Rock That Sax
April 9, 2006 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for Rock Saxophone instrumentals, not hooks whole songs.

I'm looking for albums and/or songs I can download that feature saxophones with a rock beat and no vocals. I'm familiar with King Curtis, Cornelius Bumpus, and Clarence Clemons. Any other suggestions. Bonus question: Why are there no saxophones in most alt rock songs?
posted by Xurando to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know of any rock saxophone instrumentals. Pink Floyd, however, was known for their heavy use of saxophone. The song Money from Dark Side of the Moon features an extended saxophone solo.

Bonus question: Why are there no saxophones in most alt rock songs?

Is this a riddle or something? Because the sound of alt-rock is largely based on big, distorted electric guitars. When you've got a big distorted electric guitar in your mix it doesn't leave much room for layering many other instruments, and I don't imagine saxophones blend particularly well with distorted electric guitars. Alt-rock bands didn't tend to have saxophone players nor did they tend to favor symphonic arrangements. It was about the guitars.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:00 PM on April 9, 2006

Instrumental rock songs is a comparatively short list, those that feature sax is even shorter. The only examples I can think of have vocals (Can You Hear Me Knockin' - Rolling Stones, great jam at the end of the song).

As to why saxes aren't a mainstay in rock, i think it's probably at least somewhat due to education. Most guitar players don't have a formal music education, most sax players do. If you know a lot about musical structure, most rock is pretty boring. 4/4 or 3/4 3 chord rock comprises 95% of rock music. If you've been brought up to hear those structures, by the time you're in your late teens you're looking for something more adventurous.
posted by doctor_negative at 5:09 PM on April 9, 2006

If you know a lot about musical structure, most rock is pretty boring.

Eh. "Rock" doesn't mean very much as a genre anymore. 90% of art is shitty, genre has little to do with it.

Besides, with all due respect to the asker, it's kind of a ridiculous question. An appropriate answer might be "because they had good taste." Do Smells Like Teen Spirit and Buddy Holly really hurt for lack of saxophone?
posted by ludwig_van at 5:44 PM on April 9, 2006

Bob Seger had a pretty good saxman in his band, Alto Reed (yeah, I know). There may be some instrumental rock-outs on his live albums (I know there were plenty at the concerts).

Why not more sax in alt-rock? Because alt-rock is a reaction to album and arena rock, both of which used saxes. That, and you can only play one note at a time on a horn, where you can play 6-12 on a guitar, and 10 on a keyboard.
posted by jlkr at 6:03 PM on April 9, 2006

I feel like David Bowie must have some... he uses sax frequently and has a lot of instrumentals, and there must be some overlap. Unfortunately my head can't conjure up any specific examples, but I'd check these albums:

Black Tie, White Noise

Or there's always the collected instrumentals. Some of these instrumentals are more ambient/avant than rock but they're still fun.
posted by speicus at 6:49 PM on April 9, 2006

Maybe because most alt rock bands don't have a saxophone player? That and the defining instrument of rock music is generally the electric guitar (but not exclusively.)

Morphine was a key alternative rock band that featured saxophone (usually baritone), 2-string bass and no guitar. Off the top of my head, I can't think of any of their songs that are instrumental.

Self-link alert: I play saxophone in an indie rock band that released an album with an instrumental song that features saxophone, titled "Napoleon Invades Russia." We don't have an MP3 of it online, but you can listen on Rhapsody or sample at iTunes.)
posted by andrewraff at 7:07 PM on April 9, 2006

For better or for worse, most of the really good sax charts went away with the end of the big band era. If you're looking for solo work you could try to update the Kenton version of "Here's That Rainy Day." If you can find some buddies to help you, there's the sax sectional in Groovin' Hard by Buddy Rich which is several pages of saxsational joy.
posted by plinth at 7:09 PM on April 9, 2006

The Morphine song "Sundayafternoonweightlessness" on this album is instrumental. Don't know if you'd call it a rock beat, though.
posted by staggernation at 7:26 PM on April 9, 2006

if you're willing to compromise just a little bit, a lot of duane eddy's instrumentals had sax solos

and how about the average white band's "pick up the pieces" ... you WANT that

although there were vocals, jr walker and the all stars were an outstanding band for sax

as far as your bonus question is concerned, i suspect that most alt bands don't have sax in the band because most sax players prefer other music, like jazz
posted by pyramid termite at 7:51 PM on April 9, 2006

as far as your bonus question is concerned, i suspect that most alt bands don't have sax in the band because most sax players prefer other music, like jazz

Look, alt rock bands don't have saxophones because people writing alt rock songs don't write saxophone parts for them. Other than that there isn't really a meaningful answer to that question.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:04 PM on April 9, 2006

"Summer On Signal Hill" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, which was the B-Side of ... <mumble> ... released in the mid 1980s.

It's a fairly rocky song, though quite slow-paced, no vocals and the lead melody is played by Clarence.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 10:20 PM on April 9, 2006

Sleazy rock instrumentals from the 60s often featured saxophones as their lead instrument. Check out the Las Vegas Grind collectyion -- I would estimate one song in four is saxophone-based, and the whole collection is gloriously seedy.

And elsewhere: "Yakkety Sax" has to count as a rock instrumental. I just don't know what else it might be.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:25 PM on April 9, 2006

Yeah, if you go back to the 60s there were lots of them -- of course, early 60s rock and roll is a world away from most modern "alt-rock".

For some good early Pacific Northwest stuff, try the Frantics (not the Canadian comedy group) and songs like "The Whip" and "Fog Cutter". (Not quite self-link disclaimer: my uncle played drums in the Frantics.) You should also track down "Tall Cool One" by the Wailers (not the reggae group) -- really rockin' sax in that one. The Wailers' version of "Louie Louie" has sax, but it's not a rock instrumental. Then there's "Granny's Pad" by the Viceroys, "Turn On Song" by the Counts, etc. The early Northwest bands typically had saxes, I guess. Even the Sonics' proto-punk version of "Louie Louie" has a sax, but not playing a lead role (and that one's not an instrumental, anyway. Their "Have Love Will Travel" has a nice sax solo, though.)

Anyway, if your definition of "rock" includes the old stuff, check this stuff out.
posted by litlnemo at 11:45 PM on April 9, 2006

Junior Walker. He's awesome.
posted by mexican at 11:48 PM on April 9, 2006

Hidden Beach Recordings "Unwrapped Vol. 1" is a bunch of jazz covers of recent rap songs (So Fresh/So Clean, I Get Around, Bonita Applebaum, Forgot About Dre, ...). It's wacky but some of it is hawt.
posted by zpousman at 6:47 AM on April 10, 2006

How about the song "Night Train". Was included in the Back to the Future soundtrack for example (at the end, song before "Earth Angel")

On the other hand, maybe it can't be considered rock as it's pre-Elvis. You might find a more updated more rockin version by googling it though.

As for indie bands with a sax, what about INXS? Guess maybe they got too big to be called "indie" or even existed before the term, but what the hell
posted by poppo at 7:17 AM on April 10, 2006

Try The Crown Royals. This is a sax tour de force, it's in a rock vein and it all instrumental. You'll love it (I hope!).
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:28 AM on April 10, 2006

posted by punkfloyd at 10:18 AM on April 10, 2006

Bonus question: Why are there no saxophones in most alt rock songs?

Well, there's always Romeo Void's "Never Say Never" (you know, the "I might like you better if we slept together" song). A buddy of mine used to work at the Museum of TV & Radio in NYC with their sax player.
posted by scody at 10:46 AM on April 10, 2006

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