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Artist’s Choice: Erik Lawrence on Post-Trane Saxophonists

Lawrence, a member of the Honey Ear Trio and a longtime sideman to Levon Helm, picks his favorite performances from saxophonists who emerged in the wake of John Coltrane's 1967 death

Billy Harper
Erik Lawrence
Dewey Redman by Lourdes Delgado

In the last 10 or 12 years of his life, John Coltrane raised the bar in virtually every aspect of music-harmony, spirituality, technique, sonics-through his dedication, conviction and visionary originality. But perhaps his greatest gift to us was the inspiration to find our own voices. The saxophonists who emerged during the late ’60s and early ’70s should have changed the shape of jazz. Musicians and fans didn’t necessarily follow suit, but it wasn’t because these lesser-known players didn’t try. Music today would be better if we had listened more to these guys.


Joe Farrell from Elvin Jones’ Puttin’ It Together

(Blue Note, 1968)

Of the many successors to Coltrane’s throne, Joe brought something passionate and unique enough to place him in a trio with Elvin and Jimmy Garrison the year following Trane’s death.

“Fly by Night”

Rahsaan Roland Kirk The Inflated Tear

(Atlantic, 1967)

Lost behind the wizardry of Rahsaan’s multiple horns, nose flute and circular breathing was a visionary gift for presenting the past, present and future of music with one note or a thousand.

“Paris? Oui!”

Dewey Redman Tarik

(BYG Actuel, 1969)

A great storyteller and improviser, Dewey could play music as well as it can possibly be played, as he does here with Ed Blackwell and Malachi Favors.

“Three Legged Dance”

Ernie Krivda Satanic

(Inner City, 1977)

Cleveland’s best-kept secret is a saxophonist with such an individualistic sound and approach that it is difficult to find a lineage of his influences.

“Black Orchid”

Jim Pepper from Bob Moses’ When Elephants Dream of Music

(Gramavision, 1983)

Influencing Jan Garbarek, Michael Brecker and generations to follow, this singular voice soared with elements of Native American music, blues, jazz and the avant-garde.


Arthur Blythe Lenox Avenue Breakdown

(Columbia, 1979)

Arthur’s searing sound on alto opened minds to jazz and funk thanks to his vision and this major record release during a temporarily enlightened time.

“Dream Weaver”

Charles Lloyd Dream Weaver

(Atlantic, 1966)

Speaking of enlightened times, this quartet gained top billing and rock-star status before electric Miles with music that sounded like this!

“Midnight Sun”

Henry Threadgill from AIR’s Air Raid

(Why Not, 1976)

I listened to AIR a lot as a teenager and was strongly influenced by Threadgill’s deep versatility, multi-instrument mastery and original composing and arranging style.

“Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blue”

George Adams from Gil Evans’ Priestess

(Antilles, 1977)

George’s passion and originality broke down walls and opened doors to freedom that embraced joy and hope yet always kept the blues, soul and sexiness in his song.

“Dance, Eternal Spirits, Dance!”

Billy Harper Black Saint

(Black Saint, 1975)

Harper’s thoughtful, intense warmth was well informed by his stellar musical upbringing, but his voice rang true and still does to this day.

Originally Published