Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Selmer Week

It's been a few months since my last entry, but I am back now to tell you what a day I had today.  This week, from Monday October 24th to Friday October 28th, it is Selmer Week at Steinway Hall on West 57th Street in New York City.  Today, the 25th is the only time I had to attend.  The occasion was the showing of the latest model Selmer saxophones and clarinets, with the new limited edition "Dragon Bird" engraved horns, the final in a series of bird engravings representing a bird from every continent in the world, in commemoration of Charlie "Bird" Parker.  Before this, the limited edition "Bird" saxophones were limited to the Reference 54 series.  This time saxophones in the Series III line have been included.

There were dozens of saxophones on display to try out, as well as the full line of Selmer mouthpieces.  I brought my own alto and tenor mouthpieces.  The alto mouthpiece I favor is my Meyer 6M with a LaVoz medium reed and my tenor mouthpiece is a newly acquired Delacole metal 6* which I have become quite attached to for my tenor playing.  I used a Rico Plasticover 2 1/2 on that.

When I first entered Steinway Hall and walked up the stairs to where the rooms were located, the first person to greet me was Jerome Selmer, president of Selmer.  Just as the last time when I met him 10 years ago, he was warm and cordial. 
I went into the room and they were still setting up all the saxophones for display and for all the visitors to try out.  It took the better part of an hour to get them all set up, but once they were, here was what the room looked like from different angles.

To put it bluntly, once everything was set up, I felt like a sex addict in a whorehouse with the most beautiful girls in the world.  For a saxophone lover, this was truly paradise.  

The first saxophone I picked up was the standard Reference 54 alto in deep gold lacquer.  Those of you who read my last review of this model may recall that I had mixed feelings about it.  Not this time.  When I blew into this one, it was easily one of the best altos I ever played.  The feel of the keys was perfect, the response when I blew into it was nothing short of breathtaking.  The tone was dark, but unlike my last test horn, had a lot of spread.  This was the horn I could make my permanent gigging horn.  It wasn't over yet.  There were other standard references and I played them all.  While I still liked the first one I played best, the others were still rather consistent and each exhibited wonderful tonal characteristics. I tried a few Series III altos, and they had a more focused tone.  The classical players in the room were favoring these horns, and it was easy to see why. 

Now it was time to move on to the tenors.  The first one I picked up was a "Dragon Bird" tenor with dark lacquer.  I barely breathed into it, and the sound came out sweet and full.  I took it through its paces, and not only can this baby sing, it could growl, moan and cry.  It could do whatever you wanted it to do.  The keys were perfect as on the other horns, and I found it very difficult to put it down, but I did, and as I did, I spotted a "Dragon Bird" alto further down on the same table.  I picked it up, slid my Meyer on the neck, and blew into it.  Just a few minutes before, I was playing the standard Reference 54 and thinking it was the best alto I've ever played.  This "Dragon Bird" had a little something extra that made me swoon as I played it.  As far as I was concerned, I have found the horn of my dreams.  

At about that time, Richie Cole, Mr. Alto Madness came into the room.  He already owned a Reference and brought it with him, but of course he tried other horns like the rest of us.  During breaks in the playing, we had a few conversations, and this was the first time I actually had the chance to talk to him.  He is a great guy with a great sense of humor, and needless to say, a great player.
Selmer has always been at the top of the heap in the saxophone world, and I really think that with this latest group of saxophones they have basically outdistanced the field at this point.  Forget the Mark VI.  Lots of players will be attached to them, but seriously, these horns blow it away.  I even have to admit that the "Dragon Bird" alto had something extra that my beloved old Conn doesn't.  Sigh!

If you want to see and try out some awesome saxophones, then get thee down to 109 West 57th Street, 2nd floor and see and play some of the greatest saxophones on the planet.  The hours are from 10am until 6pm until October 28th.  There will also be performances in the evening featuring various classical and jazz artists.  Come on down!

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