5 Of The World’s Greatest Saxophone Players

| May 21, 2015

The saxophone is an exquisite instrument. A saxophone, or sax for short, is a woodwind instrument with a conical shape typically made out of brass. Saxophones are played by blowing through a mouthpiece fitted with a reed with the fingers on several different keys on the instrument’s body. The Belgian Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone in the 1840s. Since then, the saxophone has become staple instrument for jazz musicians, classical musicians, and the everyday high school band. Saxophones come in many different types, including the tenor sax, the alto sax, the soprano sax and the baritone sax.

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker is a giant when it comes to jazz music. Born in 1920, Parker revolutionized the world of jazz music as a saxophonist and composer before his death in 1955. Parker was known by the nicknames of Yardbird or Bird because several of his musical compositions related to birds. Parker was a talented soloist and helped to develop bebop, a form a jazz music with fast tempos, improvisation, and virtuoso playing styles. Parker also developed new ways to play harmonies including altered chords and chord substitutions. Parker’s style of playing the saxophone ranged from clean to somber, and he combined jazz music with other genres like classical, Latin, and blues. Parker remains a legend in jazz and saxophone solos.

Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker

John Coltrane

John Coltrane is another legendary jazz saxophone player. Coltrane, also known simply as Trane, is still one of the most significant jazz musicians in history, and many of his albums are considered landmarks of jazz history. Coltrane was not only a saxophone player but also composed music, organized recording sessions, and played with some of the most famous jazz musicians including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Coltrane also established the use of modes in jazz and led the free jazz movement. Many of Coltrane’s albums have a spiritual dimension. He also interwove jazz music with bebop and hard pop during the 1950s and 1960s. John Coltrane is arguably the most important jazz musician of all time.

Sidney Bechet

Sidney Bechet was one of the earliest saxophone players as he was born in 1897 before the golden age of jazz. Bechet had a temper that often spiraled out of control but this can also be said to characterize his music. He had a distinctive sound with a rich tone and heavy vibrato. Bechet was also the first jazz musician to become famous for playing the soprano saxophone and did a lot to popularize the saxophone. He was an accomplished musician, rivaled only by trumpeter Louis Armstrong in the early days. During his career, he played with Duke Ellington and Joe Oliver and even traveled to Europe before his death in 1959. Bechet did not earn acclaim for his saxophone playing until the late 1940s.

Coleman Hawkins

Coleman Hawkins, also nicknamed Hawk, was a prominent jazz saxophonist who put the saxophone on the map. He turned the saxophone into one of the dominant instruments in jazz, often leaving the trumpet in his shadow. Hawkins had played the tenor saxophone and is one of the most recognized musicians in jazz. His music was characterized by flowing tones and a heavy vibrato, and as a talented soloist, Hawkins wrote the rules of how to play jazz. Hawkins is most famous, however, for his swing music in the big band era, although he also made contributions to bebop and, most notably, jazz music. Hawkins was born in 1904 and died in 1969.

Lester Young

Born in 1909, Lester Young was also a legendary jazz musician and saxophone player. Besides the saxophone, he also played the clarinet, drums, violin, and trumpet. Young made a name for himself playing the saxophone with Count Basie’s Orchestra. He remains the most famous for working with Count Basie and giving the orchestra its defining sound. Young’s musical style can be described as having a light, airy, smooth tone with a soft, lyrical style. Young also played with other musicians including Billie Holiday. Young was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II and had to give up music for a while, but he returned to it after being discharged. Young was also one of the most important swing musicians before his death in 1959.




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