Happy National Saxophone Day!

Today marks the 204th birthday of the inventor of the saxophone Adolphe Sax. Born in 1814 to parents who were also instrument designers, Sax himself began making instruments at the young age of 15 when he created his own flute and clarinet. Among his early musical inventions were the saxtromba (a substitute for the French horn), saxhorn (a precursor to the flugelhorn and euphonium), and the clarinette-bourdon (an early version of the contrabass clarinet). In 1846 Sax secured the patent for his best known invention the saxophone. Designed with the vision of filling in the gap between brass and woodwind sections, the saxophone found initial popularity within military bands, while not taking off as readily as an orchestral instrument. In the years since its inception, the saxophone has seen multiple variations, from the most popular alto, up to the highest sopranissimo, and down to the lowest subcontrabass.

While Adolphe Sax didn’t see the success he deserved in life, saxophones have since come to play a pivotal role shaping the course of a variety of genres. It’s impact has been so immense that it’s a formidable task to develop a truly definitive list of history’s best saxophone players.

While not comprehensive of all genres, here’s a solid compilation of the 50 best saxophonists in jazz created by udeiscovermusic.com. See if you agree with their ranking and while you’re at it, enjoy some live video of some of the instrument’s most influential voices. 

A 2003 Gallop poll found that 54% of U.S. Households surveyed have a musical instrument. If you’re in this 54% and your instrument happens to be a saxophone, what better day than today to pull it out of the closet and start practicing! The benefits of learning an instrument are numerous from reducing stress, to fostering creativity, and discipline. Who knows, maybe you’ll make the “Best Of” list someday…