September 13, 2019

A Boy from Belgium: The History of the Saxophone

The saxophone was created in 1841 by a man named Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax from Dinant, Belgium. Adolphe’s parents both pursued careers as instrument designers, which influenced Adolphe to study the clarinet and flute as a child. Being surrounded by his parents’ passion for designing musical instruments, and learning how to play the clarinet and flute swayed him to pursue a lifelong career in the music industry.

His Career

Adolphe started his musical education in 1828 at the Royal School of Music in Brussels. His first experiment with instruments was an improvement of the bass clarinet design, which he later patented. In 1841, he demonstrated his first very own invention, the saxophone, at the Industrial Exposition in Brussels. Lieutenant-General Count de Rumigny wanted Adolphe to provide the French army with better instruments, so he quickly moved to Paris to begin working on new versions of the saxophone for the Lieutenant-General. While he was in Paris, a French composer named Hector Berlioz was so fascinated by the instrument that he conducted one of his concerts to be played entirely on Adolphe’s saxophones.

Adolphe had over 14 variations of the saxophone which included the E flat sopranino, F sopranino, B flat soprano, C soprano, E flat alto, F alto, B flat tenor, C tenor, E flat baritone, B flat bass, C bass, E flat contrabass and F contrabass. In 1849, he won a gold medal at the Paris Industrial Exposition. His art studio sold approximately 20,000 instruments between 1843 and 1860.

Unfortunately, Adolphe was not able to see his invention become a part of the jazz era because he passed in 1894.

The Saxophone and the Jazz Era

It wasn’t until the early 1920s that the saxophone was used by a jazz musician from New Orleans named Sidney Bechet. At the time, the saxophone wasn’t used in jazz music, but Bechet created the iconic sound that would come to be a signature of jazz. After Bechet found this sound, jazz musicians began paying more attention to saxophones of all shapes and sizes.

Join us at the River Street Jazz Cafe!

Now that you have learned all about the saxophone and how it influenced the iconic sound that we know and love, reserve your ticket for the next show! The River Street Jazz Cafe’s lineup includes all kinds of music, so there is something for everyone. Come early to the show and grab a bite to eat. We have a full menu of small plates, appetizers, drinks, and entrees for you to choose from.