The Saxophone is a Sexy Instrument

You can work on the saxophone alone, but ultimately you must perform with others.
Steve Lacy

The saxophone is known as a single-reed musical instrument that is a staple in jazz bands. Considered to be newer than other musical instruments in terms of its music history, the saxophone was invented by Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax.

After Adolphe’s death, the saxophone proceeded to undergo changes, books for the saxophone were published and composers/musicians continued to include the sax in their performances. In 1914 the saxophone entered the world of jazz bands. In 1928 the Sax factory was sold to the Henri Selmer Company. To this day many manufacturers of musical instruments create their own line of saxophones and it continues to enjoy a prominent position in jazz bands.

Jazz saxophonists are musicians who play various types of saxophones (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone etc.) in jazz and its associated subgenres. The techniques and instrumentation of this type of performance have evolved over the 20th century, influenced by both movements of musicians that became the subgenres and by particularly influential sax players who helped reshape the music.

In the 1930s, during the swing and big band era, saxophonists like altoist Johnny Hodges (1906–1970), who led the saxophone section in the Duke Ellington Big Band, were featured soloists in a highly structured system of playing where such solos were limited moments of musical freedom.

In the early 1940s, jazz saxophonists such as Charlie Parker (alto, tenor) and Sonny Stitt (alto, tenor) led a rebellion against the strictures of big band jazz, shifting away from danceable popular music towards a more challenging “musician’s music” that would come to be called bebop, with solos that included more chromaticism and dissonance. Charlie Parker is particularly noted for his groundbreaking solo techniques that is still widely admired today. He was credited to be one of the major influences of the bebop movement.

In the 1950s, sax players like tenor saxophonist John Coltrane (1926–1967) and Sonny Rollins (born 1930) broke new ground in jazz, infusing their music with rhythm and blues, modal, Latin and gospel influences as part of the hard bop subgenre.

In the 1950s and 1960s, free jazz pioneers such as Ornette Coleman (born 1930) and Albert Ayler developed unusual new sounds and playing styles.

In the early 1960s, Woody Herman’s lead “(Four) Brother”, Stan Getz, played cool jazz with Brazilian musicians in the emerging bossa nova style. Getz was known for his rich tone, ability to swing and impeccable technique.

In the 1970s, fusion jazz blended rock and jazz, with saxophonists like Wayne Shorter and brothers Michael and Randy Brecker at the front of that movement.

In the 1980s, smooth jazz saxophonists such as Kenny G (Kenny Gorelick, born 1956, soprano, alto, tenor), Bob Mintzer (tenor and bass clarinet) and David Sanborn (born 1945, alto, soprano) played a radio-friendly style of fusion called smooth jazz.Other notable smooth jazz saxophonists include Dave Koz, Jeff Kashiwa, Brandon Fields.

In the 1990s and 2000s, Joshua Redman (born 1969, alto, soprano, tenor) and Chris Potter (tenor) returned to a more traditional approach which harked back to the saxophone greats of the 1950s and 1960s.


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