This page is dedicated to one of the world’s greatest inventions and the instrument that I’ve been playing since the age of eight. Here are some fun facts and some of my thoughts on the pioneers of the tenor saxophone.
The saxophone was invented in the early 1840s and patented in 1846 in Paris by a Belgian musician and instrument designer named Adolphe Sax.
The saxophone is the successor of older woodwind instruments including the flute and the clarinet and borrows from both of their fingering systems. There are many types of saxophones, but today there are four main types or sizes in use. Soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.
My main axe is the tenor. In the right hands the it can be one of the most expressive instruments in the world. The sound of the tenor sax is stamped in American improvisational music. I’m not a historian, but here are some of my favorite players on the timeline. Truly gifted musicians.
Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Lester Young (Prez) were on the scene as far back as the 1920s. They carved out that sound that we associate with the tenor sax in the swing era, even though their approaches were all unique. Coleman’s sound had a bite to it while Prez and Ben kept it warm and smooth, even on the up-tempo songs. Their sound during the swing era was a tremendous influence on the players who later evolved it into Bebop. Charlie Parker’s alto is the trademark saxophone sound of early Bebop, but players like Sonny Stitt and Don Byas were playing tenor sax in that style as well. My favorite players came out of this late bop era and into what some folks call Post Bop and the “cool” period ushered in by Miles Davis. Suddenly there was Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, and the genius John Coltrane. Trane’s seat in Miles’ band was later taken by Wayne Shorter, also one of the greatest composers on the instrument. The 1970s began the age of the modern saxophone and the late great Michael Brecker, who was the driving force behind this fresh sound on the instrument. Over the past 30 years many great players have pushed the instrument to new levels including Joe Lovano, Branford Marsalis, Bob Mintzer, Bob Berg, Dave Liebman, Jerry Bergonzi,George Garzone,and Chris Potter. There are so many more great players who could be added to this list.
My horn is a Selmer Series III tenor made in Paris.