Famous Female Saxophone Players: Celebrating the Women Who Revolutionized Jazz

Famous Female Saxophone Players
Written by Corey Morgan

Famous female saxophone players have been making their mark on the music industry for decades. Despite being a male-dominated instrument, women have proven time and time again that they have just as much talent and skill on the saxophone as their male counterparts.

From jazz to rock to classical music, female saxophonists have made significant contributions to a variety of genres.

One of the most famous female saxophonists of all time is jazz musician, composer, and arranger, Mary Lou Williams. Williams started playing the saxophone in the 1940s and quickly became known for her unique sound and style.

Her career spanned over six decades, during which she collaborated with some of the biggest names in jazz and even composed music for Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.

Another notable female saxophonist is Candy Dulfer, a Dutch musician who gained fame in the 1990s with her hit song “Lily Was Here.” Dulfer’s music is a fusion of jazz, funk, and pop, and she has collaborated with artists such as Prince, Dave Stewart, and Van Morrison.

Her unique style and sound have earned her a loyal following and made her one of the most recognizable female saxophonists in the world.

So, grab your favorite jazz record, sit back, and join us as we explore the world of famous female saxophone players!

Pioneers of Saxophone

Adelaide Hall

One of the early pioneers of the saxophone was Adelaide Hall, an American-born jazz singer and actress. Though primarily known for her vocal abilities, Hall made a significant impact as a saxophonist as well. Born in 1901, she became one of the first women to embrace the instrument and incorporate it into her performances.

Hall’s talent and versatility were evident in her performances, and she skillfully showcased the saxophone’s expressive potential. Her ability to seamlessly transition between singing and saxophone playing captivated audiences worldwide.

Hall’s groundbreaking work not only paved the way for other female saxophonists but also challenged traditional gender roles in the music industry.

Vi Redd

Another trailblazing female saxophonist is Vi Redd. Born in 1928, Redd established herself as an exceptional jazz musician, specializing in the alto saxophone. Her unique and vibrant playing style earned her a place among the jazz greats of her time.

Redd’s career spanned several decades, and she collaborated with renowned artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Count Basie. Her passion for improvisation and her ability to infuse soulful melodies into her performances made her a standout musician.

Redd’s contributions to jazz, both as a saxophonist and a vocalist, cemented her status as a true pioneer in the male-dominated world of jazz music.

Mindi Abair

Moving closer to the present, we have the incredibly talented Mindi Abair, a contemporary saxophonist who has made waves in the music industry.

Abair’s mastery of the saxophone, combined with her energetic stage presence, has garnered her critical acclaim and a dedicated fan base.

Abair’s career has been marked by a fusion of jazz, rock, and pop influences, resulting in a unique and captivating sound. Her ability to effortlessly switch between various musical genres and her electrifying solos have made her one of the most recognizable female saxophonists of her generation.

With her dynamic performances and a string of successful albums, Abair continues to inspire aspiring saxophonists around the world.

Jazz Saxophonists

Jane Ira Bloom

Jane Ira Bloom is a name that has become synonymous with innovation in the world of jazz saxophone. With her mastery of the soprano saxophone, Bloom has redefined the possibilities of the instrument.

Her distinctive sound and ability to create captivating melodies have garnered her critical acclaim and a loyal following.

Throughout her career, Bloom has consistently pushed boundaries and experimented with new techniques. Her dedication to exploring the expressive potential of the saxophone has resulted in a body of work that showcases her creativity and musical genius.

Bloom’s contributions to jazz and her influence on fellow saxophonists make her an essential figure in the world of female saxophone players.

Tineke Postma

Tineke Postma, a Dutch jazz saxophonist, is another remarkable artist who has left an indelible mark on the jazz scene. With her commanding presence and virtuosic playing, Postma has gained recognition as one of the leading voices in contemporary jazz.

Postma’s ability to seamlessly blend traditional jazz elements with modern influences has garnered her widespread acclaim. Her compositions are known for their intricate arrangements and lyrical beauty, captivating audiences worldwide.

Postma’s dedication to her craft and her contributions to the jazz genre have firmly established her as one of the most influential female saxophonists of our time.

Classical Saxophonists

Sigurd Raschèr

In the realm of classical saxophone, one cannot overlook the contributions of Sigurd Raschèr. Born in 1907, Raschèr was a pioneering figure in promoting the saxophone as a legitimate instrument for classical music.

Raschèr’s unparalleled artistry and technical prowess revolutionized the perception of the saxophone in the classical music world.

He expanded the repertoire for the instrument by commissioning numerous compositions and transcriptions, showcasing the saxophone’s versatility across various musical styles.

Raschèr’s tireless efforts to establish the saxophone as a legitimate classical instrument have undoubtedly paved the way for future generations of saxophonists.

Marie-Bernadette Charrier

Marie-Bernadette Charrier, a French classical saxophonist, is hailed as one of the foremost figures in contemporary saxophone performance.

With her exceptional musicianship and commitment to expanding the saxophone repertoire, Charrier has become a driving force in the classical music community.

Charrier’s interpretations of both classical and contemporary works have received widespread acclaim. Her nuanced playing, rich tone, and expressive performances have captivated audiences around the globe.

As an advocate for the saxophone, Charrier continues to push boundaries and inspire future generations of female classical saxophonists.

Influential Female Saxophonists

Rosa King

Rosa King was a prominent saxophonist and vocalist during the 1920s and 1930s. As a member of various all-female jazz bands, including the critically acclaimed International Sweethearts of Rhythm, King broke barriers and defied societal expectations of the time.

King’s musicianship and showmanship earned her recognition as one of the most influential female saxophonists of her era.

Her energetic performances and powerful sound showcased the saxophone’s versatility and established King as a true trailblazer.

Peggy Gilbert

Peggy Gilbert, a multi-talented musician and bandleader, made significant contributions to jazz as a saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer.

As the leader of the all-female band Peggy Gilbert and Her Serenaders, Gilbert defied societal norms and shattered gender barriers in the male-dominated jazz scene of the 1920s and 1930s.

Gilbert’s musicianship and innovative arrangements earned her respect among her peers and fans alike. Her skillful saxophone playing and commitment to promoting gender equality in music laid the groundwork for future generations of female saxophonists.


In conclusion, the world of saxophone is enriched by the remarkable talent and contributions of numerous female players. From the pioneers who defied societal expectations to the contemporary musicians who continue to push boundaries, these women have made a lasting impact on the saxophone world.

Through their skill, passion, and dedication, they have proven that gender is no barrier to musical excellence. So, the next time you listen to a saxophone solo, remember the famous female saxophone players who have shaped the course of music history with their incredible artistry.