The saxophone – an iconic instrument that exudes coolness, sophistication, and a distinct sense of style.
More often than not, you’ll find saxophonists crafting their stage presence with their fingers dancing on the keys, their feet marching to the rhythm, and their eyes shaded behind a pair of sunglasses.
But why is that?
What makes sunglasses an almost inseparable accessory from saxophonists?
This blog post plans to delve into the cultural significance of saxophones and the intriguing reason behind saxophonists often donning sunglasses.
From the shades’ symbolic representation in jazz culture to their practical use and fashion appeal, we’ll examine why sunglasses and saxophonists make such a harmonious pair.
In short, why Saxophonists wear sunglasses
Saxophonists often wear sunglasses as both a symbol and a tool. Symbolically, sunglasses are deeply entrenched in jazz and blues culture, reflecting the cool and mysterious persona that many musicians aim to portray. Additionally, they serve a practical purpose, shielding the eyes from bright stage lights during performances and allowing musicians to maintain focus on their music. Lastly, sunglasses have an undeniable fashion appeal, adding an extra layer to the visual spectacle of live performances, thereby enhancing the overall stage presence of saxophonists.
Some Interesting Facts about Saxophonists Wearing Sunglasses
- ol]:!pt-0 [&>ol]:!pb-0 [&>ul]:!pt-0 [&>ul]:!pb-0″ value=”2″>Sunglasses serve a practical purpose for saxophonists. They protect players’ eyes from the bright stage lights, which can be particularly harsh in dark clubs or during night-time performances. It allows them to keep their focus on the music without being distracted or inconvenienced by the lighting. [^2^]
- [^1^]: Sunglasses and Jazz: A Visual Love Affair
The Jazz Influence
The saxophone’s association with jazz music roots deeply in history.
Jazz, a genre that originated among African-American communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, heavily employs the saxophone for its unique ability to mimic the human voice, thereby conveying a broad range of emotions.
Among the jazz virtuosos, numerous saxophonists have sported sunglasses, one of the most notable being Ray Charles.
His signature style of donning sunglasses, even indoors and at night, was more than a mere fashion statement.
It symbolized an essential characteristic of jazz culture — a laid-back, effortlessly cool attitude that resonated with the genre’s improvisational nature.
In fact, the sight of Ray Charles swaying to the rhythm of his saxophone, his face hidden behind a sleek pair of shades, shaped the public perception of what it meant to be a jazz musician.
This symbolism of sunglasses in jazz culture extends beyond the realm of music to represent a distinct form of individuality and nonconformity.
Therefore, the tradition of saxophonists wearing sunglasses is not merely a fashion trend but a testament to their rich historical and cultural heritage.
The Stage Presence
The saxophone is often deemed the epitome of cool in the world of music, and sunglasses add significantly to this cool factor.
The wearing of sunglasses by saxophonists is not limited to their functional value; instead, they are a key element of the performer’s stage persona.
Just as the musicians communicate through their music, they also convey narratives through their appearance.
Wearing sunglasses, therefore, contributes to the creation of an aura of mystery and intrigue, setting the stage for the performance.
The shades often serve as an extension of the performer’s personality, allowing them to project an image of ‘coolness’ and nonchalance.
Modern saxophonists, like Kamasi Washington and Kenny G, continue this trend, donning sunglasses during their performances, thereby reinforcing this association between saxophonists and sunglasses.
This isn’t merely a nod to their predecessors in jazz but also a way to maintain that air of intrigue and ‘coolness’ that has become synonymous with saxophonists over the years.
Thus, sunglasses serve as more than a practical object; they’re a crucial part of the saxophonist’s identity and stage presence, further cementing the deep-seated relationship between saxophonists and sunglasses.
While the symbolic and cultural aspects of saxophonists wearing sunglasses are essential, there are also practical considerations to understand.
Stage lighting, for instance, can be quite intense and potentially harmful to the performers’ eyes. Wearing sunglasses helps mitigate this problem by reducing glare and protecting the performers’ vision.
Moreover, for outdoor performances, sunglasses become a necessity.
They shield the eyes from elements like dust and wind, and more importantly, from the glaring sun, allowing the performer to focus on their music.
Therefore, the prevalence of sunglasses among saxophonists is not just about crafting an image or maintaining a tradition; it also serves a functional purpose, ensuring the comfort and safety of the musicians during their performances.
This practical aspect further strengthens the bond between saxophonists and their sunglasses, making them an indispensable part of their performance gear.
A Fashion Statement
While the intertwined relationship between sunglasses and saxophonists is steeped in cultural symbolism and practical necessity, the fashion aspect is not to be overlooked.
Over the decades, musicians have been trendsetters, and their choice of eyewear can often influence public fashion trends.
Many saxophonists often sport sunglasses from renowned brands, perpetuating their allure and appeal.
Brands like Ray-Ban and Persol, known for their timeless and sophisticated designs, are among the favorites.
The distinct styles – whether it’s the classic aviator, the edgy wayfarer, or the retro round frames – not only enhance their stage presence but also speak volumes about their personal style.
