The History of the Tenor Saxophone

The history of the tenor saxophone begins in Europe in 1846. This is the year that Adolphe Sax invented the instrument. It was designed to provide the best of both brass and woodwind instruments, and was originally used in military bands. The brass material gave it the volume and brightness of a brass instrument, while the reed gave it a mellow air like the other woodwinds.

The saxophone was not received that well, though, until an important development took place. After the instrument began to be made in the United States, it was seen as a substitute for violins and was occasionally used in that capacity. However, it wasn't that long before jazz musicians discovered it. The mellow, expressive sound of the sax is perfect for jazz music, and the tenor saxophone is the most widely used in this lively style of music.

While this deep throated instrument is used in classical and other types of music, the history of the tenor saxophone is really studded with jazz stars. One of the first of the great jazz tenor saxophonists was Chu Berry, who played during the years from 1937 to 1941. Coleman Hawkins was another famous jazz great who played bouncing music back in the years from 1939 to 1956. One of his most familiar tunes was "Body and Soul."

In 1957, Johnny Griffin was producing great "hard-bop" tunes on the tenor sax. In the 60's a unique sound was the Oriental inspired jazz by saxophonist Yusef Lateef. By the late 1970's, one of the standard players was jazz musician Gene Ammons. The wailing sounds of the tenor saxophone are still an important part of jazz, and is often featured in rock, and sometimes even country music these days.

Further reading: Saxophone History

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