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Hey everyone. I'm wondering if you can help me, I'm writing an essay about why the sax was first used in Jazz. I am a saxophonist and I love to play and listen to Jazz, I'm just interested and have been thinking about why the sax was first used, and why it became such a firm favourite. Thanks :)
 

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as a basic start on the topic why not look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxophone.

The sax was firstly used successfully in (French) military bands in the mid 19thC onwards, because of its loudness and projection, among other qualities. I think when Jazz first emerged with early New Orleans groups they played outside quite a bit too, but the saxophone was still relatively unusual at that time (clarinet was more popular), but as the saxophone became better known in the USA it took its place in popular music through vaudeville and other kinds of groups and bands. It proved a popular instrument, and by the 1920's there was a saxophone 'explosion' with literally over a million saxophones being manufactured and sold in the US during that decade (and still mostly used for bands of various sorts, but also now popular as an amateur instrument, and mainly a white instrument). Its adoption into mainsteam Jazz really took off in the 1930's with swing bands and larger ensembles where it joined a larger horn section also with brasswind instruments usually. Some individuals championed it early on as a solo voice in Jazz, such as Coleman Hawkins (Tenor) or Sidney Bechet (soprano, unusually) and its popularity just grew and grew and grew over the years until it became ubiquitous as a solo voice in Jazz music, and in popular music in general, proving itself capable of crossing music genres probably more so than any other wind instrument.

I think it remains such a firm favourite because it is such a flexible and dangerous instrument! I've read it described as a Dionisian instrument, it is wild and unpredictable - dangerous to know - and capable of screams and frenzy but also of the most touching lyrical beauty. It is so close to the human voice. The story of 20C popular culture is one of 'rebellion' and the individual, and the saxophone is the perfect rebels horn - loud, rude, disagreeable and sexy.

Try a book called "The Devils Horn".
 

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Research is going to reveal to you the "common" first lead and solo instruments of the early beginnings in jazz were the cornet and (as stated above) the clarinet.
 

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'Devil's Horn" is a good jumping off point...although with time and knowledge acquired, the book doesn't fare very well in retrospect, and ends up really being a nice piece of unfocused fluff w/i a couple of years of reading it. But it's a fun enuff read and a fun intro.....

Lots of info in the History section of this Forum (which is where this probably should have been posted...but then again, it'll get way more views here).

Hawkins is arguably the first Jazz Saxophonist, in the context in which we understand the term today....so good to check him out, his early stuff.

But this shouldn't divert one from recognizing that, like everything else, Jazz Sax evolved from sources as varied as Rudy Weidoeft and Sidney Bechet. I find it fun to look at such "proto-Jazz" sorta veins of music. A lotta good history stuff out there...yes, also covering how the horn displaced the clarinet as the reedwind of choice.....
 

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WHY was it first used? Probably because a sax player brought one to a jam session once upon a time and everyone said... "man that sounds cool.." WHY is it such a firm favorite? Probably because everyone said... "man that sounds cool.."

Just an observation...
 

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WHY was it first used?
Yep. "WHY". Extra points to the man for his reading comprehension. :mrgreen:

The beginnings of jazz were likely on the piano. It moved, instrumentally, to a stripped down marching band instrumentation of the time, e.g. trpt (lead), clar (clar and flute counter melodies), bone (harmony-based counter melodies complementing the clar and trpt), tuba (providing the customary root-fifth harmonic outline) and drums, all based loosely on the standard roles of these instruments in western marches. You might also see a guitarist, banjoist, pianist, string bassist, or a trap-set drummer for sit-down bands.

But what's left out of the standard marching band instrumentation? French horns, saxophones and baritone-type horns. It wouldn't surprise me if there weren't some folks playing early jazz on baritone horns and French horns, although they aren't the standard early jazz instruments. Because of its volume outdoors, and it's ability to blend and to play its own independent lines without stepping all over some other instrument's lines, it would seem that the sax would be a logical next instrument to add to the basic four-horn jazz ensemble.

If one studies the origins of jazz in the New Orleans area, one quickly becomes aware that N.O. is just a historical focal point, and that music like it was being played all over the Lake Pontchartrain area by both black and white musicians and with various instruments.

