100 Top 40 Tunes Every Working Sax Player Should Know

The other day one of my students said he wanted to get out of the house and start gigging and making some money. We’ve been working on standards and jazz improvisation over the last year or so. He asked me if I thought he was ready and we got into a discussion about playing out. It’s not unusual in the Boston area to make 400-500 for a four hour wedding reception gig. The thing about these wedding gigs though is that there is a certain repertoire that most players have to know to a certain degree. Most of the bands I play in don’t have any sort of book. You just show up and they start calling tunes that you are expected to know.

Here’s a list of my 100 top tunes you should know pretty well before you go out and do a wedding gig. They aren’t listed in any order and you might have some on your list that I might miss but here are the ones I have had to play the most and every working sax player should know:

100 Top 40 Saxophone Tunes
Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now
Ain’t No Mountain-Diana Ross
At Last-Etta James
Bad Girls-Donna Summer
Best of My Love-The Emotions
Black Cow-Steely Dan
Boogie Wonderland-EW&F
Brick House-Commodores
Brown Eyed Girl-Van Morrison
Can’t Get Enough-Barry White
Can’t Get Next To You-
Celebration-Kool and the Gang
Chain of Fools-Aretha Franklin
Cheek to Cheek-Ella Fitzgerald
Crazy in Love-Beyonce
Dancing Queen-ABBA
Domino-Van Morrison
Don’t Stop-Michael Jackson
Fly Me To the Moon-Frank Sinatra
Get Down On It-Kool and the Gang
Get Down Tonight-KC and the Sunshine Band
Give It To Me Baby-Rick James
Good Times-Chic
Got To Be Real-Cheryl Lynn
Hava Nagila-Jewish
Holiday-Madonna
Hot, Hot, Hot
How Sweet It Is-James Taylor
I Feel Good-James Brown
I Heard It Thru the Grapevine-Marvin Gaye
I Need To Know-Marc Anthony
I Want You Back-Jackson 5
I Wish-Stevie Wonder
I’m Coming Out-Diana Ross
In The Mood-Glenn Miller
Into The Mystic-Van Morrison
Is This Love-Bob Marley
Isn’t She Lovely-Stevie Wonder
It Had To Be You
Jump, Jive and Wail-Louis Prima
Jungle Boogie-Kool and the Gang
Just The Way You Are-Billy Joel
Knock On Wood-Wilson Pickett
L.O.V.E.-Frank Sinatra
Ladies Night-Kool and the Gang
Last Dance-Donna Summer
Late in the Evening-Paul Simon
Let’s Get It On-Marvin Gaye
Let’s Groove-EW&F
Let’s Stay Together-Al Green
Me and Mrs. Jones-Billy Paul
Midnight Hour-Wilson Pickett
Moondance-Van Morrison
More Today Than Yesterday-Spiral Staircase
Mustang Sally-Wilson Pickett
My Girl-The Temptations
New York, New York-Frank Sinatra
Oh What A Night-Four Seasons
Outstanding-Gap Band
Peg-Steely Dan
Play That Funky Music-Wild Cherry
Proud Mary-Ike & Tina Turner
PYT-Michael Jackson
Respect-Aretha Franklin
Ribbon in the Sky-Stevie Wonder
Rock With You-Michael Jackson
Route 66-Nat King Cole
September-EW&F
Shake Your Body-Jacksons
Shake Your Groove-Peaches and Herb
Shame-Evelyn “Champagne” King
Shining Star-Manhattans
Signed, Sealed Delivered-Stevie Wonder
Sir Duke-Stevie Wonder
Smooth-Santana
Son of a Preacher Man-Aretha Franklin
Soul Man-Sam & Dave
Sunrise Sunset-Jewish
Superstition-Stevie Wonder
Sweet Caroline-Neil Diamond
Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself
The Way You Look Tonight-Frank Sinatra
Think-Aretha Franklin
Unforgettable-Nat King Cole
Upside Down-Diana Ross
Walking On Sunshine-Katrina & The Waves
We Are Family-Sister Sledge
What a Wonderful World-Louis Armstrong
What’s Going On-Marvin Gaye
Wild Nights-Van Morrison
YMCA-Village People
You Are The Sunshine-Stevie Wonder
You Should Be Dancing-Bee Gees
Your Love is King-Sade

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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 25 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. A minor correction

    L.O.V.E is not a Frank Sinatra song. He sang it on 31st of December, 1970 with Frank Sinatra and it was only a part of medley. He might have sung it during a radio program that I do not know, but that’s it. Many people think that the version they listen to is of Frank Sinatra, but actually it is not.

  2. Avatar Stan Dolieniak says

    Could you put up some examples of you playing these?
    I’d like to hear the horn lines for reference.

  3. Hi Stan,
    That would take a lot of time to do and I don’t think I have the extra time. If you listen to any of these original recordings you can take the horn lines right off the original recordings. That’s what I have done through the years. Steve

  4. I have been trying to find the sax part for Van Morrison’s Caravan and Wild Night, but I can’t find them anywhere. Can you help me?

  5. Carter,
    Sorry I don’t have those. If a band I play in is playing those tunes I usually figure them out by ear for the gig. I’ve play Wild Night in some bands I’ve played with in the past but I don’t remember the part off hand…………Sorry.

  6. Great list of songs Steve!! I notice many of them are horn lines, which are played in the background. For me, these can be complicated to figure out by ear. A few years back, Hal Leonard put out a line of books called “Transcribed Horns” with different areas of focus, such as “Pop/Rock or Funk/Disco”. These are great rescources for learning many of the songs you listed. On another note, I teach simple riffs to my students by artists such as James Brown or Bob Marley. The riffs from my song selections are easy to hear and transcriptions can be found here:
    http://saxophonestyles.yolasite.com/lesson-plans.php
    Keep Rockin’!!

  7. Hello Sreve!
    I’ve been through the internet trying to find the “You should be dancing” song played in sax. I’m getting married soon and the groom wants that song to be played that day. Is there anywhere I can find the track for the sax so I could handle it to my sax player?
    Thanks !

  8. Hi Silvia,
    I don’t have a chart for that one. I just learned it off of the recording by ear. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yAkkpbm_8E I’m not sure what you are asking? Are you looking for a chart, a recording of the sax playing it or a background track for a sax to play along to? Steve

  9. Nice website! I agree with you list 🙂

    Wanna share it to my friends. . .

  10. Avatar Kira Armstrong says

    I have been trying to find (alto and/or tenor) saxophone sheet music for Van Morrison’s Days Like This (to give to my son for Christmas or his birthday is Christmas is too soon). I’ve been unable to locate it it online. Would you have any recommendations for how to find? He’s looked for it off and on for several years so it would be a great surprise if I could locate it.

  11. Looks like you need to create a new Standards book 🙂

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who would pay for that.

  12. I have charts for most of these but getting the copyrights would be pretty difficult not to mention expensive I bet……..

  13. Thank You for the list, cool site! and thank’s for all the free help

  14. I Feel Good-James Brown, Mustang Sally-Wilson Pickett, What a Wonderful World-Louis Armstrong. Yes!
    In my modest opinion I would add some other song!

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