2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax. This accomplished musician and engineer had already successfully refined the design of existing wind instruments when he decided to create a brand new horn as an intermediate between woodwind and brass orchestral sections. Not coincidentally, the saxophone while classified as a woodwind, is primarily constructed of brass. Additional goals of this endeavor were an instrument which could mimic the expressive qualities of the human voice as well as one which robustly projected its sound. Sax obtained a patent for his efforts in 1846
There are generally considered to be nine members of the saxophone family*, from the lowest pitched, the sub-contrabass horn to the sopranissimo. The best known saxophones are the soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes.
In the minds of many, the saxophone is synonymous with jazz. Iconic figures such as Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Stan Getz and Ornette Coleman reinforce this view. Each of these masters is well represented in Greenwich Library's collections of recorded music. For those of you with adventurous tastes, my colleague Everett Perdue has created an excellent list of Library cds focusing primarily on jazz musicians who explore(d) less familiar stylistic territory.
However, there is also a sizeable body of work in the classical realm which has been composed with saxophone in mind. Almost all of these works can be found either as part of the Library's collection of compact discs, or via the streaming music service, Naxos Music Library. You can visit NML by visiting the Library's Digital Music page. Once there, click on the blue Naxos Music Library icon and enter your Library card number.
If your interest in the saxophone has been piqued, you may want to visit the Adolphe Sax commemorative display on the 2nd Floor of the Library. There you will find CDs, DVDs and books all relating to this highly versatile instrument.
*Tinkering with the saxophone's basic design has been commonplace throughout its history. Innovations in the late 18th century such as adding more keys, enhanced the instrument's playability. More recently, jazz musician Rahsaan Roland Kirk, featured stritch and manzello in his arsenal. The former was and adaptation of an alto saxophone and the latter was a mutated saxello - itself the offspring of a soprano sax.