Miscellaneous News Feeds

  • Where’s One?
    by Craig Buhler on March 23, 2021 at 6:42 am

    When a novice improviser strays too far from the beat, the band often quips, “Where’s One?”, meaning “Are you lost?” As improvisers, we seek fresh, innovative approaches which still retain the coherence needed to keep listeners’ interest.   Sonny Rollins famously used “motivic development” to simultaneously add unity and variety to his improvisations. Here is … Continue reading Where’s One? →

  • Newly Announced – the Selmer Paris SUPREME Alto Saxophone
    by saxquest on February 25, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    We are beyond excited about the brand new Selmer Paris Supreme alto sax. Just announced February 25, 2021, it is the newest, top-end professional alto available from Selmer Paris. We’ve got 3 on the way which will be here, ready … Continue reading →

  • Practice Joy-Subconscious Symmetry
    by Craig Buhler on February 14, 2021 at 6:32 am

    How’s your practice routine feeling lately?  Are you practicing joy?  If you practice joy, your audience will hear joy in your performance, and that lively winsomeness in your playing will win you way more fans than all the chops in the world. Students ask what I mean by “practice joy.”  Of course, it goes without … Continue reading Practice Joy-Subconscious Symmetry →

  • So many horns, so little time…
    by saxquest on January 21, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    We’ve been busy the last couple days. Head over to the “What’s New” page and check out the 18 “gently used” and vintage instruments we’ve posted to our website in the last 2 days. We’ve got something for every budget … Continue reading →

  • Blues in Benny Carter’s Heart
    by Craig Buhler on January 16, 2021 at 6:51 am

    Benny Carter blessed us with an amazing solo on the 1938 recording of his composition “Blues in My Heart.”   The entire performance is miraculous, but one four-bar passage in particular knocked me out, prompting me to shed that phrase in all 12 keys.  Here’s the lick: Benny’s rhythmic vitality propels the piece, his melodic contour … Continue reading Blues in Benny Carter’s Heart →

  • Stan’s Stella Sequence
    by Craig Buhler on December 29, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Yesterday, I discovered a sequence in Stan Getz’s 1952 Clef recording of “Stella by Starlight,” (MGC 137). The three-by-three format unfolds as Stan finishes the bridge on his first chorus. Here it is: If you’ve studied “Stella,” you know that the final 8 bar section of the form contains the intriguing 6-bar harmonic sequence shown … Continue reading Stan’s Stella Sequence →

  • Big THANK YOU to all our customers!
    by saxquest on December 26, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    Our Expo this year, while different from years past, was a great success, and we’d like to thank everyone who came out to try some horns! It was fun meeting new faces and reconnecting to old friends. Though the Expo … Continue reading →

  • Listen and Learn
    by Craig Buhler on December 5, 2020 at 8:35 am

    If he’d survived, trumpeter Jack Sheldon would have turned 89 on November 30th, 2020. For one who never studied his recordings, it’s fascinating to watch a live video of his quintet in concert.  The five musicians play in perfect sync, like a well-oiled machine, and they swing like crazy.  Jack’s vocal style is instantly recognizable, … Continue reading Listen and Learn →

  • Band Bus Banter
    by Craig Buhler on November 14, 2020 at 7:11 am

    On the band bus one day, a buddy criticized me for playing too many descending lines. According to him, “Descending is negative; Ascending lines are much more uplifting.” Oh….really? Players constantly hear advice like that. Another commentator assured me, “Your phrase cannot EVER begin on the downbeat; It’s got to be asymmetric.” OK, you win, … Continue reading Band Bus Banter →

  • 2020 *SAFE* Saxquest Woodwind Instrument EXPO – Nov. 14 – Dec 24
    by saxquest on November 3, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    We are PUMPED to announce our 5th annual Saxquest Woodwind Instrument Expo. We’ve thought long and hard about how to pull off our grand EXPO event this year and keep everyone safe. At first the decision was made to just … Continue reading →

  • Ben Webster’s “Mellow Tone”
    by Craig Buhler on October 29, 2020 at 3:59 am

    While thinking about Ben Webster this morning, I began messing around with Duke’s tune “In a Mellow Tone.”  I was working on the ascending minor 6th leap and came up with this fun little exercise to develop fluency with that 6th skip.  Although this phrase sounds more like Duke’s tune “Do Nothin’ Til You Hear … Continue reading Ben Webster’s “Mellow Tone” →

  • Altoid Steroids
    by Craig Buhler on October 26, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Reading an amazing article last night about alto legends Hodges, Carter, Bird, Cannonball, Stitt, and Desmond, i got this uncontrollable urge to practice alto. That’s unusual, as i generally grab a tenor or clarinet for wood shedding, but alto just felt right last night. Well, it takes a while to warm up to the alto … Continue reading Altoid Steroids →

  • Trubute To Richie Cole
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on August 15, 2020 at 10:16 pm

    Richie Cole and I at the Selmer Week exhibition at Steinway Hall, NYC, 2011I only recently learned that alto saxophonist Richie Cole passed away on May 2nd at the age of 72.  He had apparently died in his sleep of a heart attack.  At the time of his death, he had relocated to Pittsburgh and had reset his career.  I had the pleasure of meeting Richie in 2011 when Selmer displayed their newest line of saxophones as well as the final incarnation of their Reference 54 “Bird” series saxophones.  I was trying out the various saxophones and Richie had introduced himself to me as I was playing random tunes on the dozens of saxophones that were on display.  A large number of other players and people in musical instrument sales were there as well, and Randy Jones of Tenor Madness was there and had set up a table for quick adjustments of the saxophones if needed. Richie had asked me which horns of all the horns I tried, which one I liked best.  He was just an all around nice guy, great sense of humor because we also joked about a lot of things, and of course, one hell of a great alto player.Cole was born in Trenton, New Jersey.  He began the saxophone at age 10 encouraged by his father who had owned two jazz clubs in New Jersey.  This gave him the opportunity to meet some of the greats in the music.  At 16 he attended a jazz camp being taught by the late great Phil Woods, who was a mentor to him.  He had won a scholarship from DownBeat magazine to attend the Berklee School of Music in Boston. Before finishing however, he had joined Buddy Rich’s Big Band, no small feat for such a young man since Buddy was known to be a perfectionist and tough task master.  After working with Lionel Hampton’s Big Band and Doc Severinsen’s Big Band, he formed his own quintet and toured worldwide, developing his own “alto madness” bebop style in the 1970s and early ’80s. He formed the Alto Madness Orchestra in the 1990s. Cole performed and recorded with Eddie Jefferson, Nancy Wilson, Tom Waits, The Manhattan Transfer, Hank Crawford, Freddie Hubbard, Eric Kloss, Bobby Enriquez, Phil Woods, Sonny Stitt, Art Pepper, and Boots Randolph.  It was his relationship with Eddie Jefferson which was his primary focus until it was ended by the singer’s murder in Detroit in May 1979, which Cole witnessed.  For Cole, Jefferson’s death touched off a long battle with alcoholism.  He spent much of the ’80s and early 1990s living a nomadic existence, stopping off for periods in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Chicago. In the late ’90s, he returned to the East Coast, where he formed a new seven-piece band, the Alto Madness Orchestra. Cole made his final move to Pittsburgh, where his daughter lived. He quickly became an advocate for the city’s jazz scene, working and recording with local musicians and supporting them tirelessly in his interviews and album notes. His first album for his self-formed label, Richie Cole Presents, was titled Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh version of his Alto Madness Orchestra accompanied Cole on all of his final six albums, the last of which was 2018’s Cannonball.Cole is survived by his two daughters, Annie Cole and Amanda (“Amy”) Marrazzo, and by four grandchildren: Ricky and Julian Barajas and Emily and Abby Marrazzo.Discography:As leaderTrenton Makes, the World Takes (Progressive, 1976)Starburst with Reuben Brown Trio (Adelphi, 1976)Battle of the Saxes with Eric Kloss (Muse, 1976)New York Afternoon with Eddie Jefferson (Muse, 1977)Alto Madness with Eddie Jefferson (Muse, 1978)Keeper of the Flame with Eddie Jefferson (Muse, 1979)Hollywood Madness with Eddie Jefferson, The Manhattan Transfer (Muse, 1979)Side by Side with Phil Woods (Muse, 1980)Cool ‘C’ (Muse, 1981)Tokyo Madness (Seven Seas/King [Japan], 1981)Alive! at the Village Vanguard (Muse, 1981)Return to Alto Acres with Art Pepper (Palo Alto, 1982)The Wildman Meets the Madman with Bobby Enriquez (GNP Crescendo, 1982)Yakety Madness! with Boots Randolph (Palo Alto, 1983)Alto Annie’s Theme (Palo Alto, 1983)Some Things Speak For Themselves (Muse, 1983)Bossa Nova Eyes (Palo Alto, 1985)Pure Imagination (Concord Jazz, 1986)Popbop (Milestone, 1987)Signature (Milestone, 1988)Bossa International with Hank Crawford (Milestone, 1990)Profile (Heads Up, 1993)Kush: The Music of Dizzy Gillespie (Heads Up, 1996)West Side Story (Venus [Japan], MusicMasters, 1996)Trenton Style (Jazz Excursion, 1998)Pure Madness (32 Jazz, 1999) compilationCome Sunday: My Kind Of Religion (Jazz Excursion, 2000)A Tribute to Our Buddies (Fresh Sound, 2004)Back on Top (Jazz Excursion, 2005)A Piece of History (Jazz Excursion, 2006)Rise’s Rose Garden (Jazz Excursion, 2006)The Man with the Horn (Jazz Excursion, 2007)Live at KUVO 2/11/08 (Jazz Excursion, 2008)Bebop Express (Jazz Excursion, 2008)The KUVO Sessions, Volume 2 (Jazz Excursion, 2009)Castle Bop with Emil Viklicky (Multisonic, 2011)Vocal Madness with Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet (House Cat, 2014)Breakup Madness (Akashic, 2014)Mile Hi Madness (Akashic, 2015)Pittsburgh (Richie Cole Presents, 2015)Plays Ballads and Love Songs (Richie Cole Presents, 2016)Have Yourself an Alto Madness Christmas (Richie Cole Presents, 2016)The Many Minds of Richie Cole (Richie Cole Presents, 2017)[5][6][7]Latin Lover (Richie Cole Presents, 2017)Cannonball (Richie Cole Presents, 2018)The Keys of Cool with Tony Monaco (Richie Cole Presents, 2019)As sidemanWith Greg AbateDr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (Candid, 1995)With Les DeMerleYou’re the Bop! A Jazz Portrait of Cole Porter (Summit, 2001)With Allan HarrisThe Genius of Eddie Jefferson (Resilience Music Alliance, 2018)With Jim HolmanExplosion! (Delmark, 2012)With Freddie HubbardBack to Birdland (Real Time, 1982; Drive Archive, 1994; West Wind, 2002)With Eddie JeffersonStill on the Planet (Muse, 1976)The Main Man (Inner CIty 1977)The Live-Liest (Muse 1979)Vocal Ease (32 Records, 1999; Savoy, 2003)With Vic JurisRoadsong (Muse, 1978)With Peter LaufferKeys to the Heart (Peter Lauffer/CD Baby, 2010)With The Manhattan TransferExtensions (Atlantic, 1979)Mecca for Moderns (Atlantic, 1981)Vocalese (Atlantic, 1985)With Karen MarguthA Way With Words (Wayfae Music/CD Baby, 2013)With Mark MurphyBop For Kerouac (Muse, 1981)With Oliver NelsonSwiss Suite (Flying Dutchman/RCA, 1971)With Anita O’DayBig Band at Carnegie Hall (Emily, 2009)With Don PattersonMovin’ Up! (Muse, 1977)With Buddy RichKeep the Customer Satisfied (Liberty 1970)With Red RodneyHome Free (Muse, 1977 [1979])Red, White and Blues (Muse, 1978)The 3R’s (Muse, 1979 [1982]) with Ricky FordWith Janine SantanaSoft as Granite (Janine Santana/CD Baby, 2008)With Sigmund Snopek IIIVirginia Woolf (Gear Fab, 2000)With Sonny StittJust in Case You Forgot How Bad He Really Was [live; rec. 1981] (32 Jazz, 1998)With James Van BurenLive at the Kasbah (Van Buren Records and Tapes/CD Baby, 2003)With Patrice VillastrigoGolden Orchid (Skinny Llama/CD Baby, 2010)DVDsFrom Village Vanguard [includes both the Johnny Griffin Quartet and the Richie Cole Group (a quintet) in two separate sets/performances; recorded 1981] (2004)Eddie Jefferson in Concert Featuring Richie Cole: Live from the Jazz Showcase Recorded at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago on May 6, 1979 (50 minutes)Jazz Legends Live! – part 9 of 13 in this series, starring Dexter Gordon, Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Ahmad Jamal, Carmen McRae, and Richie Cole (1 song – “Confirmation” – 4 minutes)Cool Summer [includes both the Stan Getz Quartet and Alto Madness (Richie’s quintet with Bobby Enriquez) in two separate sets/performances at the Paul Masson Winery in California as part of the “Harvest Jazz” TV series; recorded 1981]

  • I Got Dem COVID-19 Lockdown Blues
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on August 14, 2020 at 12:24 am

