November 7, 2017


Category: Music :: Permalink

Music fans today can hardly imagine how disruptive the saxophone was during the early days of jazz.  Even decades after the sax had taken over the bandstand, many New Orleans purists objected to its baneful presence.  And the instrument had other marks against it.  The sax was not an accepted symphonic instrument — the American Symphony Orchestra League even issued a formal prohibition of the horn during the 1920s.

It was loud and lowbrow and perhaps even morally dangerous.  I’ve heard stories, perhaps apocryphal, of radio stations refusing to play sax music on the Sabbath, fearing its corrupting influence on impressionable young souls.  But there’s little doubt that Pope Pius X had the sax in mind when, at the dawn of the twentieth century, he instructed the clergy to avoid instruments “that may give reasonable cause for disgust and scandal.” — Ted Gioia, How to Listen to Jazz, p. 159.

So what brought about the change, so that jazz embraced the saxophone and it became, as Gioia says, “the defining sound of jazz”?  Here’s Gioia’s answer: “Most of the credit for this stunning turnabout goes to a single musician: Coleman Hawkins” (159).  To find out why, you’re just going to have to read the book.  Or you could just listen to this 1939 version of “Body and Soul”:



Posted by John Barach @ 9:29 pm | Discuss (0)

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