I would be surprised if we ever know "why" the sax was first used in jazz beyond the possibility that it could work in a jazz band and that there were certainly musicians who wanted to, and were given the chance to, play in these bands. And surely the notoriety of Sidney Bechet, Frankie Trumbauer and Coleman Hawkins gave legitimacy to the sax as a bona fide jazz instrument, encouraging others to play it and having it accepted as a natural part of the early jazz band instrumentation .
 

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This is just speculation but I think that because sax came in so late there really wasn't really any classical repertoire for it, so it found a niche in a new music: Jazz. Classical is to clarinet and flute, as Jazz is to Saxophone?
 

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As Mattutopia suggested: "It is so close to the human voice". And in being so, is a very emotionally sounding horn. I think if you were to ask people why they liked the saxophone the word 'emotion' would come up often. I think that it's also because it is so easyto learn how to play. OK, here's an improbable scenario, but humor me. If someone was really digging jazz, and liked the instruments equally well, and was able to give a week with each horn, which one do you think the'd pick. I'm guessin' the sax. Now of course it's also easy to play it poorly, but put it in the hands of folks with natural musical ability, and we have a lot of sax players.
 

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OK, here's an improbable scenario, but humor me. If someone was really digging jazz, and liked the instruments equally well, and was able to give a week with each horn, which one do you think the'd pick. I'm guessin' the sax.
But it wasn't always like that. When I entered UNT in the early 60s, there were easily as many trumpeters as sax players running around. But something changed in the following years. I would guess that external factors have a great deal of influence on instrument choice. These days the sax is by far the wind-instrument of choice for pop players (usually the only one even allowed in a pop band) so that's easily the most heard and seen. In jazz, it's a tremendous force. So it's out there and it's very visible. And of course, it's expressive flexibility as mentioned above gives it a big edge. But I would likewise guess that, if there was a resurgence in trombones that lasted for over a decade, that the sax would no longer be the natural choice of budding young wind players.
 

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That's DOCTOR gary to youse guys.
Yes. In my younger touring days, people thought I was a Gynecologist doing field research.
When I got older and supervised large numbers of people, they thought for sure that I must be a Proctologist.
Now that I'm really older, I seem to be cursed spending most of my waking - and sleeping - hours digging deeper and deeper into Gastroenterology.
 

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Hijack complete, our work is done here kemo-sabay.
 

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as a basic start on the topic why not look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saxophone.

The sax was firstly used successfully in (French) military bands in the mid 19thC onwards, because of its loudness and projection, among other qualities. I think when Jazz first emerged with early New Orleans groups they played outside quite a bit too, but the saxophone was still relatively unusual at that time (clarinet was more popular), but as the saxophone became better known in the USA it took its place in popular music through vaudeville and other kinds of groups and bands.
Expounding on this, before jazz, New Orleans had brass bands in the European tradition that played marches and pop music. When jazz started to develop, it was these bands that laid the template for instrumentation. The saxophone had been adopted by the French military bands and New Orleans was founded by the French, so naturally the saxophone was included in these bands and were subsequently adopted by the emerging jazz musicians.
 

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Yep. "WHY". Extra points to the man for his reading comprehension. :mrgreen:
Yeah, LOL. But I still say I answered the question in my post. Once Coleman Hawkin's sound got out there, the tenor sax was king and the question 'why was it first used in jazz?' is answered.

But hey, now I read it, here's a yet deeper level of reading comprehension (or maybe it's a shallower level): "Why was it first used in jazz?" Well it wasn't used in jazz first. As Mattutopia pointed out, it was used first in military marching bands (at least according to that Devil's Horn Book).
 

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Because it's so darn sexy :lick:
 

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Yeah, LOL. But I still say I answered the question in my post. Once Coleman Hawkin's sound got out there, the tenor sax was king and the question 'why was it first used in jazz?' is answered.

But hey, now I read it, here's a yet deeper level of reading comprehension (or maybe it's a shallower level): "Why was it first used in jazz?" Well it wasn't used in jazz first. As Mattutopia pointed out, it was used first in military marching bands (at least according to that Devil's Horn Book).
LOL. Now who's gonna argue wid dat!
 
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