Everybody loves the sound of the saxophone. Smooth and sexy, it is as close to the cooing voice of a loved one is any instrument can be. Yet, for that very reason the instrument has had a long and storied past complete with more intrigue than an Agatha Christie thriller. In “The Devil’s Horn” director Larry Weinstein walks us through the wild and woolly history of the saxophone.
The premise of the film is simple. The sax is a cursed instrument that dooms its players to lives of torment and despair.
Sounds outrageous doesn’t it? Consider the evidence.
The sax’s inventor Adolphe Sax dodged death at least seven times, barely escaped at least one known assassination attempt, went bankrupt three times fighting with his rivals, developed lip cancer and died penniless.
Sax icons Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, John Coltrane and many other players of the devil’s instrument battled heroin addiction, creating sounds so carnal and voluptuous they were outlawed by everyone from the Nazis (who banned the sax from the Earth) to the Vatican. Movie studios barred it from soundtracks and it put the sex in sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.
Of course the instrument isn’t cursed. Once Weinstein gets past that catchy concept he makes a compelling case for the sax as more than a symbol of depravity and immorality. Using a mix of archival footage and new interviews with musicians like Colin Stetson, Jimmy Heath and Giuseppi Logan, he reveals not only the wild past of the instrument, but it’s importance in the future of music as well.