bop era: Trane, Dex, and Sonny. I have listened extensively to the output of all three of them, to the point where if I hear a solo by one of them that I don't already know (which is rare), I can almost always identify the player immediately.
But which of their solos are the best? I know, it's a silly exercise, but I like doing it. Actually, I think the absolute best is by Sonny, even though I think he ranks (slightly) below Trane and Dex (in that order) overall.
So which solo am I talking about? I'ts on a Blue Note album titled Volume Two. The tune is Monk's essential Misterioso. As if having solos by Monk and Horace Silver on the same track wasn't enough, Sonny invented new melodies that have to be heard to be believed.
Next, one that most listeners are more likely to have heard: Trane on Freddie Freeloader from the justifiably famous Miles Davis Quintet album, Kind of Blue. It's a melodic exploration, but with the harmonic elements that only Trane ever mastered.
What about Dex? Actually, this might be the easiest to pick of the three: Cheesecake, from Dex's Blue Note masterpiece, Go. I have long thought that this is the standard by which all tenor playing must be judged. Nobody could lay back while going a mile a minute like Dex could. If you don't understand what I mean, listen to this solo a few times and you'll get it.
I must confess, however, that I might be biased toward Dex by the fact that I actually met him in person. I'll have to tell that story sometime.
A lawyer who likes to write music commentary.