    This past year I had to deal with more health problems but finally two weeks before Christmas I finally had surgery that fixed the problem that had been plaguing me for the last few years.  I was quick on the road to recovery and ready to get back out there and play again and visit the music retail and repair shops to try out more instruments to review and recommend when the world changed seemingly overnight.  As this is not a scientific or medical blog, so I won’t go into things that I am not qualified to write about as far as that goes.  I may however get a little political here because it is that apsect of this whole lockdown that is effecting every musician, music student, club owner, concert promoter, theater managers, and music patrons, etc.This “pandemic” put an abrupt halt to just about all the musical activity in the country, as well as the world.  Working musicians have found all their gigs, present and future cancelled with no indication of when they can begin to play again.  Music teachers had to cancel lessons,  schools shut down so music studies or activities shut down with them.  The only bright spot for students is that it’s possible to have music instruction live online via Skype for example.  There are also plenty of online resources for music lessons and information.  I find it a little ironic that as soon as I took care of my health problem and was ready to get back into action that other people were getting sick and I was finally feeling the best in years, and still do.  The lockdown here however was pretty severe, and for a while most stores were closed, and just a couple of markets were open and you had to stand on long lines and also find you couldn’t always get what you needed because they were out.  The toilet paper run was one of the most absurd things that people did. In New York City, as well as in many other cities, things got worse when riots broke out and businesses were looted, burned and destroyed, and it’s still happening in these cities.  This is the nail in the coffin of any city not just economically, but socially as well.  In New York City alone, many businesses not looted or burned still went out of business because they no longer had money left to operate. As businesses here start to re-open, they are facing obstacles from a political front as the mayor and the governor, whose names I won’t mention because I despise them and they are not worthy of mention, are fining and revoking the licenses of establishments that have “violated” their rather arbitrary and not well defined rules.  Add to that, there has been no guidance from the state as to when things can get back to normal.  They keep moving the goal posts.  Some places have already closed permanently, and others will likely close soon because they can’t sustain their business under the circumstances.On the musician side of things, I know a few players who are getting back to the odd gigs, playing under limited conditions, but at least they’re getting back into it even if it’s a little bit.  Some players I know are doing podcasts and other online programs to keep active and to keep their name and their music out there.  Some have re-opened their repair shops and see clients by appointment and have expanded their online mail order businesses.  Then there are players who have started doing online lessons via Skype or other online sites. One of my old teachers Tim Price, a top player, has been doing Skype lessons for 22 years, and if you need lessons and can’t see a teacher personally, or there is no one available where you live and you are serious about wanting to learn from a genuine pro, I highly recommend him.  You can inquire at:Timpricejazz @aol.comIf you are serious about learning and playing, he is the man to learn from, and as long as you have an internet connection, it doesn’t matter where you are.  If you are needing information about saxophones as well as buying saxophones and saxophone accessories, music, etc., I recommend the following:Saxophone sales, service and repair:https://www.jlwoodwindrepair.com/https://www.robertoswinds.com/https://www.nationofmusic.com/https://www.saxquest.com/https://www.sax.co.uk/https://worldwidesax.com/https://www.usahorn.net/https://www.wood-stone.jp/Saxophone music:http://www.jazzbooks.com/jazz/category/saxboohttps://www.jazzimprovisation.com/our-products/jamey-aebersold-content.htmlhttps://www.sheetmusicplus.com/instruments/saxophone-sheet-music/900077?d=sem_msn_Woodwinds_saxophone_music_books&utm_Woodwinds=saxophone&mkwid=pj5qHTKwQ|pcrid|647213549&kw=saxophone%20music%20books&msclkid=e3c30385b9b9198b5a225cb069e44964&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Woodwinds&utm_term=saxophone%20music%20books&utm_content=Saxophonehttps://shop.schmittmusic.com/sheet-music-books/saxophone/https://www.musicroom.com/productlist/Saxophone+Sheet+Music+And+Songbooks/Saxophone-Sheet-Music-Songbooks.aspxSaxophone Manufacturers:https://www.conn-selmer.com/en-us/instruments/band-instruments/saxophoneshttps://www.buffet-crampon.com/en/instruments/saxophones/https://www.julius-keilwerth.com/enhttp://www.pmauriatmusic.com/https://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical_instruments/winds/saxophones/http://www.cannonballmusic.com/http://www.chateaumusicusa.com/https://www.antiguawinds.com/http://lcsax.com/https://sahduoo.com/https://www.gtsax.com/https://theowanne.com/https://jodyjazz.com/These links should keep you busy.  No reason to let a lockdown or limited movement keep you from pursuing your musical goals.  I will continue to write more articles now that I am back in action I hope soon to find a way to arrange to try out new models of saxophones and revisit previous models to see how they’ve held up over the years.  I will also keep looking for what I consider the best saxophones that fit whatever your budget allows.  I still believe that a beginner needs not just good guidance on how to play, but that they can play on something that will not fight them but instead allow them to develop their musical skills, talent and ideas.  Of course, I will also continue to write about my opinions on various subjects, keeping in mind that they’re just opinions.  Until next time, here’s hoping that you are all coping with this pandemic and lockdown as best you can!

  • How Sonny Rollins Practices
    by Craig Buhler on August 5, 2020 at 8:17 am

    How has the quarantine impacted your chops?  This no-gigs lock down has been absolutely disastrous for many working musicians financially.  But our chops don’t have to take the same hit our wallets are taking, if we’ll explore innovative approaches to practicing. My practice strategy is similar to what Sonny Rollins described when asked how he … Continue reading How Sonny Rollins Practices →

  • Saxquest is open (in a limited capacity)
    by saxquest on July 3, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Just wanting to update everyone on how we’ve been doing. We’ve had a great positive response to our playtest-by-appointment scheduling. Our customers have been very patient and have been great working with us on getting you in where we have … Continue reading →

  • Are You Discouraged?
    by Craig Buhler on May 26, 2020 at 7:58 am

    A song of hope and encouragement for these tumultuous and uncertain times: https://youtu.be/C1hy52uVP0s  

  • Saxquest is getting ready to (safely) re-open
    by saxquest on May 7, 2020 at 8:23 pm

    We hope that you have been able to stay healthy and sane over the past two months of shut-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. St Louis has begun lifting restrictions and reopening the city as of May 18. We are … Continue reading →

  • Is it time to get that instrument properly repaired?
    by saxquest on April 16, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    Got a few leaking pads or clicky keys? Did you bump your horn and it has nice big dent you’d like removed? Is your horn being held together with spit and tape? Have you been putting off repair work because … Continue reading →

  • Everyone stay safe!
    by saxquest on March 16, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    I hope everyone is dealing as best they can with our new shared reality. For now, Saxquest will remain open and with normal store hours, but we are taking several precautions, some of which will affect our in-store customers. Unfortunately … Continue reading →

  • Happy New Year!
    by saxquest on December 31, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    We’re hoping all our musician friends have a safe and fun night on New Years Eve, and success in 2020. Looking ahead to next year, we’ll be busy in January with traveling to JEN and MMEA. We’ve got exciting stuff … Continue reading →

  • Saxquest Presents JALEEL SHAW Solo Clinic Saturday Dec 21 at 2pm
    by saxquest on December 5, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Please join us for a solo clinic with the extremely talented Jaleel Shaw on December 21, 2019 at 2pm. This event is free and open to the public. We hope to see you there! Alto & Soprano saxophonist and bandleader, … Continue reading →

  • Review: Yamaha YAS-280 Alto and YTS-280 Tenor Saxophones Europe/Japan
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 25, 2019 at 12:37 am

    YAS-280 Alto SaxophoneYTS-280 Tenor SaxophoneI have been out of circulation for a while as I have been spending time regaining my health and fitness, and fortunately, I am feeling better than I have in years, and so as a result, getting back out more and can now once again play music and trying out new and old horns to review here.By now it is established that Yamaha raised the bar on student saxophones with the 23 series.  They were the best by virtue of their focused sound, the solid build quality, and while more expensive than other student horns, also had the best resale value of them all.  The higher price tag was justified by it’s reliability and its durability along with its resale value. It was followed by the 26 series, which kept up all the virtues of the 23 series, with some improvements, but otherwise was much the same, which is a good thing.  When I learned that Yamaha had updated their student line in Europe and Japan into the 280 series, I was excited to see and play them, but disappointed that it was only for Europe and Japan.  However my old friend and repair tech who travels frequently to Japan always manages to find something that cannot be found here, and then ships them by freight from there to his home to become part of his private sax collection.  He literally has a basement that is filled with horns, some one of a kind prototypes.  Anyway, he always tells me that I am welcome to visit and play his horns. So last week I called and asked him if by chance he had the 280, and sure enough he had both the alto and tenor.  He told me they were great horns and I should try them.  I brought my two mouthpieces, a Meyer 6M with Jean Louis ligature and a Legere Signature 2.5 reed for the alto, and a Jody Jazz Red with Rovner Dark ligature and also a Legere 2.5 reed for the tenor.Before I begin, I just like to reitrate that my reviews as always are devoid of a lot of technical details, especially when the majority of my audience are hobbyists and beginners, and I don’t like to confuse them with all these details since their main interest is deciding on what saxophone to buy, its general qualityand how much they would have to pay.  The same for working musicians or semi-professionals who are good players, but still are on a budget while still needing a good, reliable instrument to make their living or extra income with.  WHAT IS THE SAME, WHAT IS DIFFERENTThe first thing that is the same as in previous incarnations of this line is the build quality.  There can be no question that Yamaha has always from top to bottom built them with the highest quality of craftsmanship and materials and that all of their saxophones will provide many years of reliable music making.  The keywork, as always along with all the higher end saxophones in my opinion was always the best in the business.  One thing I always found with all Yamaha saxophones is that the keys always responded to the touch with speed and accuracy, and when you pressed that key with whatever amount of pressure you put on it, was solid and snapped into place.  The 280 also has the same bell keyguard that is one piece that covers low B to low C on the alto. What is different?  Previous versions used nickel silver for the keys and key guards and octave key.  The yellow brass had a clear lacquer applied to it.  This time all the parts are yellow brass, and the horn now has a gold lacquer finish and looking like a professional horn.  The only giveaway that it’s not is the lack of engraving on it.  The other big difference is the inclusion of a high F# key, which was absent on previous versions.  This was a little puzzling to me as cheaper student horns not as good as a Yamaha all had those keys, so this is an important addition.  Aside from the higher cost of the 23’s and 26’s, I am sure one of the things that may have swayed some to not get them was the lack of this key.  So now Yamaha allows the student to play a wider range than before like any professional horn.  What is also new is that they now offer both alto and tenor models with silver plate.  As far as I know, there is no other student saxophone with this option.  THE PROOF IS IN THE PLAYINGHaving played many 23’s and a fair number of 26’s over the years, I expected this incarnation to have the same bright but focused tone and the same solid keywork as is typical of Yamaha saxophones in general.  As I said before, I believe from experience that Yamaha’s keywork is the best in the business.  First, I picked up the alto.  Just the feel of the keys before I even blew my first note told me that it was going to be responsive and quick.  I warmed up playing long tones chromatically, then do a ballad, my favorite always being My One and Only Love and a slow blues.  I always prefer hearing tonal characteristics first, whereas so many players immediately play fast scales up and down, play altissimo notes until my ears ring and split and never really spend the time to hear the more subtle aspects of the horn.  I was truly blown away by what I was hearing.  Yamaha states in their catalog that these horns have a bright tone, and in a way they do, but this had a tonal richness and depth I never recall in the 23’s and 26’s.  The low notes down to Bb spoke easily, and for a student is one of the more difficult aspects of playing to get right.  Then I did some quick playing of various scales and chord sequences and true to form, keys snapped in place and the response was sure and intonation on target.  No flubbed notes because of loose keywork.  I even played one of my favorite classical pieces for the sax, The Old Castle from Pictures At An Exhibition by Mussorgsky, and even though I was using a Meyer with a synthetic reed, still got that smooth classical tone from it.  I switched to the tenor and again, great keywork, great mechanics, great tone. Again, when I played the tenor part to Ravel’s Bolero, even with a jazz mouthpiece, still got a smooth classical tone from it.  Here are student horns that have a versatility along with a quality that really no other saxophone in their class can match.  Here is another thing that makes these saxophones really stand out.  Since these saxophones are made with the usual Yamaha build quality, reliability and durability as they always have, but now their appearance, their improved keywork with the addition of the F# key, as well as their tone,  can also be used by professionals as a back up horn, and even as their main horn, they are that good.  As for the students, they can now have a sax that can take them from their first baby steps to even a professional level if they go that far, without having to invest in a more expensive horn later if they choose.  BOTTOM LINEWith the 280 series, Yamaha has raised the bar on student saxophones head and shoulders above the rest of the field.  While they are more expensive than other student horns, the advantages are again, build quality, reliability and durability and the best resale value of any student saxophone.  Also, as I said before, these saxophones are also very capable of being played professionally as well.  I rate this as not just a great saxophone on its own, but hands down the best student saxophone, period!For more information I include the link to a PDF of their European/Japanese catalog.  It’s too bad that it’s not available in the US, but then many of my readers live in countries where this model is available, so if you have a chance, you need to check them out.  As for my readers in the US and Canada, if this model interests you, you can go to Sax Co. UK and they ship internationally.https://usa.yamaha.com/files/download/brochure/7/1152257/W252R3_saxophones_eu.pdfhttps://www.sax.co.uk/

  • Selmer Announces Significant Price Reductions
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 7, 2019 at 12:18 am

    Selmer Conn has recently announced significant price reductions on several Selmer Paris models.  It seems that they finally realized that they were pricing themselves out of the market.  The majority of saxophone players, as well as all other musicians on all instruments are mostly semi-professional, students or hobby players.  The saxophone market is very tight, and with all the top quality saxophones on the market at significantly lower prices, it is a wise move on their part, giving them the chance to reconnect with players who always wanted a Selmer but could never afford one.  For more information, visit the Conn Selmer websitehttps://www.conn-selmer.com/en-us/instruments/band-instruments/saxophonesHere is a short video about ithttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd4xk0cVAvU

  • Happy New Year!!
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on January 2, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    I have been away for a while dealing with personal family issues and planning a move out of country.  I want to wish all my readers the happiest for the new year and hope that all your dreams are realized.  I will be preparing some more articles for the future once I can resolve some of my more pressing personal issues.  Thank you everyone who have found this blog helpful and informative and I will try and be back soon  Thanks to all of you for your support.

