NPR

What The Heck Is That? Odd Instruments In Jazz

Jazz is strange enough for some listeners. Dig a little deeper and it gets ever so bizarre. Throughout the music's history, particular instruments have risen to challenge of playing improvised music. The saxophone found its greatest calling in jazz, but not every instrument has been so lucky. Several musicians have found their voices on instruments that never caught a wave of popularity. Some were never meant for wide acceptance. But that didn't stop Sidney Bechet from playing the sarrusophone, nor will it forestall the next modern jazz genius of the musical saw.

After a century of jazz, some instruments endure — the piano, bass, drums and various wind instruments such as the saxophone, trumpet and trombone. But every now and then, there's a foreign sound that you never expected to hear playing jazz, including some of the instruments on these albums.

This article originally ran July 29, 2009.

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