Saxophones are musical instruments that belong to the woodwind family. They are made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece, similar to playing a clarinet. Originally popular in military bands, saxophones soon became a part of popular music and jazz.
History has witnessed many talented saxophonists who have contributed to the spread of saxophone-playing to different parts of the world and have made valuable contributions to the innovations in saxophone-playing.
Charlie Parker (August 29, 1920 - March 12, 1955)
Born in Kansas, he was brought up in Missouri. He showed no flair for music during his early years. However, influenced by his father who was related to the field of music, Parker began playing saxophone from the age of 11 and soon joined the school band. He began to be called by the nickname 'Yardbird', which he later abbreviated to 'Bird'.
He was instrumental in the development of bebop, an innovative form of jazz. Several of his songs topped the music charts. He was iconic for the Hipster subculture and the Beat Generation, American writers of the 1950s & '60s who inspired generations of their time. He died at the age of 35 and the world lost one of the greatest saxophone players of all time.
John Coltrane (September 23, 1926 - July 17, 1967)
Born in Hamlet, North Carolina, Coltrane was raised in High Point, NC. He joined the Navy in 1945 and served for one year, after which he began to take saxophone lessons. He was also known as "Trane". He worked with artists like Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.
The years between 1955 and 1967 marked an important period of his career. His compositions had a spiritual aspect to them. He was an eminent saxophonist, composer as well as a bandleader. He died of liver cancer in Long Island, New York.
Stan Getz (February 2, 1927 - June 6, 1991)
Born in Philadelphia, Stanley Gayetzky was better known by his stage name, Stan Getz. He was a brilliant student at school, but his keen interest was in music. His father brought him his first saxophone at his age of 13.
He later joined the All City Orchestra of the New York City. He dropped out of school to continue with his career in music. He earned the title, 'The Sound' for his warm lyrical tone. He died in 1991, aged 64, leaving behind his melodious compositions.
Coleman Hawkins (November 21, 1904 - May 19, 1969)
Coleman Randolph Hawkins was born in Saint Joseph, Missouri. After completing schooling, he studied harmony and composition for two years. Though he also played piano and cello in later years, he had begun playing the saxophone from an early age of 9.
He is considered as the first important jazz musician to use the saxophone. He is linked with swing music and the big band era, and has played an important role in the bebop era. He is regarded as one of the most prominent jazz tenor saxophonists of all time. His fans fondly called him Hawk and sometimes Bean. He died on May 19, 1969.
Lester "Prez" Young (August 27, 1909 - March 15, 1959)
Born in Woodville, Mississippi, Lester Young grew up to become one of the most famous saxophone players. Music ran in his family. Many of his relatives were professional music players. He learned trumpet, violin, drums, and saxophone from his father.
He began to play in his family band and soon earned acclaim as a talented saxophone player. Cool tones and sophisticated harmonies characterized his way of playing. Young, nicknamed as 'Prez', is regarded as one of the finest saxophone players and a jazz legend. He died in 1959, but continues to be remembered for his work.
This was a glimpse of some of the most famous saxophone players. They gave a new dimension to saxophone-playing and continue to live through their musical works.