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The hey day for the saxophone was really the roaring 1920’s and the “Golden Era of Jazz”. 

09/05/2024     Blog

This week I have been busy cataloguing a wonderful array of interesting items for the musical instrument section of our June Fine Art sale. My favourite item was a lovely early 20th Century silver plated saxophone with engraved decoration and mother of pearl keys.

It reminded me of a recent holiday to Belgium when my husband and I visited Dinant in the Ardennes region. The Charles de Gaulle bridge in the centre of the town over the River Meuse features twenty- eight large saxophones all brightly coloured representing the countries of the European Union. They were erected in 2010 to pay tribute to Adolphe Sax the inventor of the saxophone who was born in Dinant in 1814.

He was born into a musical family and his parents were musical instrument designers. Adolphe played the flute and the clarinet as a child and studied at the Royal Conservatory in Brussels and was also a wonderful singer.

After leaving the Conservatory Adolphe began experimenting with instrument design and first developed a 24 valve system for the bass clarinet. Makers at the time thought the most important feature was the quality of the material used but Sax believed improving the flow of air through the instrument and the design and shape were what mattered the most. So, a few years later at the 1841 Industrial Exposition in Brussels, he demonstrated his new musical instrument the saxophone. He later produced the instrument in seven formats from soprano to contra-bass. Soon composers began writing parts for saxophones and they were also a popular instrument in military bands. It is believed that between 1843-1860 over 20,000 saxophones were sold.

The hey day for the saxophone was really the roaring 1920’s and the “Golden Era of Jazz”.  Sidney Bechet was the first jazz player to popularise the saxophone and it soon became the sound of jazz music in the 20th century.

Dinant hosts an International Saxophone Festival and there is even a Saxophone museum in the town. Somewhere I will have to visit on my next trip!

At auction, one of most sought after makers, is Selmer a French firm founded in Paris in 1885. Their instruments were played by some of the 20th century great jazz musicians such as John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. Selmer saxophones can fetch up to £5000-7000 in auction. Our example is a more modest £100-150 but is a lovely example and would be a great addition to someone’s collection of musical instruments.