Saxophone playing styles and the history behind them

Many saxophonists, through their style of playing the instrument, have become standards for future generations. In this article, you can read about some brand representatives who have contributed to the development of new musical styles, putting passion combined with a perfect technique, good examples to follow, which have made history in the world of music.

Although it was invented in 1840 by Adolphe Sax, as an intermediary in classical music between woodwinds and brass, the saxophone developed and took off only at the beginning of the twentieth century, with the advent of jazz, which is the reason for which a large part of the famous saxophonists come from this musical sphere.

Over time, they developed their own style of interpretation, being pioneers in the emergence of several jazz styles, their history intertwining harmoniously.

Sidney Bechet (1897 – 1959)

He is a famous jazz saxophonist, who contributed to the involvement of the saxophone in jazz music, since the first appearances of this musical style. He was contemporary with Louis Armstrong and a saxophone virtuoso, playing a soprano model, and giving it the tone and modulations of the blues.

His sound was emotional, strong and unpredictable, using a wide vibrato similar to that of clarinets, an instrument he knew well.

Frankie Trumbauer (1901 – 1956)

He became known in the early 1920s, using a C-Melody saxophone (a hybrid between an alto and a tenor model), with a dry tone and a quiet, introspective style that influenced later generations of saxophonists. Together with the trumpeter Bix Biderbecke, he offered at that time an alternative to the passionate jazz that was usually performed.

He composed sophisticated and complex saxophone pieces, preferring to play in small bands with 3-4 instrumentalists. In addition to the saxophone, he also knew how to play the bassoon, clarinet, which helped him to develop a personal style.

Saxophone playing styles and the history behind them

Coleman Hawkins (1904 – 1969)

He prefers the tenor saxophone, being the main soloist in the orchestras of the 1920s – 1930s, conquering the audience with his strong sound, aggressive tone and creativity in improvisations. He is one of the initiators of the be-bop style that is considered an important evolution in the history of jazz, being focused on the technical ability of the performer, with a complex harmony.

This way of interpreting changed the public's perception of the style, from a dance music for everyone, performed by large orchestras, to small formulas leaving freedom of expression to the performer.

Lester Young (1909 – 1959)

Through the melodic style approached, Young lays the foundations of cool jazz, a quieter and easier to understand music, but still of a great virtuosity and complex, which involves less use of vibrato and percussion.

It is inspired by classical jazz, and appears as an alternative to the gruff styles of the 1940s. Young uses it in a smooth, smooth tone, and a relaxed improvisation.

Charlie Parker (1920 – 1955)

Based on an incredible technique, with rhythm and harmony, with a lot of energy, Parker contributes to the development of be-bop and modern jazz. His unique style is a model for saxophonists, this great artist being a standard for many generations of instrumentalists. Unfortunately, the heavy consumption to which he was subjected, combined with drug and alcohol abuse, ended his life very early.

John Coltrane (1926 – 1967)

Brand composer and saxophonist, he develops his own style of interpretation, with free improvisations and high intensity, after in his youth he was influenced by prominent figures in the jazz world such as Charlie Parker. In his youth he adopted the be-bop and hard bop style, going to adulthood towards free jazz, being also among the pioneers of this style.

Ornette Coleman (1930 – 2015)

He had a more diverse career, going from blues and r & b, to jazz, being considered one of the avant-garde of the free jazz style. It harmoniously combines the technique with the melodic line, with the rhythm and the form, keeping a perfect balance, without adhering to the conventional forms of harmonic structures. A complete artist, being a composer, and multi-instrumentalist (saxophone, violin, trumpet).

Sonny Rollins (born 1930)

At the same time as cool jazz, hard bop appears, initiated by saxophonist Rollins and trumpeter Clifford Brown. Inspired by the famous saxophonists of the time, Young, Parker, Hawkins, Rollins develop their own style, bold and more unusual, playing a tenor saxophone.

In his long career he developed a series of compositions that become standards in the world of jazz, being also very good at improvisation. He gives himself Sabbath periods, in which he seeks to reinvent himself, to reshape his style, always returning in force. During his maturity, he adopted other styles, besides jazz, such as pop, r & b, funk and rock.

Saxophone playing styles and the history behind them

Kenny Garett (born 1960)

He gained worldwide recognition, playing with large bands such as Duke Ellington's Orchestra, from a young age, then with Miles Davis, during which he, open to innovation, formed a band with electric instruments. After all these beneficial experiences, Garett embraces a solo career, being a highly regarded alto saxophonist.

Mark Turner (born 1965)

Considered along with Garett and Potter as one of the best contemporary jazz saxophonists, Turner perfected his style, being influenced in his youth by Coltrane. It develops a dry tone, interspersed with angular phrases, with a preference for the acute register of the saxophone, which makes it remarkable during performance.

Chris Potter (born 1971)

Considered a wonder child of the saxophone in his youth (at the age of 13 he has his first jazz concert on a alto saxophone, being strongly influenced at that time by Parker), Potter plays several instruments (most types of saxophone, still preferring the tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, flute, piano guitar) which allows him to be very inventive and adopt a personal style.

He has an ease of passing from one register to another, which differentiates him from the rest of the saxophone performers, and the solos are of a great inventiveness, complex and virtuous, with a beautiful rhythm and a flowing story.

In case you want to live the same experiences as the great saxophonists that were presented above, you can start by purchasing a saxophone (here is our list) , choosing the type that attracts you the most between soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, which gives you the opportunity to perform in the desired style, like the idol you have.

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