The recent Kenny G-cameo-ing SNL performance from Foster The People represents that awkward saturation point in the ongoing sax solo trend. If it weren't for Gaga's "Edge of Glory" (blowing starts at 3:03) and Katy Perry's "Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)" (3:56 here) — both, by the way, jams in their own right — we'd be saying those Foster bros kind of just ruined it for everyone. Removing the pop charts for a second though, there are plenty of uses where some reed-y crescendo two-thirds of the way in or winded tastefully throughout not only feel warranted, but euphoric. The following selections straddle sweet novelty and sincere execution, brilliantly; these are the winners.
Appearing at the peak of 2010's Halcyon Digest, "Coronado" was something of a foresight into all this. Deerhunter's frontman Bradford Cox did pretty much call it in an interview last year with Exclaim: "I wanted that sax on there because I was listening to the Stones' Exile On Main Street reissue a lot...I began to see a pattern forming. Saxophones are becoming this thing. That's why we did it early. Next year everyone's gonna have a saxophone on their record because saxophones are just cool." That they are, as displayed by an overlay of jazz legend Illinois Jacquet in the fan-made video above.
This wasn't a delicate, strategic add-on; Dan Bejar went all in. From top to bottom, Destroyer's 2011 album Kaputt indulges in a luxurious, smooth-jazz world, where horns are very much an integral part—which was a risky, late-career stylistic shift for Destroyer, and it's paid off.
News of The Rapture's long-awaited return needed some confirmation—some promise that this dance-punk stuff could still be fun in 2011. Insert "How Deep Is Your Love" being played on a turntable with disco ball spinning, for all to analyze. As a sax hit the final half, and you could almost feel the entire industry sigh a collective "yes." For a cleaner listen crossed with some fan-made beat street footage, view here.
Arriving in similar fashion, "Midnight City" announced M83 was back, and he was again, aiming for the sky. The solo here works perfectly — just when you think this thing couldn't go any higher, we're shot into level 11 with a minute to go.
Ukraine's Yura Hlop aka SE62 took a familiar retro-production dance vibe and blasted it way past expectations with one simple tweak: that sax. Suddenly this dream was in full, head-nodding groove—the kind you wake from and try to force-sleep yourself right back into.
Ultimate chill-guy Ernest Greene entered a lounge-like studio full of friends to lay down this soft-rock inspired (and more interesting) version of "Far Away". It was, perhaps, as close as one could possibly get to repeating past elevator vibes, while keeping a straight face.