Max Ionata “But Not For Me” Killer Tenor Sax Solo Transcription

Some days the “sax gods” just rain down blessings upon me.  Over the weekend, I started a transcription of Max Ionata’s killer tenor sax solo on “But Not for Me” from the Youtube video below.  This solo has been on my transcription to-do list since I first heard it on Youtube four years ago.  Max Ionata is an amazing tenor sax player from Italy.  I have a few of his recordings and the one pictured below called “Inspiration” is one of my favorites. I had to drive up to Maine last year and I listened to this recording over and over for the whole four hour car ride home!

On Saturday, I finished the first two choruses of “But Not for Me” and sent it out to everyone subscribed to my Neffmusic newsletter as I usually do.  I started getting into chorus three and realized this was going to be a harder project than I realized as the notes got faster and the rhythms more complex.

Last night, I received an email from Curtis over at is probably the biggest saxophone transcription site on the internet with over 5300 solos at the time of this blog post.

Curtis told me he finished this Max Ionata solo a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted to look at it.  I, of course said YES!!!  I asked if I could share it with all of you and Curtis was kind enough to give his permission.  Thanks Curtis!


Max Ionata’s Inspiration CD

What grabbed my attention first about Max Ionata’s Youtube rendition of “But Not for Me” is Max’s tenor tone.  I have probably listened to this clip over a thousand times.  In my mind, this is just the perfect tenor saxophone tone. Lush and thick with a perfect balance of dark and bright. Simply beautiful!

The second thing I love about this clip is how laid back and swinging it is. Even during the burning lines it still has that laid back relaxed feel.  Every eighth note is perfectly placed and swingin’.

The third thing I love is Max Ionata’s lines.  It is obvious that he has studied the tradition and knows much of the traditional jazz vocabulary.  He couples these classic lines with his own in such a smooth way that it’s hard to tell where one ends and another begins.  This solo alone could be studied for a year and provide a student with countless jazz vocabulary!

Hope you enjoy the solo!  Thanks to Max Ionata for playing this incredible solo and Curtis over at for sharing it!  Do yourself a favor and check out some of the other 5299 solos over at Curtis’s website and be sure to check out  Max Ionata’s website as well!

Max Ionata Solo on But Not For Me-Bb PDF

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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 30 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site


  1. Avatar Aad Overeem says

    Wow, Fantastic solo and great sound by Max Ionata, and great transcription by Curtis from Wonderful study material, thanks a lot for sharing Steve!

  2. Avatar Giuseppe says

    Hi Steve, happy to know that you appreciate an Italian saxophone player! In fact in Italy there are many good jazz professionals; pity that in Italy jazz is relatively little followed: many prefer to listen to four cantantucoli that scream, in my opinion, those who are cheap little songs; not all Italian singers are so cheap, but there are many … and, unfortunately, I think, they are more successful than good musicians like Max and others! Just raise the decibels and replaces with the noise to the elegance and skill!

  3. Avatar John Zangrando says

    I just discovered Max 1 yr ago and feel honored that I have. What a gorgeous sound and beautifully developed solos from a great musician

  4. Avatar armando volterrani says


  5. great work!

  6. Avatar Arya Boustani says

    Thanks Steve. Max was just introduced to me yesterday and just had a chance to find your review. He plays with integrity and the beautiful tone all across his performance high and low. As you said he knows the traditional way and plays it with a lot of soul and incorporates some variations which blend organically. Awesome!

  7. Avatar Anthony Aguirre says

    This is a killer solo to be sure. Thanks for putting it on paper.

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