The alto has the second highest range of the saxophones. It is found more frequently in school bands than any of the other saxes. Although there is comparatively little Western art music written for the saxophone, the alto has been the favorite of most composers.
The alto and tenor have been the most important saxes in jazz. Throughout the history of jazz the pendulum of popularity has swung back and forth between those two instruments. That popularity has been determined by what the leaders of the day play. One of the greatest alto saxophonists and jazz musicians ever was Charlie Parker (1920-1955) who changed the face of jazz completely in the bebop era. His impact inspired many of his followers to play the alto sax.
The saxophone section of a big band usually includes two altos and the first chair is the leader of the section. Johnny Hodges (1907-1970) was the leader of Duke Ellington’s sax section for nearly 40 years, setting many standards for jazz styles and techniques.