It all started with Adolphe Sax, a Belgian instrument inventor. In 1842, he attached a clarinet mouthpiece to a brass creation that he named the saxophone. Because of its metal, conical body, the saxophone was capable of playing at volumes much higher than other woodwinds. It was used in military bands in the 1800s, but it took a while for it to be taken seriously by musicians.
Here is a brief history of jazz saxophonists, structured around the stories of the musicians who changed an odd invention into one of the most iconic instruments in jazz. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a rough sketch of the involvement of the saxophone in jazz.
Image of Ornette Coleman © Juan Carlos Hernandez