  • Happy Valentine’s Day!
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 14, 2018 at 8:05 pm
  • Trolls
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 9, 2018 at 8:22 pm

    Yesterday I was reviewing the various comments I received over the last 10 months.  All but one were positive or helpful.  I came across one however that was obviously from some frustrated troll, possibly even a bratty 14 year old who sits in front of his computer when he isn’t falling asleep in school.  I stated on the very first post I made when I began this blog,  that I would welcome any positive criticisms, or stand corrected if I make an error in regard to the facts.  I always try to do the best research I can, but from time to time I can miss something.  However, I will delete any comment that flames me personally or anyone else who makes a comment.  I review my comments before publishing them and delete the flamers and trolls.  I don’t get them very much, but I don’t stand for them.I deleted the comment from this troll, but now I wished I published it just so I could answer this person.  I hope you’re reading this.  I would love to see your next comment.  The comment read “I see you didn’t even put your name on this blog.  Why should I or anyone give a f–k about what you have to say?  What have you done musically?”  There was a little more drivel, but I forgot it.  Then he signed it as anonymous.  There it is.  He comments that I don’t put my name on the blog, but he remains anonymous because he’s just a troll.So my answer to him, and to anyone who may echo his sentiments:  You don’t have to give a f–k about what I say, any more than I give one about what you say.  What have I done musically?  More than you for sure.  Am I famous?  No. Have I tried to pass myself off as a great musician?  No.  What I have done musically is that I started the saxophone when I was 11, my father giving me my first lessons.  I left it for a while when I and everyone else got caught up in Beatlemania and took up guitars.  By 1970, I came out of that trance and returned to the saxophone. Over the years, in order to improve my playing, I took lessons from working pros like Kirk Feather and Frank Vicari, and from top players like Tim Price and Lee Konitz.  I also mentored a few years with Benny Carter, my idol.  I have played in local groups, nothing big time.  My musical preferences are blues and swing music.  I especially like slow blues and ballads where I can really allow the horn to sing.  This is why players like Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, and Paul Desmond are among my favorites, as well as Pete Brown, Marshall Royal and Cannonball Adderley, and Ben Webster and Lester Young on tenor. I worked in music retail for a number of years, managing the woodwind dept. of a large music store.  The best part of my job was getting young people interested and started in music and learning the saxophone.  Although I made my money in selling instruments and accessories, my main goal was to make sure that the customer got the best at what they could afford.  I noticed how many families were strapped for money but wanted their kid to play music or something positive instead of getting mixed up with a bad crowd.  As dept. manager, this gave me the opportunity to look at and try alternatives to the saxophones we were selling.  Our student level horns were cheap in price for sure, affordable to these parents, but were just badly made instruments.  The pro level horns were just too steep for them.  So I spoke to sales reps and received many samples of saxophones that were slightly higher in price to the student horns we had, but much better horns in sound and build quality.  Then I sought the pro level horns that were of a high build quality but were at least half of what the top 4 brands cost.  Top 4 being Selmer, Yamaha, Yanigasawa and Keilwerth.  I tried all the horns I could, so I knew which horns I would recommend and which to avoid,When I do a review, I get absolutely nothing from the manufacturers for any positive reviews.  I have met Jerome Selmer twice, I am friends with Alex Hsieh of P. Mauriat, Vice President of the Buffet Group, Francois Kloc as well as the staff of the Buffet Showroom in New York. I know some of the best repair techs in New York City and Boston, and also correspond with others in different cities and countries.  In all this, I get absolutely nothing, both financially or in free instruments or services.  I don’t know of any manufacturer’s who give away any of their instruments, even to endorsers.  That’s not how it’s done, and those who believe it is know nothing.  Believe me, given my limited income these days, I would love to receive a free instrument or services, but that is not reality.  Regardless what some of you critics think, these companies and people have enough integrity and belief in their product not to have to have a favorable review paid for with some kind of bribe, least of all from someone who is not in the big time.I have been accused by a few for “being on the payroll” of a particular company because I gave a rave review of the instrument.  One example was when I did a review of 5 Phil Barone saxophones.  The two people who made negative comments assumed I raved about them because I was being paid to do so.  No, I normally rave about an instrument if it 1) is of good build quality and plays and sounds good 2) is at a price point that makes it affordable for beginners, intermediate, amateur and working professionals on a budget.  It just so happened that the Phil Barone horns I played were all of a good quality and played and sounded great.  They had an unbelievable price point for a horn of their quality.  I do not know Phil Barone personally, never met him, never spoke to him on the phone, and never received a reply to the one email I sent him.  Maybe the two comments were based on negative experiences or opinions about Phil Barone.  I was not reviewing the man, just the saxes, and they were what I said they were as far as I was concerned. I started this blog because I love the saxophone. Since it is MY blog, I will write my opinions about things.  No one else needs to agree with them, and my opinions are not more correct than your opinions.  Of course, when it comes to actual facts, that’s a different story.  Facts are facts.  Of course, sometimes I do get some things wrong, perhaps an error in my source material, but then there’s always someone out there who corrects it.  I always appreciate it when they do, and usually, those that do also do so respectfully.  If you want to flame me, then so long sucker.The blog is my labor of love for an instrument I love.  It is not the be all and end all of saxophone blogs, just my contribution to the saxophone world.  I am pleased that I have literally hundreds and thousands of readers throughout the world, and that very often, a reference to this blog can be found on the first page of many Google searches. So to my troll.  That’s what I’ve done musically.  What the f–k have you done?

  • Hello Friends, I Am Back Again
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 9, 2018 at 12:25 am

    It’s been a long time friends, and I am back to say that I will be posting more articles soon. I have taken care of various health issues, as well as getting a new computer, so I am getting back into the game.  To all of you who have read my articles and have followed me, I want to say thank you for your support. Look out for upcoming articles.

  • PlayWind by Buffet Crampon
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on March 16, 2017 at 7:49 pm

    A new resource for saxophone students, as well as other wind players is the PlayWind Website and App by Buffet Crampon.  You can get lessons and pointers that range from beginners to advanced, and it’s all FREE!  You can also download the app to your phone or tablet so you can take them anywhere.  Here’s the link to the website.http://www.playwind.com/Along with other free sites that teach saxophone this is a welcome addition, and so anyone can learn saxophone even if you don’t have any qualified teachers where you live. 

  • Legere Signature Reeds: A Review
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on March 14, 2017 at 1:54 am

    Back when I was still working in music retail, one of the perks of the job was getting samples of new saxophone accessories from the sales reps that came into the store, usually because the reps wanted me and the other employees to assess the merchandise and provide feedback on what we thought of the product.  One day the sales rep from Legere Reeds was in the store and offered me a sample of their new Signature reed, which wasn’t yet released on the market but was about to be. In the past, I had tried various other synthetic reeds, at first, because I didn’t want to wear out my good reeds from extended practicing, and also because I wanted to find a synthetic reed that was more consistent than cane and yet still had a warm center to the tone and would last longer than cane.  The very first synthetic reed I tried was a BARI.  Next was Fibracell, then Fiberreed, and even Rico Plasticover, which is a cane reed with, as the name implies, a plastic coating.  However, I found that it wore out as fast as a regular reed, and the other thing I didn’t like was that the coating would flake off.  I didn’t like the idea of ingesting plastic flakes.  I finally tried Legere reeds, and while I did like them, I found them better for keeping for practice so I could save my cane reeds for playing.  I still was looking for a synthetic reed that could still give me the tone I got from cane and could play at a gig but wouldn’t wear out quickly. I normally play a 2.5 reed with my Meyer 6M mouthpiece, but I found that with the other synthetic reeds, the strength indicated on the reeds were not matching with the equivalent cane reed.  For cane, I used either a Vandoren 2.5 Java reed green box, or LaVoz medium.  With LaVoz, I found the medium would fall within the 2.5 to 3 range.  I like a softer reed, but not too soft, for a good combination of a warm tone and flexibility.  Most of what I play is retro, mostly big band swing and standards.  When I play big band, my tone shows a Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges influence.  When I do a small groups like a quartet, I tend to have a more Paul Desmond influence.  So I wanted a synthetic reed that could get the kind of warm tones these players did, and so far none of the synthetic reeds I had tried gave me that.So, on the day the sales rep from Legere offered me a sample of their new Signature reed, I didn’t hesitate to take one.  I took a 2.5, because he assured me that they matched in strength to cane.  I wasn’t going to take his word for it so I immediately put it on my mouthpiece and grabbed a P. Mauriat 67R alto off the wall and strapped it on, put the mouthpiece on and started playing.  Well, I was really happy with what was coming out the horn.  The sound was warm, but a tad brighter than the cane reeds I used, but that was a good thing in this case, because it wasn’t thinner tone, but more like a cleaned up tone.  I still had the darkness I like, but without the muddiness.  To be sure, I also tried it on other brands of horns; a Yamaha EX-875, a Buffet 400, a Selmer Series II and III, and Reference 54, a Cannonball Brute.  It played equally well and with clarity of tone on all the horns.  I was really happy with this, and this reed became my preferred reed for practice and gigging.  The tone was consistent and the reed allowed me to be flexible with it, none of the stiffness I found with the other reeds.  Altissimo was easy, and I could play softly with warm subtones, or push it without the harsh edginess I would hear in the other reeds.This was in 2010, and I didn’t have to replace the reed until two years later, and since then, have only had to buy a total of 4 reeds.  Three that I played consistently and one that I always keep in reserve just in case.  If you’re a player that has also been looking for a synthetic reed that is consistent in tone but is flexible enough to adapt to your particular sound and style, this is the reed I highly recommend. http://www.legere.com/saxophone-reeds

  • The Evolution Of Saxophone Doubling
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on December 13, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Still dealing with various personal and financial issues right now so I am not finding the time for writing my own articles or going out and play testing different saxophones.  However, I did come upon this article and it is very informative, so I thought I would share it with all of you.http://www.local802afm.org/2016/12/the-evolution-of-doubling/

  • Setting Something Straight
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on November 27, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    I have been dealing with some health issues lately and so haven’t been playing or looking at any new or vintage horns lately.  However, not too long ago, someone commented on a review that I did for the Phil Barone Saxophones “I was looking for a serious review of these horns. Sounds like you got one free or are best friends with Phil. Too bad. I just want an honest hard review.”I’ve stated this before, and I will say it again.  I have played the saxophone for most of my life.  I have worked in music retail, have learned a lot of information from my trusted old tech and the other techs I come into contact with.  I look up information on saxophones all the time.  I write the various manufacturers building horns today, and I research all the information I can about vintage horns.  That goes with what I had already learned from my father and other players when I was young.While I hardly consider myself a great player, I still love to play and the saxophone always will be my main instrument of choice.  I started this blog because I also enjoy discussing my favorite instrument, and the greats who have played and play them now.  I do not consider myself an “expert”, especially because I am not a technician, and only know how to do the most basic adjustments to the horn.  However, I still have done my research, and when I write something, I try to make sure my facts are straight.When it comes to reviewing a saxophone, one thing really needs to be made clear.  I do not ever receive any free instruments or products.  All of my reviews are based on my having handled them and playing them.  There are other reviews on the web where they get into a detailed discussions about mechanics, how it performed when they played this scale and this key, how their mouthpiece affected its sound, etc.  All of the saxophones I’ve played for review were either in the shop when I worked in music retail, or belonged to friends of mine who allowed me to try out their saxophones. My reviews are based on a very simple criteria.   The first consideration is always the sound.  Then there is build quality.  Is it solidly put together, are keys and posts properly aligned and nothing loose or rattling because of poor workmanship or QC, are there solder blobs visible anywhere?  Is the lacquer evenly applied?  As far as mechanics go, how it plays is not only determined by its design and materials used, but in a large part to how a technician, both at the factory and in a private shop, adjusts and regulates the action.  I have always suggested that no matter how well a saxophone plays out of the box, it’s always a good idea to have tech go over it.  I found that even vintage saxophones, with their very different ergonomics play smoothly and in tune when a tech who knows what they’re doing has worked on them.When I do a review, I make it short and simple.  The fact is, most of my readers are not professionals, or are semi-professionals who hold day jobs and play their instruments on weekends at local bars or clubs, and the articles that get the most hits are the ones discussing beginner or intermediate saxophones, or pro saxophones on a budget.  The questions I get from them are usually in regard to what choices to make in buying their first or step up horn.  The choices today are greater than ever before, and it’s confusing for many novice players.  I try and help with these reviews, not confusing anyone with long technical details, but with getting right to the point about how the sax sounds, feels and responds.  I try to lead them to their best choices based on my own experience with these horns.  It’s the only way I know how.When I worked in music retail, I was able to play and evaluate saxophones from the top professional brands to the no name horns.  Most of my readers are not professionals, and most of them cannot afford 6 grand or more for a saxophone, yet still want a quality instrument.  There is no question that if you buy a Selmer, Yamaha, Keilwerth or Yanigasawa, you’re getting a top quality instrument, and also no question that in most cases, you’re going to spend a small fortune on it.  Other brands have come out that can now offer professional level sound and build quality at a fraction of the price of the Big 4.  Yamaha and Selmer are also building instruments catering to the beginner and experienced student, so this is a very important part of the market.Again, when I find saxophones that are of a professional build quality and sound, but are comparably cheaper than a more famous name, I will rave about it.  I get nothing for it from the manufacturers.  Nothing.Anyway, once I resolve, if I can, any of my health issues, then I will get back to going out and looking at and playing more saxophones and then posting my reviews here the same manner I always have.I’ll be back!!!

