In contrast to the instrument that was the subject of my previous article, the saxophone was embraced and engulfed by jazz with little, if any, resistance. Unlike the violin, the instrument that is more apt to be mentioned first when speaking and thinking of jazz is the sax. I’ve often wondered who invented the saxophone and how it got its name. What follows is a very brief history of this iconic symbol of jazz.
Adolphe Sax was the first to file for a patent on the saxophone back in 1846. Sax’s sax (sorry, I couldn’t resist that!) was not a totally original design, but he was the first to solve problems that other inventors faced and never solved. He was a Belgian musical instrument designer and musician who played the flute and clarinet. Sax was attempting to create an instrument that introduced a more powerful sound into marching bands. So this was a deliberate plan to make an instrument that created a sound that fit perfectly between the sounds produced by clarinets and tenor brass.
The saxophone’s popularity began to increase as a result of being introduced to French military bands and received a boost by the likes of military band leader John Philip Sousa that was noticed by musicians in England and the U.S. Leave it to jazz, however, to deliver a major spike in the acceptance of the saxophone. Jazz musicians began giving the nod to the instrument during World War I and by the 1920’s really made its presence known. By the 1930’s, the sax was routinely used as the lead instrument in a myriad of jazz compositions and featured such legends as Coleman Hawkins (considered the father of jazz saxophone), Charlie “Bird” Parker and maybe the greatest ever, John Coltrane. Before moving forward, let’s pay homage to these three stalwarts.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, I bring you the amazing Gerald Albright. If you are scratching your head and wondering “Gerald who?” prepare to be amazed. Mr. Albright grew up in South Central Los Angeles and attended Locke High School, home to other famous music alumni including Patrice Rushen and Leon “Ndugu” Chancler. Gerald received his B.S. in business management, with a minor in music, from the University of Redlands. By the time he enrolled in college, he was already an accomplished saxophonist-but that wasn’t enough! He suddenly switched to bass guitar after seeing The Brother’s Johnson bassist Louis Johnson in concert. I have had the pleasure witnessing Gerald’s prowess live on both sax and bass guitar. Gerald has an extensive discography and has performed and/or recorded with the likes of Patrice Rushen, Anita Baker, The Winans, Olivia Newton-John, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Phil Collins, Stanley Clarke, and many others. Trust me-the man is bass monster! Even though Gerald is recognized primarily as a smooth jazz artist, the dude can play anything!
(My favorite Gerald Albright tune and solo)
(Check out the bass-it’s Gerald!)
Thanks to the skill, passion and vision of Adolphe Sax, the saxophone’s legacy in jazz is alive and well in the very capable hands of incredible musicians such as Gerald Albright.
The History of the Saxophone Website
A Brief History of the Saxophone Website
The Official Gerald Albright Website