Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

The Devil’s Horn: The Story of the Saxophone, from Noisy Novelty to King of Cool by Michael Segell

Michael Segell’s compelling and artfully written book chronicles the history of Adolphe Sax’s visionary invention while examining its mesmerizing appeal over time to players and listeners alike. Stemming from his own fascination with the instrument–the author is also an amateur saxophonist–The Devil’s Horn takes readers on a fascinating, circuitous journey from Sax’s struggles throughout his life with gaining acceptance for his creation to its ultimate place of hipness in the jazz world.

Drawing on insightful and revealing interviews with a host of renowned players, Segell gets to the heart of why so many have submitted to its spell. Benny Carter equates playing the sax with a religious experience. David Murray describes his initial encounter with the sax as “being saved.” Sonny Rollins talks about being transported to another place when he first put it to his lips, while Lee Konitz recalls being transfixed as a youth by the golden sparkle of the horn against the purple velvet lining of the case. From Segell’s own perspective: “Its mysterious energy envelops and overwhelms you. You enter into some strange unwritten devotional contract, helplessly announce your allegiance to the cult of Adolphe, and become a loyal advocate for the voice of Sax. You become, you could say, an instrument of the devil.”

Originally Published