  • Happy Birthday Adolphe Sax
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on November 7, 2016 at 4:00 am

    This post will be brief today, but important to all saxophone players.  Today is the 202nd birthday of Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone.  I won’t bother to go into its history as it’s already well known, but I can’t let this day pass without acknowledging the man who created our favorite instrument.  Happy Birthday Adolphe!!  There must be one hell of a jam session going on where you are right now.Adolphe Sax’s statue in his hometown of Dinant, BelgiumChris Potter playing am original Adolphe Sax tenor, ca. 1859https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YOV0kZQIAo&feature=share

  • My Approved List Of Student Saxophones
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on September 20, 2016 at 6:52 am

    The summer is now over and I am back after taking some time off to enjoy some time away.  I hope everyone else had a good summer as well.  The most frequently asked questions I get from readers of my blog are usually from beginners wanting to know “if so and so or such and such saxophones are any good,  they were advertised on eBay or I saw one in my local music store and the price was right”, etc.  If you look through eBay’s listings, you’ll see a glut of saxophones with lots of different names, and very often, they don’t even give you a name, just advertise it as “gold lacquer alto, tenor saxophone”, etc., You look at the price, it looks good, and you may think, it’s cheap enough and it looks good in all the pictures, so I’ll get this for my kid or for myself because it’s good enough to learn on.  Most beginners really don’t know that much about saxophones when they’re starting out, and to see so many “names” and types being sold new and used all over the internet can be confusing.  This often leads to sometimes being ripped-off by a shady dealer, or in most cases buying an inferior instrument that is badly constructed, has shoddy keywork, simply won’t play in tune no matter what you do.  When a beginner’s parents or the beginner themselves buy that kind of horn, because it’s cheap and it’s “good enough to learn on”, they end up frustrated and think that they are not any good, not considering that it’s the saxophone itself that keeps the beginner from making any progress.Though I have written blog posts on beginning and intermediate before, I want to update and expand on it for beginners so that hopefully any questions that I have been and will be asked can be answered.  Hopefully, the information you get here will help you select the best saxophone for you to learn on.  When you are starting out, regardless of whether you are a child or adult, it’s important that you get all the information that you can and spend your money wisely, so that you can spend the rest of your time learning and making music.First, let me give you a run down on all the real name brands on the market.  Many of the questions I get are often “is “this” or “that” saxophone any good?”, and the fact is I never heard of it, because it’s either just another Chinese sax dumped on the market, or possibly a store or proprietary brand, meaning that a music store or perhaps a repair tech contracts a company, usually located in China or Taiwan, to make saxophones with their name stamped on it.  It’s a common practice which is also known as stenciling and has been done for many years.  I will get to these a little later in the article.I want to start out with brands that have earned a reputation for making fine quality saxophones, whether for the professional or the student.  Some of the brands listed are fairly new, but have already marketed saxophones that have earned a good reputation for quality and sound.  Others have been with us for a long time and have been so because of the fact that they have been consistently making saxophones of the highest quality.  All but two of the manufacturers I will list make a full line of saxophones from student to professional, and these are the brands you should always consider first before plunking down your hard-earned money.  Okay, here are the names you should know.Selmer: The most famous name in saxophones, and most famous for their professional saxophones, they also make, through their various subsidiaries, intermediate and student saxophones.  http://www.selmer.fr/ Conn: Conn was at one time one of the greatest names in saxophones, but after WWII, the fortunes of the company declined as well as their quality.  Eventually it came under the Selmer umbrella and is now known as Conn-Selmer, and they make a line of student level saxophones.http://www.conn-selmer.com/en-us/ Yamaha:  Yamaha makes some of the best saxophones in the world, student and professional, and the 23, which is now the 26, is probably the highest quality student saxophone on the market, as well as the best selling one.  http://usa.yamaha.com/products/musical-instruments/winds/sax/ Keilwerth: Keilwerth, based in Germany, has been making top quality professional saxophones for many years. They were recently acquired by the Buffet Group.http://www.julius-keilwerth.com/en Buffet: Although more famous for their clarinets, they have been building saxophones longer than any other manufacturer on this list.  They built their first saxophone only 20 years after Adolphe Sax invented it.  While their saxophones have never been as popular as Selmer or the other brands, they have always been of the highest quality, and it’s possible to get used Buffet saxophones like the Dynaction, Super Dynaction, S1 and Prestige saxophones, all high quality professional horns at a good price. http://www.buffet-crampon.com/en/ Yanigasawa:  Yanigasawa builds some of the best saxophones in the world today.  http://yanagisawasaxophones.com/ P. Mauriat:  A relative newcomer to this group, P. Mauriat, based in Taiwan, quickly became a major player with their line of quality professional saxophones, and their horns are being played by many top professionals.http://www.pmauriatmusic.com/ Antigua:  Based in Texas, their saxophones are made in Taiwan.  They were mostly known for making good quality student and semi-pro saxophones which were also widely used by high school and university bands, but with their ProOne model designed by Peter Ponzol, have entered the high end professional market. http://usa.antiguawinds.com/index.aspx Cannonball:  Based in Salt Lake City Utah, started by Tevis and Cheryl Lauket, their saxophones are made in Taiwan and they make a full range of high quality mostly professional saxophones, but also have a student line.http://www.cannonballmusic.com/  Chateau: The newest name on this list, their professional and semi-pro horns are already getting a lot of attention for their high quality, great sound and price point.  Made in Taiwan, their parent company Tenon, also makes Steve Goodson’s line of top quality professional saxophones. http://www.chateaumusicusa.com/ Jupiter:  Based in Taiwan, Jupiter acquired a good reputation for building good quality student and semi-pro saxophones, and have also entered the professional market.  Their saxophones were widely used by many high school and university bands.http://www.jupiter.info/en/saxophone-gesamtuebersicht/alt-gesamtuebersicht.htmlProprietary brands are instruments made by a manufacturers, usually in Taiwan or China, for a retail store, repair shop or mail order/internet dealers with either the dealer’s name or a “brand” name which is exclusive to that business.  Usually large retail stores will create a store brand in order to offer a cheaper option for students and players on a budget.  This works if the business in question has an on-site repair department that can adjust the horns before they go out, and also maintain them after they are purchased.  It’s important that the store or service you buy your saxophone from can back their instruments with a good return policy and warranty that covers repairs at least in the first few months.  If the store has repair facilities, even if you buy some cheap Chinese horn, at least they can service it.  If the shop doesn’t have facilities, and something goes wrong with it after the return period has expired, and you can be sure something will go wrong, and that bargain you bought won’t be such a bargain.  Before you buy, make sure of all these things before you lay down any money.  As far as buying from a private seller, you always take risks, as you have no guarantees and the horn may not even be in playing condition.  My advice is always buy from a reputable dealer with a repair department, unless you know this person really well. If you don’t, you will be losing, not saving money.  I would also stay away from eBay for buying a student horn, unless it’s being sold by a reputable dealer that will back it up. Now I will go into the brands and models of student instruments that I recommend.  If it’s not on this list, I never heard of it, and chances are neither has anyone else.  Just stay away from them no matter how attractive the price.I haven’t discussed renting an instrument because in most cases, rental instruments are no name, or older name brands that have never been properly taken care of, abused, and in general not very good shape.  Again, if you decide to go the rental route, just be sure that the place you rent it from has a repair department.  If the horn is not properly maintained, that will lead to the kind of frustration that can cause someone to quit.  My personal list of the best student saxophones Hands down, the top student saxophone is the Yamaha YAS and YTS 26.  It is also the priciest, but for good reason.  It is solidly built, and has the best resale value of any student horn.  You may eve be able to find used 23’s, the 26’s predecessor in good playing condition at a great price.  The 26 is also available as a tenor. Yamaha YAS-26If there is any drawback to this model, it’s a minor one.  It doesn’t come with a high F# key, where other student models do.  However, its solid construction and reliability negates that.The Cannonball Alcazar is a well made student saxophone that has the look of an intermediate horn.  It gas a high F# key and has a balanced toneCannonball AlcazarAntigua Winds began by offering a wide range of instruments for students and have been used by many high school and university bands.  Though they have graduated to building high quality professional saxophones, they still produce excellent entry level horns.  The AS and TS 3100 saxophones have a range up to F# and a well balanced tone.  Antigua AS3100Though Selmer is most famous for its high end professional saxophones, they offer several lines of student and intermediate saxophones.  The Prelude AS711 is a good beginner saxophone, having all the features of a Selmer saxophone.  Range to high F#, also available as a tenor. They also have a 400 and 500 student line, but I have found them to be rather flimsy.  The AS711 and the TS711 are much better choices.  I had a TS711 at one time, and after being properly adjusted by my tech, was used for some of my gigs where I needed a tenor.  It did the job just fine.  Selmer Prelude AS711You have already read my reviews of the Buffet 400, and I highly recommend them as an entry level pro model.  However, Buffet also has a good quality student model, the 100, available as alto and tenor.  It looks very similar to the 400, but less engraving, single arms on the lower keys instead of the double arms, and available only in gold lacquer.  Range up to high F#.  Buffet 100 Alto SaxJupiter began by marketing high quality student and intermediate saxophones that were widely used by high school and university bands long before they entered the pro market.  The JAS 1100 alto and the JTL 1100 tenor are their student saxophones, and are worthy of consideration.  Jupiter JAS 1100 Alto SaxThe P. Mauriat PMSA-57GC alto saxophone is listed on their website as an intermediate step up horn, but its price point is below that of a Yamaha 26, which makes it worth considering.   P. Mauriat PMSA-57GC Alto SaxChateau is the newest kid on the block, but already their professional and semi-pro saxophones are getting positive reviews.  Based in Taiwan, their parent company Tenon, also makes high end professional saxophones for Steve Goodson’s Saxgourmet line.  The Chateau VCH-222 is their student sax, and it is as solidly built as their professional saxophones.  The light rose brass finish indicates that it has a higher copper content, which gives the sax a richer more complex tone, and is unheard of for a student sax and at this price point.  It also makes a great back up horn for a professional. Chateau VCH-222 Alto Sax Keilwerth and Yanigasawa at this time are only making high end professional saxophones, and even used models command a high price.  However, sometimes a bargain is out there, so you should always be on the lookout.  When you go to the websites of the larger retail stores, you will often see their “specials”, store brand saxophones on sale as a more affordable option from the name brands.  However, the quality of these horns are always inconsistent and more often very questionable.  Jean Baptiste is the store brand for Sam Ash, and the consistency of quality of these saxophones vary from one horn to the next.  They are made in different factories in Asia, either China or Vietnam.  Their JB290AL saxophone however is a good beginner saxophone and is inexpensive as saxophones go.  The plus side, Sam Ash has a liberal return policy, warranties and repair shops to back the horns.  The down side, if you live near a Sam Ash it may not have an in house repair shop and they have to send the saxophones out to another store that does, and that always takes time.  If you order from the internet, you know the whole thing of having to pack it and ship either to return or repair it and it takes even more time. Regardless, it’s better than buying a saxophone that isn’t backed by anything.http://www.samash.com/saxophones/#beginIndex:0,currentPage:0You may not live near a music store and so you may have to rely on the internet.  Here are some online shops that you can look into, in the US and abroad.  This is a fairly comprehensive list of links, and I highly recommend doing some research, check prices and services, and even contact them and ask questions.  https://www.saxquest.com/http://www.wwbw.com/http://www.musiciansfriend.com/http://www.philbarone.com/http://www.rayburnmusic.com/  http://www.saxalley.com/http://www.wichitaband.com/http://www.prowinds.com/prowinds_web_2000/http://www.chucklevins.com/https://www.kesslerandsons.com/http://www.bandandorch.com/http://www.unionmusiccompany.com/http://www.internationalwoodwind.com/http://www.tenormadness.com/http://saxforte.com/http://www.davewilsonmusic.org/http://www.pmwoodwind.com/http://www.dominicsmusic.com/http://www.sax.co.uk/http://www.saxophoneheaven.com/http://temby.com/http://amsterdamwinds.nl/http://www.saxesandmore.de/http://www.tomleemusic.com.hk/home.phphttp://www.luckymusic.co.th/http://www.wood-stone.jp/http://www.ishibashi.co.jp/u_box/e/eubox.php?or8=46&T=gazohttp://www.ikebe-gakki.com/tax-free/index.html  Many smaller mom and pop or local music stores will sell or rent cheap Chinese made saxophones for students.  However, be warned, if they do not have a repair shop on premises, when something goes wrong with the horn, you’re screwed, unless you already know a repair tech.  If you rent or buy the horn, it may not be in real playing condition and it can lead to frustration, where you may think it’s you, but it’s the instrument, and then quit before you give yourself a chance.  So always make sure the place you buy or rent from can back up the horn.So there is my list of approved saxophones for beginners.  Anything not on this list that you buy or rent you do so at your own risk.  Remember, it’s not a bargain if it can’t play in tune and is poorly constructed.

