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10 Famous Jazz Saxophonists

Who"d have thought when Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone back in 1846 that it would become one of the most widely played and fervently loved instruments in the world of jazz. Over the past 160-some years, the saxophone has been both an ensemble instrument - as was the case with the big bands of the 1920s - and a solo instrument - as was true in the small combos that began springing up in the 1940s. There have been many saxophonists who"ve made their mark on the music. Here are 10 of the most famous.

Sidney Bechet actually started out as a clarinetist. He began playing at the age of six on an instrument borrowed from his brother. By the time he was 17, he had played with many of the best musicians in his New Orleans hometown and had ventured on a tour of Texas and other southern states with pianist Clarence Williams.

During his early 20s, he switched over to soprano saxophone and went from being regionally popular to being world famous. In the worlds of Leonard Feather in the Encyclopedia of Jazz, "Bechet maintained a colorful style with a heavy vibrato and created forceful melodic lines.

Born in Woodinville, Mississippi and trained on the trumpet, sax, violin and drums by his father, Lester Young bounced around a number of bands before landing with Fletcher Henderson"s operation as a sub for Coleman Hawkins. The gig didn"t last long as Young"s quiet approach was not seen favorably as compared to Hawkins" bigger bolder sound.

Decades later, Young is considered one of the most influential saxophone players in history, whose style of playing transitioned the genre from the loud hot sound of the big bands to the cooler, more intimate sound of the 1950s combos.

While Lester Young"s style helped bring the saxophone out of the ensemble and into the spotlight, it was Coleman Hawkins who kept it there. One of the dominant players of the 1930s, he began his career with Fletcher Henderson"s band. In 1939, he formed a nine-piece big band and recorded Body & Soul, a record that made him a

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