The Tiptons Saxophone Quartet And Drums

During one of my semi-regular Internet searches for interesting saxophone talent, I happened across the Seattle-based The Tiptons Saxophone Quartet And Drums. This all female saxophone band has made quite a name for itself since it formed in 1988.

Over the course of the past 22 years, like many bands, The Tiptons Saxophone Quartet And Drums has seen its fair share of line-up changes. According to the band’s website, the players currently are: Amy Denio, alto; Jessica Lurie, alto & tenor; Sue Orfield, tenor; Tina Richerson, baritone; and Lee Frisari, drums.

A quick read through their bios, and your’re struck by the breadth and depth of the education, as well as musical experience and accomplishments that these women have.

I found this upbeat video from 2007 on YouTube. It was shot on July 1st, while the band was on one of the European tours. Here they are performing in Linz, Austria.

When the band first started in 1988, they were known as The Billy Tipton Memorial Saxophone Quartet (BTMSQ). The BTMSQ name was inspired by jazz saxophonist, piano player, and band leader Billy Tipton.

Tipton worked in the American jazz music scene during the 1940s through the 1960s. It was only after his death in 1989, that it was discovered that Billy Tipton was actually a woman, who had been living as a man for more than 50 years.

In the words of the owner of the above video, like Billy Tipton:

[n]ot to be bound by convention, the Tiptons similarly do their own thing. With a repertoire that ranges from New Orleans second – line to jazz, Afro-Cuban to Balkan, klezmer and beyond, the Tiptons create some of the wildest sounds ever to come out of a sax quartet. Their dynamic, playful concerts feature high-energy interaction between members, and a repertoire that touches on soulful music from around the world.

Over the course of the band’s 22 year history, The Tiptons Saxophone Quartet And Drums has recorded 9 albums. Check out their website to see which are currently available.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

© 2010, Helen. All rights reserved.


Helen Kahlke is a professional horn player and sax teacher who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia. She plays soprano, alto, C melody, tenor, baritone, and bass saxophones.


  1. Thank you for the link to those charts. They’re very interesting. I wish I had 3 other players that could/would play jazz/swing. 😥 I have so many ensemble pieces that I’d love to play again, but that I don’t have the players for at the moment. I’ve been thinking of trying an ad on Craig’s list, but I’m a bit afraid of what will turn up.

    The idea of adding just a drummer is one I had never considered before. It is somewhat of a novel idea, but it works really well. Since I already have a drummer, that would be the easy part. I would just need a few saxes to round out the ensemble.

    • You might also want to look at to see if groups already exist. It costs money to start and run a Meetup group, but not to join ones that already exist.

      If there’s a community dance band in the area, you could try joining or just sitting in, and see if you can draft some of them (assuming they’re good enough). I can think of three possible outcomes:
      * They’re short on saxophones and want you to join.
      * They’re not short, but need a fill-in from time to time. You may find the necessary three people there.
      * They’ve got too many, in which case the ones they pick are hopefully going to be the five best and you can draft your quartet (so long as it doesn’t conflict with the community band).

      I know it’s WAAAAY too early to worry about this, but I also have Christmas trios (alto-tenor-bari) in a single book here:

      If you can only find TWO fellow players, you may still have fun with these… and you have several months to do so. Most of them are pretty easy, as I intended the book for a group that would meet, rehearse once, then go play somewhere immediately afterward. There are a few more difficult charts in there, so that a group that finds the book too easy as a whole will have SOMETHING to work up.

      I’ve even recorded a few of them:

  2. I like the dedication to Billy Tipton. It is both a welcome tribute, and subtle social commentary.

    I too have considered adding a drummer as the fifth member of a similar ensemble. For one thing, it would allow me to more easily translate Latin jazz to an ensemble of this type. I’m having a hard enough time rendering swing without a drummer or pianist.

    I’ve been posting the charts (all swing to date) here:

    You seem to be able to get four saxophonists in one room at one time. Maybe you’d like to have some fun with these. In particular, “In the Mood” might be fun for you, as much as we have all come to despise this tune. I stuck what was the trumpet solo in the bottom sax part (bari, but I’d happily transpose for bass if you prefer, the range works much better — you’d have LOTS of low Bbs). I cued the original solo, two octaves lower than recorded.

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