  • Benny Carter: An Appreciation
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on July 1, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    Very few musicians in the history of jazz have had such a long and varied career as did Lester Bennett “Benny” Carter.  He emerged during jazz’ early years, would become one of the triumvirate of big band alto sax stylists, the other two being Johnny Hodges and Willie Smith, wrote big band arrangements that would define the sound and instrumentation of the modern big band and would go on to be the elder statesman of jazz until his death in 2003 at the age of 96, a career spanning over 80 years.Benny Carter was born in New York City in 1907 in San Juan Hill, the area that is now Lincoln Square and Lincoln Center.  He received his first music lessons on piano from his mother when he was a boy.  His cousin was the well known jazz trumpeter Cuban Bennett, and from that his first instrument of choice would be the trumpet, an instrument that he played even after achieving his fame and reputation on the alto saxophone.  When he moved to Harlem, he lived down the street from Bubber Miley, Duke Ellington’s trumpeter at the time.  He eventually put down the trumpet and picked up the saxophone when he found he couldn’t play it as quickly as he wanted to.  He started out on the C-Melody saxophone, having been inspired by Frankie Trumbauer, famous for his association and recordings with the legendary Bix Beiderbecke.  He eventually switched to alto, and by the time he was 15, was already playing professionally with the likes of Rex Stewart, Earl Hines, Sidney Bechet, Willie “The Lion” Smith, Fats Waller and James P. Johnson.He made his first recordings in 1928 with Charlie Johnson’s Orchestra, formed his own band a year later, then went on to play with Fletcher Henderson in 1930-31, becoming the band’s chief arranger.  At this time he also led the Detroit based McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, then returned to New York in 1932 to start his own band.  This band would include legends like Leon “Chu” Berry, Sid Catlett, Dicky Wells and Teddy Wilson.  In fact, Benny’s bands would be the launching pad for many other jazz greats.  It was always said that if you made the cut in Benny’s band, you would make it anywhere.  Besides the aforementioned players, others who would get their start in a Benny Carter led band would be Dizzy Gillespie, who wrote Night In Tunisia while with Benny, Miles Davis, J.J. Johnson, Art Pepper, Max Roach, to name just a few.  In 1935, Benny Carter moved to Europe to record with Willie Lewis’ Orchestra and also became staff arranger for the BBC.  He would travel around Europe and play with the leading musicians in Scandinavia, Holland and France.  In Paris, he made some memorable recordings with Django Reinhardt and Coleman Hawkins, with two of the numbers, “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Crazy Rhythm” reprised in New York City with Hawkins on his classic recording “Further Definitions” in 1961.  After returning to the US prior to the outbreak of WWII, he moved to Los Angeles, and besides forming bands out there, also arranged and composed for Hollywood films.  He was also instrumental in integrating the music unions, enabling black players to receive the same scale.The musicians that Benny has played with and who have played for him is virtually the Who’s Who of the history of jazz.  The respect that he garnered from other musicians earned him the title of “The King”, and it was a well earned one.  Here are just some of the things that other greats have said about Benny Carter. “The problems of expressing the contributions that Benny Carter has made to popular music is so tremendous it completely fazes me, so extraordinary a musician is he” -Duke Ellington”You got Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and my man, The Earl of Hines, right?  Well, Benny’s right up there with all them cats. Everyone that knows who he is calls him “King”.  He is a king” -Louis Armstrong”Everybody ought to listen to Benny Carter.  He is a whole musical education” -Miles Davis”He can play as many notes as anyone, but he makes it all look so easy” -Cannonball AdderleyBenny Carter on himself:”In all honesty, I think I just played what I felt was right for me.  I think I would have done the same thing, even if I’d been born later, when Charlie Parker was influencing everybody. The truth is, I never gave it much thought.  I just played what I had to play.”Benny retired from performing in 1997, mainly because he felt that due to his declining health, he wouldn’t be able to maintain the high standards he set for himself.   On July 12, 2003, Benny Carter passed away, but left behind a musical legacy that is unmatched in the history of jazz. I first met Benny Carter in 1979, when he came to New York after resuming doing live performances after a long layoff.  He was my main influence on the saxophone, and when I had the chance to tell him so personally, he was humble and gracious about it.  After that, he would be in New York 2 to 3 times a year to perform, and I would be at every show.  Eventually, he would find the time to sit with me for an hour or two when he was in town, and as Miles Davis said, “he is a whole musical education”.  We didn’t have formal music lessons.  I only played for him once, and what I played was copped from his solo from “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set” on Further Definitions.  He smiled and said he liked my sound.  Hearing that really rendered me speechless.  Maybe he was just being kind, I don’t know, but in any case, the time spent with him will always be one of my fondest memories.Here is Benny Carter and Mel Martin discussing Benny Carter’s life in music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Xw0ltQlZZABenny Carter in actionhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69wHnbwv5WA https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q7B2aR6rDFc  

  • The Saxophone Corner On Facebook
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on April 21, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    For all of my regular readers, I also have a Saxophone Corner Facebook page.  Although it’s a closed group, I am extending an invitation to my readers to join the group.  As a member of the group, you are also free to post anything, from a discussion to a video or recording of anything that pertains to the saxophone.  You have a saxophone or mouthpiece to sell?  You can post it there as well.  This is a page for saxophones and saxophone players.  Just go to the following link, ask to be a member, and you’re in.https://www.facebook.com/groups/906747479378295/

  • Vintage Saxophone Restoration, Repair and Adjustment
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on April 21, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    My father, Erik Gailitis, playing a rare Conn 10M with microtuner neck in Germany, 1946.  Many musicians have argued that it’s a Keilwerth copy of a Conn, but my father only played Conns, and at that time, the European market for American saxophones was bigger than for Selmer or other European makers, so some rarer and more interesting models found their way overseas.There are a number of saxophone players, myself included, who have a fondness for vintage saxophones, particularly vintage American saxophones like Conn, Buescher, Martin and King.  Lately I’ve written articles on the virtues of modern horns, and why I now think they are better overall.  Yet, there is still something to be said for a vintage saxophone.  I could give you a blindfold test and most of the time you really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference tone-wise between an old horn and a new one.  Ergonomics and key action are superior on new horns, so that is why I’ve been advocating them.  Just the same, I still love playing my old Conn 6M,  there is just something about it that goes beyond mere nostalgia.  It is a well played instrument.  My father played it for years before me, and I’ve been playing it over 50 years, with a four year interruption in the 60’s.  The biggest complaint about vintage American horns or Selmer before the Balanced Action was introduced, is the ergonomics and key action.  Certainly the mechanics were simpler, with fewer posts, and the left hand pinky clusters on old horns used a direct downward pressure against a heavy spring as opposed to a pivoting motion like modern horns.  Also the placement of the keys were different.  However, I have found that when a vintage horn is restored, repaired or adjusted by a technician who loves and understands vintage saxophones, then even an old “clunky” horn will play smoothly, just as they did back in the days when they were new.  My tech makes the action of my old Conn as slick and fast as any modern horn I’ve played, and I’m used to the key layout, so there is no problem.If you’re one of those players that have fallen in love with a vintage horn, but are not thrilled with the key action or ergonomics, it is important that you take it to a technician who is experienced and loves working on old saxophones.  They will make all the difference in whether you love or hate your horn.  I don’t know too many technicians these days who really know how to adjust an old mechanism for a modern player and make it feel as smooth and light as a modern sax.  The purpose of this article is to recommend four that I know personally that will take your vintage horn and make it better, and then you won’t complain about the key action as you revel in the gorgeous sound of your old horn.In New York City, there are several that I would highly recommend.  If you live in or around New York City, or are planning to come here at some point and bring your vintage saxophone with you and find yourself needing an adjustment or repair, these are the people to see.  I won’t recommend one over another because they all do excellent work and it’s just a matter of contacting them, talking to them, and then seeing for yourself if you want to have your work done by them.  However, it’s my opinion that you won’t go wrong no matter who you choose.  John Leadbetter/JL Woodwind RepairJohn Leadbetter is the youngest and newest technician here.  He started out as an apprentice repairman at the Sam Ash Manhattan store when I was working in sales at the woodwind, brass and orchestral store.  I was in charge of maintaining the appearance of the saxophone dept., and one of my duties besides keeping the area neat and orderly, and the displays nicely arranged, was to always make sure the horns were “gig ready”, meaning in the correct state of repair so when they were sold, they could play right away.  That was also necessary because we often did short term rentals for Broadway musicians and classical concert musicians who needed a different instrument than their normal one for a particular gig.  Also, all the new and used horns that came into the store had to be adjusted before they could be put out, and if a customer was buying, the repair shop would go over it and make sure it was in playing order before they took it out of the shop.  There was a point after John began working there, that I began to notice that when a vintage horn, like an old Conn, Martin, Buescher or King would come down from the shop to be put on display, I would always play it first before putting it on the wall.  There were several repairmen in the shop, and they each worked on the horns.  However, there were always some vintage horns that looked and played better than the others.  It wasn’t the horn itself, as there were identical models that didn’t play as well.  Then there were those that played outstandingly.  I would take the horn upstairs and ask who worked on this.  For every vintage horn that looked and played better than the others, I found out it was John who was working on them.  Some of these horns required a complete overhaul, and John’s work was meticulous.  Before reassembling the horn, he would clean it and polish it, and would look as close as possible and sometimes exactly as the horn would look when it was brand new.  John worked there for a couple more years after I left, but then left to strike out on his own and open his own shop in the West Village of New York.  In the short time he’s been in business, he’s already gained a solid reputation as a skilled repairman.  He understands vintage horns, and all horns, and will do a great job making it play like new.  I know from playing the horns he’s worked on that when you get your horn back, it will be like butter.Here is the link to his website:http://www.jlwoodwindrepair.com/location.htmlPerry RitterPerry Ritter has been repairing woodwinds in New York City now for about 35 years now.  I know several players who have their woodwind instruments worked on by him, and they all swear by him.  Here is the link to his websitehttp://perryritter.com/Bill SingerBill Singer has been repairing saxophones in New York for over 40 years, and one of my friends and a great player, Ellery Eskelin, who only plays vintage tenors (he owns a Conn Gold Plated New Wonder, A Conn 10M, and a Beuscher Aristocrat) has his horns worked on by him.  Here is a video showing when Bill restored Ellery’s Buescher Aristocrat.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-Bes7A9n4MHere is the link to Bill Singer’s websitehttp://billsinger.com/Remember, if you have a vintage horn, the right technician can make the difference in whether it will play like it should, or play like an old clunker.

  • Review: Buffet 400 Baritone Gold Laquer Finish
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 21, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    Five years ago, when I was still working in music retail sales, a young man came into the store with his parents to buy a baritone saxophone.  He had played alto in the school band, but he liked the baritone and was given a spot in the school band to play it.  The baritone assigned to him by the school was not very good to say the least, and anyway, he wanted to have his own baritone.  Since he was a serious student and practiced faithfully every day, his parents decided it was worth investing in a new instrument for him.  The selection of baritones we had at the store at the time wasn’t very extensive.  We had a proprietary store brand for 2 grand, that although it looked good, I knew would be a lemon.  The other baritones I had were a Yamaha 52, for over 5 grand, and a P. Mauriat 302GL for about $4200.  Both were more than the parents could afford.  The kid tried the store brand, and it seemed to play and sound well enough.  However, I knew from past history of this horn that it simply wouldn’t hold up.  I was right.  A month later, he came back with it, showing me how a soldered post had just detached from near the octave key.  It was also apparent to me that he did not abuse or otherwise mishandle the horn in any way.  Although it was past the date to return it, he was still within the warranty period where he would get free repairs and adjustments. The tech resoldered the post and he took it home.  A month later he is back with his parents, and he shows me that a couple more posts have detached, as well as a keyguard.  Once again, close inspection revealed no abuse or mishandling.  It was the lemon I knew it would be.  So I worked it out with the regional manager to take the saxophone back.  Though it was past the exchange limit as well, we allowed them to either make an even exchange for the same horn, which he didn’t want, or what his parents paid could be put to the purchase of a new one.  They opted for a new one, but were still worried about the cost.  It was almost impossible to find a good, pro quality baritone that was under 4 grand.  I told them that the Buffet 400 was an excellent baritone, and that a well-known pro baritone player, Lauren Sevian, who is also my friend, played one. At that time, they were going for around $3400.  However, although we didn’t have the Buffet 400 baritone in stock, I knew that they had them at the Buffet showroom in Manhattan. I sent him there with his parents and they had both the gold lacquer and the matte finish.  He fell in love with the gold lacquer horn, and once his parents approved, I made out the purchase order and he was able to take the horn home that day.Several months later he came back to the store to get some reeds and I asked him how he liked his Buffet 400.  He nodded and smiled, and said he loved the horn. Great sound great action.  Fast forward 5 years and a few weeks ago I am now officially retired and in the store to pick up a couple of books and check out some horns that I haven’t played that I would like to review.  Unfortunately, since I retired, the new department manager doesn’t really know much about saxophones, so the selection is whatever the main warehouse sends, and they never seem to have any more big names, the best they have being a Yamaha 26 and 480 and a couple of Cannonball Big Bell Stone Series saxophones.  As I am looking over some books, the young man, whose name is Victor is now 5 years older and just having finished college walks into the store dragging his Buffet 400 baritone behind him.  After high school, he went to the Manhattan School of Music, and was now taking private lessons to further his music education.  He actually got interested in playing in a classical context, and was taking the private lessons from a classical saxophone teacher.  I asked him about the 400 and how he was getting along with it.  He told me that the sax played great and that it was very reliable,  having only the usual minor adjustments that were needed, but no major repairs.  He loved the sound and that it was a sturdy, dependable instrument.  Since I had come into the store with the intention of trying out a couple of horns, I also brought all my mouthpieces and my Legere reeds with me.  I happened to have my Meyer 5 baritone with me, so I asked him if he minded if I try it.  No problem.  I was never much of a baritone player, always felt as if my sound was a little tubby and not to my own liking.  Gerry Mulligan I wasn’t.  Not even Seymour Mulligan.  However, after getting a decent baritone sound from the Phil Barone I tested a little while ago, I figured I would try more baritones and get a little more accustomed to them so I can review them and also maybe at some later time, like if I win the lottery, to get one.  I would eventually like to have a full range of saxophones in my collection if that will ever be possible.  We went into the practice room and I slipped the reed and mouthpiece on and began.  I did need a little warm-up since the first couple of notes came out sounding like a loud belch.  However, after a few minutes, I was able to get in my groove and proceed to play some baritone.  Since the baritone is also pitched to Eb like the alto, I merely transferred some alto tunes I play to the baritone.  Key action. like the other Buffets I have played is solid, and after 5 years of constant playing, I couldn’t detect any tell-tale rattling or noise.  The baritone is used frequently in jazz and rock music, and everyone reading this is I am sure familiar with the traditionally rough, gruff sound the baritone has in those contexts.  However, I also listen to a lot of classical sax soloists, quartets and ensembles, and the baritone is capable of  very graceful, cello like tones.  I tried playing the cello part from the 3rd movement of Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto, since I always thought it’s a beautiful piece and that it would be a perfect piece to be transcribed and adapted for a classical baritone player with a piano accompanist.  The Buffet 400 bari played with a smooth tone.  It has a dark, deep tone, and like the alto and tenor versions, I found that from that darker core, you could achieve a greater tonal and dynamic flexibility and range.  This also makes this saxophone fit into any musical context that you want to play it in.  The tone was well balanced and the intonation spot on, and again, like the other 400’s, altissimo was also easily achieved.  I then played some tunes like “All The Things You Are” and “Sophisticated Lady”.  All in all, the Buffet 400 is the kind of baritone saxophone that can be played in any musical context.  I can also say that this is one of the better baritone saxophones out there and at its price point, is probably the best deal around.  If you want to make the baritone either your primary instrument or are a working pro that needs a full range of saxophones for gigs, shows and recordings, or just to add one to your saxophone arsenal, the Buffet 400 baritone is really the best buy out there.  You can have a more expensive baritone, but not necessarily a better one.Here are a couple of videos of Lauren Sevian, a Buffet 400 artist, playing the 400 baritonehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCJAAvp8F08https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoLx2stJ59gYou can hear the Buffet 400 baritone in a classical context in this video. The alto is a Buffet Senzo.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnuWWJX392I