Saxophonists’ penchant for sunglasses also extends to more innovative styles, such as mirrored or color-tinted glasses, that add an extra layer of flair to their performance attire.
By donning these chic eyewear pieces, saxophonists continue the tradition while also making a bold fashion statement.
Sunglasses, therefore, are not just a tool or symbol for saxophonists; they have become a celebrated aspect of their style narrative.
Thus, the saxophonist’s choice of sunglasses is as much a part of their performance as the music itself, showcasing the blend of tradition, practicality, and fashion that is unique to this musical community.
Exploring Iconic Pairings
One of the most iconic pairings that come to mind is that of John Coltrane and his classic round frames.
The acclaimed jazz saxophonist was rarely seen without his signature eyewear, a style that complemented his inventive and revolutionary music.
His choice of sunglasses contributed to his distinctive stage presence, further enhancing his charisma and creative prowess.
Another celebrated pairing involves Charlie Parker, also known as “Bird,” and his bold wayfarers.
Known for his fast tempo and virtuosic technique, Parker was a figure of immense influence in the jazz world.
His choice of wayfarer sunglasses added to his dynamic stage persona, reflecting his daring and groundbreaking approach to music.
Then there’s Sonny Rollins, known for his powerful tenor saxophone sound and his preference for aviator style sunglasses.
Rollins’ choice of eyewear not only provided him with comfort during his long and energetic performances but also added a layer of sophistication to his on-stage persona.
These are just a few examples of the many iconic pairings of saxophonists and their sunglasses.
Each pairing is unique, reflecting not only the musician’s personal style but also their musical identity.
And as they don their shades and pick up their saxophones, they continue the legacy of cool that is integral to the world of jazz.
How to Choose Your Shades
Choosing the right sunglasses to match your saxophonist persona involves a blend of personal style, comfort, and functionality.
As an aspiring musician, you might be wondering how to select the perfect pair.
Here’s a guide to help you make an informed choice.
Firstly, consider the shape of your face.
People with round faces might look better in rectangular frames, while those with square faces could opt for round or oval sunglasses.
Heart-shaped faces often suit aviator or cat-eye glasses, and oval faces can pull off almost any style.
Next, think about your style preference.
Are you a fan of vintage aesthetics?
Then you might love the timeless appeal of aviator or round frames.
If you prefer a more modern look, wayfarer or square frames could be your best bet.
Remember that your sunglasses should reflect your personal style and match the vibe of the music you play.
Don’t forget about the practical needs.
If you’re frequently performing under bright lights or in outdoor settings, you’d need sunglasses with good UV protection. Polarized lenses can also reduce glare and provide better visual clarity.
Lastly, consider the brand.
Top brands like Ray-Ban and Persol offer a wide range of styles and are popular choices among musicians for their quality and design.
However, there are also many other brands offering stylish and durable sunglasses at more affordable price points.
Remember, the right pair of sunglasses can enhance not only your look but also your performance. So, take your time to find your perfect match!
The Future of Style in Jazz
As we look towards the future of jazz, it’s clear that the tradition of personal style, including sunglasses, will continue to evolve in exciting ways.
Emerging jazz musicians are experimenting with different aesthetics, often seamlessly merging past influences with contemporary trends.
The use of eyewear as a fashion statement in jazz remains strong, with newer generations of musicians donning a wide variety of frames, from sleek, minimalist designs to bold, oversized shapes.
This reflects the genre’s ongoing evolution and its openness to change and innovation.
While the reverence for iconic sunglasses styles like wayfarers, aviators, and round frames persists, we’re also seeing the emergence of eclectic styles that push boundaries and challenge the norm.
Musicians are choosing eyewear that speaks to their unique artistic identity, using it as a conduit to express their individuality and creative vision.
However, the significance of sunglasses in jazz extends beyond fashion.
They continue to serve as a symbol of the genre’s cool demeanor and inherent mystique, a nod to its history, and a testament to its enduring relevance in modern times.
Thus, while the styles may change, the integral role of sunglasses in jazz culture remains.
In the future, as in the past, they will continue to be a defining accessory, embodying the jazz musician’s ethos of individuality, creativity, and coolness.
Sunglasses have long been an integral part of jazz culture.
From John Coltrane and his signature round frames to Charlie Parker’s classic wayfarers, the iconic pairings of saxophonists and their eyewear has become a celebrated aspect of the genre.
The choice of sunglasses is as much a part of the performance as the music itself, a distinct expression of individual style and creativity.
Today, we see jazz musicians embracing the tradition of personal style while pushing boundaries and experimenting with different aesthetics.
Sunglasses continue to serve as a symbol of this genre’s cool demeanor, reflecting its history and signifying its ongoing relevance in modern times.
As aspiring musicians, we can use this guide to find the perfect pair of sunglasses that reflects our unique style and complements our music.
After all, as jazz legend Miles Davis famously said: “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note—it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right.” So, put on your shades and let your music take the lead. It’s time to make a statement with your sound!