Skip to content

Crispin Cioe Counted Among Top Sax Soloists in Saxophone History  

  • 4 min read

Crispin Cioe One of the Top Sax Soloists According to Sax History Book

The book Ride The Wild Wind: History Of The Saxophone: The Magical Listening Tour credits Crispin Cioe as one of the top saxophone soloists of his day. The book’s authors, John Laughter and Neil F. Sharpe, describe Crispin’s rise to fame as a founding member of the Uptown Horns

“In 1980, [Arno] Hecht and [Paul] Litteral left the Realtones to play with a “punk soul” band called the Nightcaps. One night after a gig, Iggy Pop offered them, along with Crispin Cioe, a recording session if they could find a trombone player Bob Funk was brought in and The Uptown Horns were born.”

— Authors John Laughter and Neil F. Sharpe
Ride The Wild Wind: History Of The Saxophone: The Magical Listening Tour

Top Sax Soloists are Rock ‘n Roll Gunslingers

The book was reviewed by renowned saxophonists including the great Dave “Woody” Woodford. (His credits include performing with Hoyt Axton, The Band, Jimmy Barnes, Stephen Bishop, Canned Heat, The Coral Reefer Band, John Cougar, Robbie Dupree, Venetta Fields, Glenn Frey, James Gadson, Jeff Golub, Richie Havens, Dan Hill, Michael Hutchence, Jim Keltner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Feat, Kenny Loggins, Nils Lofgren, Maria Muldaur, Aaron Neville, Vanessa Paradis, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Julia Waters, Maxine Waters, Bruce Willis, and Dwight Yoakam.) Woody points to Crispin as one of his favorites.

“What you have here is a history of rock & roll from the point of view of the true “unsung heroes” of the art form…the sax soloists. In these pages, you’ll find the most complete history ever recorded of the great Rock & Roll Gunslingers, from Plas Johnson and King Curtis (two of my personal heroes) to my favorite contemporaries like Lenny Pickett and Crispin Cioe.”

— Saxophonist Dave “Woody” Woodford

Crispin Cioe’s Top Saxophone Solos

The book points to several of Crispin Cioe’s sax solos as some of the best in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. Specifically, it mentions the following top sax solos

French Kissing in the USA by Debbie Harry.

French Kissing in the USA by Debbie Harry reached number 8 on the UK Singles Chart. In the United States, the song peaked at number 57 on the Billboard Hot 100. Crispin’s sax solo focuses on delivering “the perfect melody and building it so it naturally flows up into the modulation”.

Living in America by James Brown

Living in America by James Brown features a blazing sax solo by Crispin Cioe. It reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and remained on the chart for 11 weeks. It became a top-five hit in the United Kingdom on the UK Singles Chart. The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Song and won Brown a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.

Mary by the Scissor Sisters

Mary by the Scissor Sisters. You’ll find Crispin’s solo is at the end. The song reached number 14 on the UK Singles Chart and number 32 on the Irish Singles Chart.

One of our favorite Scissor Sisters songs featuring Crispin is Laura. Crispin plays doubled sax throughout and solos at the end.

About the Authors

Both of the authors play the saxophone. John Laughter has written multiple books about their preferred instrument including Rock and Roll Saxophone, Contemporary Saxophone, and “The History of Top 40 Sax Solos – 1955 – 2020”, which is free. Author Neil Sharpe wrying explains that he and his sax “have terrified the unsuspecting for far too long” and is Contributing Editor of Blues, R&B, Rock n’ Roll Sax Teaching Resource.

Top Saxophone Soloists Who Inspire Crispin

Crispin would not be the saxophonist he is today were it not for saxophonists who are the source of his inspiration:

Gene Ammons (tenor), Michael Brecker (tenor), Serge Chaloff (baritone), Pete Christlieb (tenor), Clarence Clemmons (tenor), John Coltrane (soprano and tenor), Ronnie Cuber (baritone), King Curtis (alto, soprano, and tenor), Joel Frahm (tenor), Dexter Gordon (tenor), Plas Johnson (tenor and alto), Bobby Keys (tenor and baritone), Bob Malach (tenor), Steve McKay (tenor), David “Fathead” Newman (alto and tenor), Charlie Parker (alto), Dave Sanborn (alto), Sonny Stitt (alto and tenor), Mark Rivera (alto and tenor), Sonny Rollins (tenor), Tom Scott (alto, soprano, and tenor), Wayne Shorter (soprano and tenor), Andy Snitzer (tenor and alto), Dave Tofani (alto, tenor, soprano), Mike Terry (baritone), Jr. Walker (tenor), Edgar Winter (alto), and Phil Woods (alto).

Once Crispin got into playing, it became, “these are going to be my friends for life. The ones that I gravitated to when I was 21 I’m still into. I added to that as I went through time. But I’m into all of them. They’re forever.”