  • Review: Chateau TYA900E3, TYT900E3 Alto and Tenor Saxophones
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on February 20, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    The holidays are over, the Groundhog predicted an early Spring, and judging by the mostly mild weather we’ve had here in New York, I’m inclined to believe that.  In fact, as I write, it is quite sunny and mild and looking and feeling much more like Spring than winter.  I hope that all of my readers had a blessed holiday and new year.  I recently retired officially, and this has given me more time to go out to live performances and see many of my friends, visit them at home and doodle on their saxophones, and once again to go out to various retail and repair shops and play test saxophones. I have had the opportunity to play a lot of new saxophones recently of varying price ranges, and in the coming weeks, will be publishing reviews on them, as well as other articles.  My reviews will concentrate on new saxophones, since there seems to be many new models and brands popping up every day.  Many more retail stores and repair shops are also marketing their own proprietary line of saxophones in order to offer their clients a brand new but inexpensive saxophone for learning on or for their school music programs.  For example, I recently reviewed a series of saxophones from Phil Barone, a New York based repair tech and maker of fine mouthpieces, and he offers a very extensive line of saxophones that are of professional quality but priced at student and intermediate levels.  Although the resale value of a proprietary sax from a repair shop is next to nothing, the advantage is that it can be had for a price that a student or a working professional on a budget can afford, and is backed by the repair shop where you can always take it for repair and maintenance or address any quality issues directly.  If the sax is from a retail store, make sure they have a fair return policy and a repair facility on the premises.  If a store can’t back up their instruments, skip them.  In October of 2014, I did a review of two Chateau alto saxophones, the TYA753 with a vintage finish that was 92% copper with matt gold lacquer keys, and the TYA760, solid nickel with gold lacquer keys.  I was very impressed with the build quality, playability and sound of these saxophones.  I recently had the chance to try the Chateau TYA900E3 alto sax and the TYT900E3 tenor.  The Chateau label is a relative newcomer to the market.  These saxophones are built in Taiwan by the Tenon Corporation.  They have built saxophones for other labels in the past but are now marketing their saxophones under their own brand, as many other Taiwanese companies are now doing as they have stepped up their game, building saxophones of excellent and professional quality and can now step out of the shadows and into the spotlight on their own merits.  The Chateau brand, along with other Taiwanese brands like P. Mauriat and Lien Chang are producing saxophones of excellent quality and at affordable prices.  P. Mauriat for example has already established themselves as a top professional brand, along side Selmer, Yamaha, Keilwerth and Yanigasawa.  I would also include Buffet, but it’s an odd quirk in the music business that their top professional saxophones, which are among the best made in the world, haven’t gotten the attention or even consideration of the other brands.  However, their 400 line has been doing very well, and my next review is on the 400 baritone.  I once again visited my friend and repair tech of over 30 years at his home, where he does repair work for a select few (fortunately I’m one of them since the quality of his work is beyond excellent), and buys and sells saxophones new and old.  He used to have his own shop in New York which he worked out of for nearly 30 years, but excessively high rents drove him out.  He now works privately out of his home for his regular clients.  Visiting his house is like being in a saxophone and flute museum.  The walls of his work area and living room are exposed brick, and he has vintage saxophones and flutes decorating the walls.  For example, he has 4 original Adolphe Sax horns, from 1848, 1852, 1865 and 1868.  He has one of the few slide saxophones ever made.  He has a nice collection of Conn New Wonders, Transitional and prewar M series saxophones, as well as King Super 20’s, Martin Committees, Buescher Aristocrats and 400’s, Selmer SBA and Mark VI, all of which he sells. He also buys and sells newer horns, not as an exclusive dealer, but he manages to acquire them and then quickly sell them.  He calls me frequently to try out any new or old horn he has acquired, likes to get my take on them, and I am happy to oblige because it gives me access to saxophones I can review here.This brings me back to the Chateau saxophones.  He called me up a few weeks ago to tell me he had a bunch of new saxophones from Taiwan that he wanted me to try before he sold them.  The others were made by Lien Chang and a company called Sadhuoo.  I already played and liked the Chateau saxophones, I had heard a lot about Lien Chang as they were actually the very first saxophones made in Taiwan and I met the American distributor a few years ago, but I never heard of Sadhuoo, though I was told that they made saxophones and mouthpieces for other labels and now were also trying to break into the market on their own.  However, before they do that, they will need to come up with a brand name that will be more easily identifiable to the market.  I will also review these saxophones in upcoming posts.  Having already had a good experience with the Chateau saxophone, I was eager to try the two he had.  Both saxophones, like the other ones I tried, came in a rectangular cloth covered hard case.  The case is similar to a ProTech style case. It had an extra large pocket on the outside for carrying books and sheet music and accessories, with the logo gold stitched on it.    As is obvious by the photos and the model numbers, both saxophones are the same model, so this gives me a good idea of how they play side by side.  There are certain model lines where the full range of horns from soprano to baritone are consistent and play equally well across the board.  I find that true particularly of Yamaha, Keilwerth and Yanigasawa.  With Selmer, and this is just me, I find that while their altos and tenors are consistent, I have had varying playing experiences with their sopranos and baritones, which I never liked as much as their altos and tenors. I can’t say why, but other players have told me this too.  I do find a consistency with the sound of the full range of P. Mauriat saxophones as well. I have liked the recent editions of Cannonball saxophones and find that they also are consistent throughout their range.  Chateau TYA900E3 Alto SaxophoneThe first thing about both saxophones is that from a visual perspective, these are absolutely gorgeous saxophones.  They are both among the most beautiful looking saxophones I have seen.  The deep, cognac lacquer gives the saxophone a vintage hue, and is really stunning.  The finishes of both horns were evenly applied. I saw no uneven spots or lacquer blobs anywhere.  The deluxe hand engraving was on the bell, bow, bell rim and neck and really stood out, adding a very luxurious look to the saxophone, which if you didn’t know was a Chateau you might mistake for a Selmer Reference 54.  Like other modern saxophones, they range from low Bb to high F# and they employ ribbed construction.  Other features of both saxophones were rolled tone-holes, the real ones rolled from the body and not soldered rings, double arms on the low C, B and Bb keys for extra stability and in better regulation, a brace to stabilize the G#-Bb pinky cluster, beautiful abalone key touches, and a larger bell.  The brass is 85% copper, which gives it a warm, complex tone that is also flexible.  From an aesthetic standpoint, they are first-class looking instruments, and will look good no matter what the gig, whether it is classical or jazz.  The keywork had a very positive feel.  The keywork was solid and the response up and down the horn, from top to bottom felt precise and sure.  Part of this may have been due to the fact that my friend adjusts every saxophone he gets, but just the same, I think the keywork is built so that any proper adjustment of the horn will result in excellent mechanical action.  For the alto I used my trusted Meyer 6M mouthpiece with a Rovner Dark ligature.  I used to use LaVoz medium reeds, but lately have been using Legere Signature 2.5 reeds exclusively.  They give me exactly the sound I want consistently.  It is the only synthetic reed right now I can say that about.  Each one lasts long enough to make them also very cost effective.  For every one reed of the Legere I use, I would have gone through at least 3 or 4 boxes of cane reeds, and as any player knows, they are getting more and more expensive.  The Signature reed allows me to shape the tone any way I want like a cane reed, but without the inconsistencies of cane. For the tenor, I use the Jody Jazz Red 6 with the tongue removed (I prefer an open chamber) with a Rovner Dark ligature that actually came with the mouthpiece, and also a Legere Signature 2.5 reed.I have written in my reviews several times of what I call the “WOW” factor when I play certain saxophones.  That happens when I play the first notes, and what comes out of the saxophone takes me by surprise and greets me with a sound that has many qualities that I consider essential for a saxophone to be worthy of consideration.  The first thing is that as soon as you blow into the mouthpiece, does the horn speak right away or do you have to coax it?  What always makes me go “WOW” right away is when I blow the first notes and the sound just comes out with power.  This has nothing to do with actual volume, but with the ease a clear tone comes out of the horn.  From that point, I will know what the saxophone will be capable of.  Well, I can say that when I first blew into the YTA900 alto, I was “WOWED”.  The sound was rich and deep.  It has an initially dark, classical tone to it, and I found that I could really stretch out on this horn and play a very wide range of music.  In fact, it was as nice a tone as I have heard in any of the best saxophones I’ve played.  The first thing I played was a classical piece “The Old Castle” from “Pictures at an Exhibition” from Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky, as well as the alto part from “L’Arsienne Suite” by Bizet and “Claire de Lune” by Debussy.  The tone was clear and sonorous, and I found that I was able to play the lower notes with ease and they sounded full and rich without sounding “tubby”, and the high notes including altissimo just popped out without sounding shrill or thin.  That is another thing I always look for.  If I play the high notes and they make my ears ring, then it’s not a horn I would play. Any classical player would do very well with this horn, in both the tone, mechanical and looks department.Now came time for me to play some jazz, rock and pop tunes.  I always start off with jazz ballads and blues and the first tune I played was “The Nearness Of You”, followed by another favorite “My One And Only Love”.  This is definitely a ballad horn, but then I figured it would be by the way it played the classical tunes.  I played some blues, and I got a Johnny Hodges like tone from it, which is a good thing.  In my opinion, Johnny was the best blues player on alto sax and if you don’t believe me, listen to any of his solo recordings away from Duke Ellington, where he played mostly blues and jump numbers.  I always modeled my blues playing, as well as ballad playing on Johnny Hodges, and this saxophone was able to get the kind of lush tone that was Johnny’s hallmark.  Then I played a couple of Benny Carter tunes or versions of popular standards as played by Benny.  I ran through tunes like Benny’s “Blue Star”, as well as tunes that he covered like “One Morning In May”, “August Moon”, “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set”, “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” and “Blue Lou”.  Then I played Cannonball Adderley’s “Work Song”, Art Pepper’s version of “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To”, “Parker’s Mood” and “Now’s The Time” by Charlie Parker, “Take Five”, by Paul Desmond, and my usual not quite successful attempt at playing Jimmy Dorsey’s “Oodles of Noodles”.  In every case I got the sound I was after and the mechanics allowed me to easily execute the tunes and respond to my touch with no excess play in the keys that would give me unwanted grace notes.  I then played a few pop tunes, like the obligatory “Baker Street” riff, and Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are”, which was actually originally played by the late, great Phil Woods.  I played a couple of Jimi Hendrix tunes that I found work very well on the sax. “Little Wing”, and “One Rainy Wish”.  When I pushed it, I could get an edgier tone that was still lush and full.  My feeling was that if you put the right kind of mouthpiece on it, you would be able to get whatever sound and play in whatever style you preferred.  If you are a studio player, or a working pro that has to play many musical styles, this horn can do it for you.  Chateau TYT900E3 Tenor SaxophoneAll the aesthetic and construction points of the alto apply to the tenor version as well.  As beautiful a tenor sax as I have ever seen.  I fit my Jody Jazz mouthpiece on it and once again, the first notes I blew into it made me go “WOW”.  It was simply one of the nicest tenor sounds I ever heard.  I have played them all, from Conn Chu Berry and M series saxes, to Buescher True Tone, Aristocrat and 400 saxophones, Martin Handcraft, Centennial, and Committee I, II and III and Magna saxes, King Zephyr and Super 20’s, Selmer Modeles 22, 26, SBA, Mark VI, VII, SA 80 and SA 80 series II and III, Reference 54 and 36 saxes, all of the Yamaha, Keilwerth, P. Mauriat and Yanigasawa saxophones as well as some fine saxes by Buffet, and lesser known makers like Cuesnon, Dolnet and SML, and this tenor, as well as the alto could stand toe to toe with any of them as far as I am concerned.  I played one classical piece “The Swan” by Camille Saint Saens, and it had a cello like quality to it, which makes sense since it is originally played on that instrument.  Then I went for the blues and jazz ballads and tunes.  Like the alto, this tenor had a full and rich. well-balanced tone in all registers, and whatever I wanted to play, the horn responded in kind.  Want to play some Lester, or Ben, or Hawk, or Trane, or Sonny?  This horn can help you.  Of course, if you just want to sound like yourself, this horn can help you too.  I concluded by playing Clarence Clemons solo on “Jungleland”.  I finished playing with a deep sense of satisfaction, wishing I could take these horns home.I found these saxophones to be as really good as anything out there, regardless of price point.  The alto is going for around $2500, and the tenor at around $2800, though I have seen them for even less than that on various dealer web sites.  In appearance, mechanical action and sound, these saxophones are as good as any of the bigger name saxophones.  As much as I really loved the latest editions of the Selmer Reference 54, I have to honestly say that these two saxophones are every bit the match for that horn, and for less than the price of one Selmer, Keilwerth or Yanigasawa sax, you can have both the alto and tenor version of the Chateau 900 saxophones, and still have some change left over.  This is especially significant if you’re a serious student who wants a better sax, or a working pro on a budget that still needs a top notch instrument for gigs and studio work.  For all intents and purposes, the Chateau 900 saxophones are excellent pro level horns, though some advertise this as a “high level Intermediate” horn, or a step up horn. It is in my estimation better than that.  Construction and build quality is solid, and they have the feeling of being a horn that will play and last for years.  These are killer horns, and if you are in the market for a new horn, or a better horn than you’re playing, and not hung up on name, then I would give these saxophones serious consideration. For more information visit their web siteshttp://www.chateauusamusic.com/Home.aspxhttp://www.music-tenon.com.tw/brasswind.php?id=5&ctype=1Here are a couple of videos demonstrating these saxophones.  He is constantly referring to them as high level intermediate horns or step up horns, but from my own playing, they are far better than that.  If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted videos of myself playing the horns, it’s because I am not making any money from this blog, and until Google allows me to make money from advertising, I just don’t have the cash to buy the equipment needed to do make a good video.  However, as soon as I can, I will get a Zoom video recorder and then make video demos for future reviews, as well as putting them on older reviews. Bear with me.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6bahf88DDghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhDO7Ixvt_khttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwwAoIxqkHwhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrSFtjydwRg

