Inventors rarely give their names to the instruments they create. Adolphe Sax, the inventor from Belgium, is an exception. In 1844 he invented the saxophone primarily to boost the sound produced by woodwinds in military bands. It has been around for over 165 years now, and has profoundly influenced the music worlds of jazz, classical, blues, and rock.
Combining the mouthpiece of a clarinet with the keywork of the oboe and fixing them to a cone-shaped brass tube with a slightly flared bell, the saxophone was born. Its sound is so flexible that it can replicate many other instruments, such as an oboe, a French horn, a bassoon, and even a flute. There are four derivations of Sax’s original invention: soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone.
Controversial from the beginning, the Vatican finally declared in 1903 that the saxophone “gave reasonable concern for disgust and scandal.” Ladies Home Journal opined that “the saxophone rendered listeners incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong, or good and evil.” Yet it is that very “carnal, suggestive, diabolical, and seductive” sound that especially appeals to saxophonists and fans alike. During The Jazz Age in New Orleans in the Roaring 20s, the saxophone established a forceful solo identity, and has since earned an important role as a valued member of today’s modern jazz ensembles.
Here is our tribute to the inventor, and such legendary artists as Sidney Bechet, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Cannonball Adderley, and Paul Desmond (among so many others!)—the players who forged this colorful history. As with all our Museum Series designs, this one includes a variety of derivations and contributions to the invention’s evolution.