Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 9, 2018


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?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hello Friends, I Am Back Again

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

PlayWind by Buffet Crampon

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.

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. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Legere Signature Reeds: A Review

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.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Evolution Of Saxophone Doubling

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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Setting Something Straight

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!!!