  • Happy New Year
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on January 1, 2016 at 1:19 am
  • Happy Holidays
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on December 24, 2015 at 6:00 pm

    T’is the season, and I want to take this time to wish all of my readers the happiest of holidays, and may you find your dream horn under your tree this year.  I want to thank the many readers world-wide that have encouraged me to keep this blog going.  I was pleasantly surprised by how many readers I had world wide. This of course encourages me to step up my game and make this blog even more informative and more accurate. I want to thank all of my readers from the following countries: US, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium (the birthplace of Adolphe Sax), Denmark, Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, and even New Guinea. May this year bless all of you with the fulfillment of all your dreams, and a saxophone to go with them!  See you next year!

  • Johnny Hodges: An Appreciation
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on December 18, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    While I have often cited Benny Carter as my chief influence on the alto sax, my very first influence was Johnny Hodges.  The first time I heard that lush, lyrical and absolutely haunting tone, I knew why I chose the alto sax as my main horn.  Johnny made it sing like no one else, and Charlie Parker even called him “the Lily Pons of the alto sax”, a reference to a very popular opera singer of the day.  No one has ever sounded like Johnny Hodges.  Some have imitated him, but no one has really ever quite duplicated him.John Cornelius Hodges was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 25, 1906.  Harry Carney, the great baritone player and his bandmate in the Ellington Orchestra was a neighbor.  He began by playing the piano and then the soprano saxophone, in which he was largely self-taught. When the great soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet came to Boston to appear in a show called Jimmy Cooper’s Black and White Revue, Hodges, then 14, went to see the show and stuck up a friendship with Bechet, who encouraged him and gave him some lessons on the soprano. Eventually, Hodges would make a reputation for himself around Boston before moving to New York City in 1924.  He played for not only Sidney Bechet, but also in the bands of Lucky Roberts, Lloyd Scott and Chick Webb, before finally joining Duke Ellington’s band where he would be the featured soloist for the rest of his life, with the exception of 1951-55 when he left the band and went solo.  However he rejoined the orchestra in 1955 and was there until his death on May 11, 1970, from a heart attack in his dentist’s office.Johnny, along with Benny Carter and Willie Smith, was one of the original big band alto stylists.  By that time, he switched to alto saxophone so as not to be compared to Bechet, and only played the soprano rarely, and after being featured in Benny Goodman’s famous Carnegie Hall concert in 1938 playing a soprano solo, never played it again after that.  He was given the nickname “Rabbit” because of his fondness for lettuce and tomato sandwiches.  His tone was lush, lyrical and smooth, and he excelled on ballads and slow blues, always emphasizing tone over technique and flash, although if you ever listen carefully, there is a tremendous amount of technique and control needed to play the way he did.   He made frequent use of glissandos, making the saxophone sound as if it used a slide instead of keys.  Ellington wrote many pieces with his various soloists in mind, as did Billy Strayhorn, his alter ego, and they wrote probably more for Hodges than just about anyone else.  Among them, my personal favorite “Prelude To A Kiss”, and also, “Isfahan”, “Jeep’s Blues”, “Daydream”, “A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”, among others.While Johnny Hodges spent the majority of his career with Ellington, and aside from his hiatus from the band from 1951-55, Hodges also recorded with Lawrence Welk, Billy Taylor and Oliver Nelson.  He also made recordings with Billy Strayhorn without Ellington, and other Ellington sidemen.  He was a big influence on Ben Webster, whose smooth tenor was based on Hodges alto.  John Coltrane also cited Hodges as his main influence, and even briefly played in one of Hodges bands during his hiatus from Ellington.On stage, it was often hard to reconcile the stance and lack of expression in Hodges’ face with the expressive, lush and swooping tone coming out of his saxophone.  Ellington stated that women in the audience often swooned when Johnny played a ballad.  When I hear Johnny playing a ballad or a slow blues, it just makes me close my eyes, sway and go “yeeeaahhh!” In Ellington’s eulogy of Hodges, he said, “Never the world’s most highly animated showman or greatest stage personality, but a tone so beautiful it sometimes brought tears to the eyes—this was Johnny Hodges. This is Johnny Hodges. Our band will never sound the same.””He gets an idea, thinks up a countermelody, and you end up with a whole new song,” said Ellington trombonist Lawrence Brown of Hodges.Johnny Hodges played a Conn 6M saxophone, then switched to the Buescher Aristocrat “Big B”, then the Buescher 400, and finally a custom made Vito, made in France, just for Johnny.  He left behind a rich musical legacy with one of the greatest orchestras and composers in jazz, as well as his own orchestras and collaborations with other bandleaders and musicians.  Although I can’t imagine anyone who plays the saxophone not knowing who Johnny Hodges is, just in the event you are not familiar with him, or need a reminder, I have included links to his music to reacquaint you with one of the greatest saxophone masters ever.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4EnjP2NGcEhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wINfnnUlrwY  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ww-XDuaxcwhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxYj6SCKXoshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mw8De8fXzUQhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgVm4NLMBcIhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iJU8ec0DWkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZA_JxaA1ddAhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ad_NFvmyPvA

  • Paul Desmond: An Appreciation
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on September 3, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    Lately I have been going through my digital music library and taking taking all the recordings of the saxophone players who have influenced me the most and creating separate play lists dedicated to each artist.  The idea is to have everything I have of that artist in one place so I can spend some time listening to just them.  Playing the alto sax, I started with my main influences on that horn; Benny Carter, Johnny Hodges, Paul Desmond, Cannonball Adderley, Charlie Parker, etc., and will expand my lists to include tenor players, as well as the few baritone players, soprano players, etc.  I listen for what makes them unique, their tone, their harmonic approach, the devices each one uses that are as identifiable as one’s handwriting.  Every player will have musical devices that they will use over and over again, no matter how harmonically sophisticated they are, and when you listen to anyone long enough, you begin to hear what they are.  Just like when a person talks, using phrases or expressions unique to the individual, so it is with music, another language.  In the coming weeks, I will write articles on those saxophone players I spend the most time listening to.Although Benny Carter and Johnny Hodges are my main influences on saxophone, Paul Desmond has also been a big influence on my playing.  He came along at a time when Charlie Parker created a new jazz language, and everyone followed.  While Paul Desmond definitely admired Charlie Parker, he forged his own sound and musical identity not beholden to Parker.  His sound was light and airy, his lines melodic.  His improvisations were thematic, and as a result, he could play one chorus after another and not repeat ideas, yet he never meandered aimlessly, he just made his statement and then made room for someone else.  Many called his music cerebral, but I disagree. He did have a highly developed intellect and great sense of humor, but the lyricism of his playing showed a man with a deep sense of beauty.  His use of altissimo (notes above the normal register of the saxophone using alternate fingerings) sounded so effortless you would think that they were a normal part of the saxophone’s range.Paul Desmond was born Paul Emil Breitenfeld in San Francisco in 1924.  His father was Jewish and his mother Irish-Catholic. Later on, when he changed his name to Desmond, he joked he did it because “Breitenfeld sounded too Irish”.  He began on the clarinet when in high school.  During WWII he was drafted into the US Army, but he joined a military band and never saw combat.  Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond first met in 1944 when Brubeck tried out for the 253rd Army Band which Desmond belonged to.  According to Desmond, he was taken aback by the chord changes Brubeck was playing at the audition.  After they were both discharged, Paul Desmond got a gig with the Jack Fina Orchestra.  After finishing with Jack Fina, Paul Desmond approached Dave Brubeck and convinced him to hire him for a group and in 1951 the Dave Brubeck Quartet was formed.  The group stayed together until 1967, but Brubeck and Desmond still played together on and off until Desmond’s death in 1977.  The most famous composition in the Brubeck repertoire is “Take Five”, which was composed by Desmond.  During his time with Brubeck and after the break up of the quartet, Desmond did other projects as sideman or soloist with Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Jim Hall, the Modern Jazz Quartet and others. Paul Desmond played a Selmer Super Balanced Action with a M.C. Gregory 4A-18M mouthpiece and Rico 3 1/2 reeds.The Dave Brubeck Quartet (l. to r. Paul Desmond, Dave Brubeck, Joe Morello, Eugene Wright) Paul Desmond was not just known for his music, but also for his dry wit and sense of humor and clever use of puns.  Many of his “Desmondisms” have become famous.  For example, when seeing an old girlfriend in the company of an old but obviously rich gentleman, Desmond remarked “So that’s how the world ends, not with a whim but with a banker”. Other Quotes and Desmondisms: I think I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to sound like a dry martini.  I have won several prizes as the world’s slowest alto player, as well as a special award in 1961 for quietness.I was unfashionable before anyone knew who I was.I’m glad [Ornette Coleman] is such an individualist. I like the firmness of thought and purpose that goes into what he’s doing, even though I don’t always like to listen to it. It’s like living in a house where everything’s painted red.On the secret of his tone: “I honestly don’t know! It has something to do with the fact that I play illegally.”Of writer Jack Kerouac he said, “I hate the way he writes. I kind of love the way he lives, though.”His response to the annoying banality of an interviewer, “You’re beginning to sound like a cross between David Frost and David Susskind, and that is a cross I cannot bear.”Walking into his record label’s office and seeing a large potted plant “With fronds like these who needs anemones?”That wit and dry sense of humor could also be heard when playing his solos, in the quotes he uses. It is a popular jazz game to insert a quote from another song into a solo, and while for the most part the quote sticks out, even from the greatest players, Desmond had a way of playing it like it was actually part of the song he was playing, and it often has taken me several listenings to realize what the quote was.  For example, in “Blight Of The Fumblebee” from his recording with Gerry Mulligan “Two Of A Mind”, he inserts a quote from J.S. Bach’s 5th Brandenburg Concerto, which is integrated so well into his solo it sounds as if it was written in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RZbByVdiBI At Montreaux, Desmond plays a beautiful version of a song called “Emily” which was the theme for a movie called “The Americanization of Emily”, and he quotes a song “Would You”, which was used in the classic movie “Singing In The Rain”.  He integrates the quote so subtly that the only indication of him having played it is the self-pleased smile he has after playing it.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZbahdBHv9EPaul Desmond had a taste for Scotch whiskey and was a heavy smoker.  He was also known to have dabbled in LSD.  When he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he quipped to the doctor that his liver was still healthy.  Paul Desmond played his last concert with Dave Brubeck in New York City in February 1977.  On May 30th 1977, Desmond passed away.  He was cremated and his ashes scattered. Paul Desmond may not have been a musical innovator, but he was an original in every sense of the word. His tone is instantly recognizable when you hear it, his way of phrasing and use of counterpoint unlike anyone else’s, and his lines are sheer beauty.  His love of melody could make you forget that his improvisations were filled with original and complex changes.  As he said:“Complexity can be a trap. You can have a ball developing a phrase, inverting it, playing it in different keys and times and all. But it’s really more introspective than communicative. Like a crossword puzzle compared to a poem.”Here is more of Paul Desmondhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQLMFNC2Awohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr_k1up_gn8https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12Ahmng5ee0https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1SJVI0HSp6A  

  • Thoroughly Modern Sax
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on August 11, 2015 at 5:04 am

