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The Story of the Saxophone



Holiday House

(pub.3.28.2023) 40 pages

ages 6-9

Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome

Illustrator: James E. Ransome

Character: Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax


" You may think that the story of the saxophone begins with Dexter Gordon or Charlie Parker, or on a street corner in New Orleans. It really began in 1840 in Belgium with a young daydreamer named Joseph-Antoine Adolphe Sax—a boy with bad luck but great ideas.

Lesa Cline-Ransome unravels the fascinating history of how Adolphe's once reviled instrument was transported across Europe and Mexico to New Orleans. Follow the saxophone's journey from Adolphe's imagination to the pawn shop window where it caught the eye of musician Sidney Bechet and became the iconic symbol of jazz music it is today."

Tantalizing taste:

" His father let him be while Adolphe tested and tinkered and tweaked with keys and levers and reeds. Adolphe played flute, clarinet, and nearly every instrument you can imagine, including his own creations - the steam organ, the sax tuba, the sax trombone, the euphonium, the bass tuba, and the flugelhorn.

But Adolphe was daydreaming of a new sound. Just the right sound ...

He knew that [symphonies and marching bands] needed an instrument that was not as loud as a trumpet. Not as soft as a clarinet. Somewhere right in the middle."

And something more: The Story of the Saxophone concludes with references to the great saxophonists:

"Adolphe passed away in 1894, but in New Orleans and other cities, his saxophone lived.

On the street corners and in juke joints, at funerals and in jazz clubs, the sound of the saxophon spread to every corner of New Orleans. Only now people called it the saxophone. One day, when a New Orleans clarinetist named Sidney Bechet picked up a saxophone that blew low and slow, just how he liked it, he put down his clarinet and never picked it up again.

Coleman Hawkins heard Sidney play.

And Lester Young heard Coleman play.

And Charlie Parker heard Lester play.

And Dexter Gordon heard Charlie play. And everyone heard Dexter play the saxophone, that began far, far away, across the seas, in a workshop in Belgium, made by a boy everyone called Adolphe."


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