The Saxophone: A Musical Instrument for the Ages July 29 2010, 0 Comments

Antoine Joseph SAX – known as Adolphe - was born in Dinant, Belgium, on November 6, 1814, the son of Charles Joseph Sax, instrument maker to the king of The Netherlands. At 14, Adolphe Sax built his own clarinet of fine wood and soon was winning prizes at Europe's new indus¬trial expositions. Sax was a rare young genius: an innovator whose hands were as facile as his mind. When the Brussels Exposition denied his instruments a gold medal in 1841, Sax decided to seek his fortune elsewhere. He headed for Paris, penni¬less but rich in ideas. His favourite brain¬child was a matched family of valued brasses. These "saxhorns" were the ancestors of the tubas, flugelhorns, and baritone horns heard in modern bands. The saxophone may have been born when Sax, while puttering in his shop, fitted a bass clarinet mouthpiece and reed onto an ophicleide, a big bugle-type horn with keys instead of valves. At any rate, by 1842 he had made a bass saxophone, pitched in the key of C. It drew praise from Hector Berlioz, the renowned French composer, who transcribed some of his own music for a demonstration concert with Chamber winds on February 3, l844, and the first time a saxophone was heard in public with Sax himself as soloist. The saxhorns and saxophones attracted the attention of the French Army, who gave Sax the exclusive contract to outfit their bands. Established music firms couldn't compete with his superior craftsmanship and modern production methods, so they organized to ruin him, but the charge did not hold up in court. Sax patented his saxophones, by now an entire family on March 20th 1846. But even his most important friends could not protect the instrument maker from the jealousy of the entire industry, which paid musicians to boycott Sax’s products. Other problems ensued. After 860 when his patents expired, anyone could copy Sax’s instruments. Deprived of revenues from his inventions, Sax slipped back into poverty. In 1870 his Army contracts were cancelled and his factory went under. Bankrupt he survived as a bandmaster at the Paris Opera until his death at 79 on February 1894. Early saxophones were all French, Evette Shaeffer and Buffet Crampon. In the US Elkhart Indiana known as “Music City” boasted several firms whom manufactured saxophones including Conn, Buescher and Martin. In later years when the dance band craze began the Selmer saxophones was the instrument of choice of many of the performers. Saxophones were first employed in military bands, where it was a voice of compromise between brass and woodwinds. The warmth and tonality of the instrument, particularly the alto and tenor, were mainstays in all of the French military bands beginning with its first introduction. But it took several years before it went into full usage in Britain. Photographs of the Guards bands beginning in 1900 and later indicate that saxophones had not come into use. In the USA, the instrument was adopted by both school and military bands as early as 1880. Other countries such as Canada were very slow to move off the mark and the instrument did not make a showing until shortly before the First World War. Today every band from High School to the professional level including community bands has full sections of Eb Alto (divided parts 1-2) with Tenor sax as well as Eb Baritone. Saxophone. The solo qualities of the instrument were recognized shortly after it was introduced. The founders of the tradition of the classical saxophone include French military musician, later world concert performer Marcel Mule. American Cecil Leeson became one of the world’s most prestigious saxophonists as well. Sigurd Rascher a German born concert performer came to the USA in 1939. His amazing sound and magnificent technique made him into a household name. No article on the saxophone would be complete without the mention of the world’s first modern saxophonist- Charley Parker. He left a legacy that significantly enhanced the instrument’s tradition. Several generations of great players have emerged including Saxophone Colossus Sonny Rollins and the man whom many call the “Last Messiah,” John Coltrane. The man considered to be the present day ‘public marketer” is the personable and magnificent Bradford Marsalis. The great military bands pf the USA, including the United States Marine band, have strived to keep the memory and tradition of Adolphe Sax alive by developing wonderful saxophone quartets. The brainchild introduced by Adolphe  Sax was indeed an  instrument of the ages.