    When I began this blog 5 years ago, it started on a whim.  I never wrote much of anything in the past except for what I had to write for school, and that never turned out too well anyhow.  However, I love the saxophone and saxophone music and sax players (most anyway), and so it is a natural thing for me to just sit down and write my thoughts and to be able to play different saxophones and write about them in order for people who want to play, or even those who have played for a while, choose a saxophone that would be right for them, both musically and financially.  I am lucky that I have worked in the business and though retired now, still know lots of people in the business and so always have access to new and vintage saxophones that I can play to my heart’s content and then when I come across something new or different, I can write about it here. For anyone who has been reading my blog from the beginning, you know that I started out still thinking that vintage saxophones were superior to their modern counterparts in build quality and tone.  At one time I believed that if it wasn’t made in the USA, Europe (particularly France and Germany) or Japan, than it was simply not very good.  At one time I would have been right, but there have been developments in the industry and improvements in saxophone design and production that have made me do a complete turnaround in my thinking.  When saxophones like the Conn M series, Buescher Aristocrats and 400’s, King Zephyrs and Super 20’s, Martin Committees, and of course Selmer Balanced Action, Super Balanced Action and Mark VI’s were made, they were the best of their time.  There are still a number of players who prefer to play vintage horns today, particularly Mark VI’s and would not even consider a modern saxophone.  They still have the belief that the old horns sound and were made better back then.  The reason for this thinking stems mainly from the fact that the more a fine instrument is played and the longer it is played, the more resonant, or “broken in” it will sound.  However, if an instrument is not well made, you can play it every day for a hundred years and it will still sound and play like crap.  For many years, there wasn’t any saxophone, including any Mark VI I’ve played that sounded better than my old Conn 6M.  Of course, the ergonomics of the horn left much to be desired, but for the longest time I thought that had to be the trade-off for a saxophone that I considered better than any modern horn, and I thought that for a long time.  I have changed my mind considerably in the last five years.  I have also completely changed the way I look at saxophones coming out of Asia other than Japan, particularly Taiwan.  When I lived in Taiwan from 2000-2001, I had seen and played many saxophones made there, and they all looked good, but quality was still questionable.  It was mostly quality control.  The metals were traditional brass, and they built horns with copper, silver and nickel finishes, and they sounded alright if they were properly regulated.  Most of the time I found there was a little sloppy work in the soldering of the posts, regulation of the key heights and placement, and there weren’t any real qualified sax techs anywhere in Taiwan that I knew of, except for maybe one or two in Taipei (I lived in a city called Tainan in the south west) that could properly set up a horn.  However, since that time, as a necessity, they have upped their game considerably and at this point there are Taiwanese companies producing world class instruments, something that was unthinkable 15 years ago.  For some time, the Taiwanese companies were and still are building student and intermediate saxophones for the more established names, but now they have established themselves in the world market, with their own brands and in my opinion, are building some truly great saxophones, and very importantly, at prices that a working professional on a budget can afford without compromising on quality, sound and playability.The next country for ultra-cheap saxophones of dubious quality has been China.  Again however, things are improving there as well. Because of the cheap labor, many established companies have contracted Chinese manufacturers to build student and intermediate saxophones for them under their name.  The thing about Chinese and Taiwanese factories is that they are new and modern, and they use the same kind of machinery that all of the major manufacturers use.  It’s really all a matter of quality control, quality of the brass and the individual parts and properly training the workers to perform the tasks required in building saxophones.  The majority of the process of building a saxophone is repetitive and done by machine, and it doesn’t take any great skill, just being conscientious in doing the job well.  The rest is up to quality control.  If strict guidelines are in place, and each instrument is thoroughly checked and gone over by a qualified technician before it is packed and leaves the factory, then no matter where it’s made, it should be a decent enough instrument.  This is why Yamaha for example, builds their 26 and 480 saxophones in China with no loss in quality, because of their quality control.  Indonesia and Vietnam are other Asian countries where passable instruments are being made.  There are no more saxophones being made in the US anymore because it’s just too costly to do so.  The Powell Silver Eagle was a noble effort to bring a superior US made saxophone to the market, but it proved to be too costly and so the project was discontinued.  As for the big 4 manufacturers, Selmer, Keilwerth, Yamaha and Yanigasawa, they continue to build top grade saxophones and their product is improving all the time.  They all utilize computer programs to better analyze brass composition and create a more consistent alloy, key placements and heights, acoustics, etc.  This alone has helped make modern saxophones better than ever.  It was a necessity anyway.  Music has changed quite a bit in the last 150 years or so since the saxophone was invented.  The modern saxophone player must play a greater variety of styles and an increased range from the 3 1/2 octave range of older saxophones to having to play a 4 plus octave range, and that requires extra keys, tone holes and a change in bore size, neck diameter, etc.  Intonation is also more accurate on modern saxophones because of the improvements in design.  Also, let’s face it, ergonomics are better and keywork is slicker and more positive than on old saxophones, including the Mark VI.  While the Mark VI was the template for all modern saxophone design, there has been a continuous tweaking and improvement in key placement and heights, and the newest saxophones feel better in my hands than even a Mark VI, at least in my experience and opinion.  There have also been other design improvements that make having to adjust keys and key cups less often than like on many old saxophones.  Braces and posts that secure key rods so they remain more stable and do not bend or move as easily.  Stronger bell to body braces that also add to the resonance of the saxophone, improvements in the neck, a very crucial piece of the sax, as well as expanding the bell bow.  These improvements allow a freer flow of air and less turbulence in these parts of the saxophone, allowing the sound to come out cleaner and freer, and in the newest saxophones, playing down to Bb is easier than ever,  as is reaching the highest notes.  I recently played the Buffet Senzo, and if you read my review of it, you know that they redesigned the bell bow, and low Bb was the easiest and smoothest I have ever played on any saxophone thus far, and they utilized computer programming to come up with just the right dimensions for the bow.  Before the advent of computer design, workers had to rely on their experience and lots of guesswork in building the saxophone.  As I noted in my article on the Mark VI, Jerome Selmer had told me that during the run of the Mark VI, workers did not work from a set of plans or blueprints.  They used their experience and a little imagination and initiative in building the Mark VI, and they continuously changed things without any consistency in how it was done.  Jerome Selmer even joked to me about it, and said if the worker had a good night before, like in the company of a lady, he did a good job the next day.  If he had a lousy night or was in a lousy mood for whatever reason, it was not so good.  This certainly would explain why I find each Mark VI different from one another, and it makes no difference what the year of production or serial number is, regardless of what anyone believes or has been told.Another thing about saxophones being built today compared to vintage saxophones is that modern student and intermediate saxophones have achieved a quality at a price point that was not possible even 10 years ago.  In fact, many of the so-called intermediate saxophones that are coming out of Taiwan for example, look and play like a top grade professional saxophone without the price, which makes them an attractive and very practical alternative to the Big 4, regardless of how one might wish to own a Selmer, a Keilwerth, Yamaha or Yanigasawa.  The Yamaha 480 is marketed as an intermediate saxophone, and it’s made in China, yet it’s still a quality instrument, and having played it fairly extensively, I found it to be a good alternate or back-up horn for a pro player.  Excellent keywork and good tone at a good price.  The Buffet 400 line is a saxophone I have written a lot about, because it’s another saxophone made in China under a company that is known for top notch instruments, and their quality control is also very much in place, and so here is another intermediate priced saxophone for the pro player that doesn’t skimp on quality.  Chateau saxophones, made by Tenon Corporation of Taiwan, is making excellent saxophones at a price that seems impossible for an instrument of such high quality, playability and tone.  This is a new line that so far has impressed me the most of all the new brands that have hit the market.  P. Mauriat saxophones were one of the first new saxophone brands to have established themselves in the marketplace when it was completely dominated by the Big 4, which was not easy to do, but they were able to do so by offering a saxophone that was a little different than what the others were making, and then getting endorsements from top level pros.  At this point in time there is a greater choice of quality saxophones for players of all levels than at any time in history, and that’s a good thing. It puts instruments in the hands of more players or would-be players than ever before and at prices to match one’s budget.  With improvements in design and technology, a student can now afford a saxophone that will not just be “good enough to learn on”, but actually good to play and that the student doesn’t have to fight so as not to get discouraged early on.  For the working pro, who may often need to double and have more than one instrument, it’s possible to have a pro level horn without the cost, since the majority of pros are not famous headliners pulling in thousands or millions a year, but just getting by doing what they love.  Most of the working pros I know are playing saxophones like Cannonball, Jupiter, Yamaha 62’s or 480’s, and others that are not the Big 4, but certainly are performing as they need them to, and looking the part on stage.  Even my old friend Chuck, who for years would only play Conn Chu Berry altos, has gotten a greater number of gigs, as well as having to play a greater variety of music, and realized that the old Conn did not cut it for many of these gigs, and so he finally broke down and got a silver plated Jupiter, which is made in Taiwan and he found he likes it.  Even a few well-known players I know have traded their Mark VI’s for Selmer References, P. Mauriats, Yamaha, Yanigasawa and Selmer Series II and III saxophones.  So there it is.As  for me, as much as I still love my old Conn, I am finding the newer saxophones just so much better in every way.  Sure, there is a special quality about the Conn because it has been played for many years and also the sentimental value it has and still holds for me.  Just the same, there are things that I cannot do on the Conn that I can with modern saxophones, especially in the range of the horn itself.  As for sound, well, they are sounding great out of the box, and can only get better with time.  I no longer hold on to the belief that vintage is better, because I have played enough of modern saxophones to convince me that they are better now than ever.  

  • “I’m A Jazz Musician, Not An Entertainer” Part Deux
    by noreply@blogger.com (Further Definitions) on August 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    A short while back, I was scrolling down my Facebook homepage, seeing what my friends had posted. Most of the time it’s endless political posts, always showcasing the bias and partisanship of the poster, whether they are based on facts or common sense or not, but also posts from my musician friends, whether posting a music video, or writing about their gigs, sometimes accompanied by pictures, and sometimes just opining about music in general. One of my friends, a bassist, commented on how he was having dinner in a restaurant and they were playing “fusion” style jazz, and that he was actually enjoying it.  It didn’t take long for the “real” jazz musicians to make their comments.  One of them wrote “The Creed Taylor Syndrome”.  For those who may not know, Creed Taylor produced recordings in the 60’s and 70’s featuring some leading players like Wes Montgomery and Paul Desmond, but in a more commercial setting, having them play contemporary standards of the time, with orchestral arrangements and whatever improvising the player did was done within the context of the melody, never straying far from it or the arrangement.  I commented that while I am not a big fusion fan, it’s still nice to hear melody once in a while instead of the incessant assault of scales and chords and the constant reharmonization of a tune until the tune itself is buried under the weight of all that.  His response was to show a photo of Kenny G, and captioning it “Mr. Melody”.  I guess he thought he was being clever and funny, and I guess he thinks that if you listen to and like Kenny G, then you are just not hip and aware, and that somehow there is actually something wrong with listening to Kenny G.  A little snobby, no?  Well, he’s not my cup of tea either, and I don’t buy or listen to his recordings, but that doesn’t mean I think there’s something wrong with those people who do.  So I asked him, “How many recordings have you sold lately?  How many people showed up at your last gig, and when exactly was your last gig?”  No response!  I thought so.I’m not here to tell anyone what kind of music to listen to, but I find it funny and annoying that so many musicians will put down any other musicians if they decide to play more commercially accessible music, or to entertain their audience and play to that audience. Since the dawn of humanity, music was not just an expression of life, but a celebration of it. Music was and is played so that we can have fun, get away from the everyday drudgery or concerns of the day and reconnect to ourselves, and with others.  When I go to my favorite bars and clubs, where many of my friends play, and I see the crowd dancing, cheering, responding to the music, then it’s easy to see why they are always getting the gig.  The crowd loves them, and it is a crowd, not an empty room they’re playing to.  They get the crowd to have fun, so they stay, they buy more food and drinks, and that makes the house happy, and they book the band for more gigs.  The band is happy because they will get more gigs, which means they keep working.To my friends who want to stay “real”, by all means, stay “real”, but don’t behave as if somehow you are morally or spiritually superior as a musician because you choose to be a “real” jazz musician, or bitch about why you’re not making as much money as someone you think is not up to your standards.  Also, don’t think that those players who entertain and play more commercial styles of music didn’t practice as long and hard as you, or that they didn’t see their fair share of heartache and rejection at not getting a gig or a place in a band, or didn’t have to work all those jobs they hated while honing their craft and trying to get work doing what they loved the most.  The difference between them and the “real” jazz musician is that they understood what it took to get those gigs and play in those bands, and went about doing it without all the bitching and moaning I hear from the “real” musicians. As I said, I’m not here to tell you what to play or what and who to listen to, but whenever you play to an empty or near empty room, whenever you don’t get called back for another gig or to be in a band, only you can know why that is, and it isn’t from some kind of “injustice”, it is because you are not playing what people want to hear and giving them a show they want to see.  Now, I know plenty of “real” jazz musicians who understand the game, and they will take whatever gig, and play whatever style of music is necessary to keep working.  When they can make a living playing music, they will then have the time to kick back with other like players, and play the stuff they really are into.  There are those die hards though, and they are laughable to me, because they are uncompromising about their musical “principles”.  They work jobs not related to music that they hate doing, and bitch about it constantly.  They are always criticizing musicians that play more commercial styles and entertain with remarks like “nah, he’s just not adventurous, not exploring, not saying anything, doesn’t stretch himself”, blah, blah, blah!  Okay, but he’s making a living playing music, not on a loading dock.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with working on a loading dock or any other kind of honest work, but when you bitch about it because you are not making a living as a musician as you’d like, think about it.  Many of the “real” musicians, when they do get a live gig, play with an attitude of superiority and indifference to the audience.  They play and look like they’re having a bad day or life.  Believe me, most people do not enjoy something like that.It’s very hard to make a living as a musician, especially these days.  The most successful musicians I know do whatever they have to in order to earn enough money to pay the bills and support a family.  They take all kinds of gigs, make themselves accessible for lessons as well as use Skype to expand their student base, take all kinds of gigs in all styles of music, dress for the gig, be reliable and on time, and are not afraid to entertain their audience.  They know that those people cheering and dancing and shouting for more are helping them to do what they love to do.  Maybe it’s time for the “real” jazz musicians to get real, or please just shut up!