I had a great time playing these Saxes and took notes on every model I could get my hands on to share with you-all. I played Selmer Instruments, Keilwerth Saxes, Cannonball Saxophones Chicago Saxes, Yamaha Woodwinds, Armstrong Flutes, Alto Flutes and Bass Flutes, Emerson Flutes, Pics and Bass Flutes and Yanagisawa Saxophones this year.
Full Product Reviews are posted on the new Saxophone.US site, online since March 2005.
NAMM 2004 Product Tests/reviews and quick thoughts on cool new products are overviewed below.
NAMM 2004 - The Saxes
It was a great show this year with some nice surprises from every one of the above.
The Highlights from NAMM 04
The quick favorites where the Yamaha 875 Tenor Sax, Yamaha 875EX Alto Sax, Yamaha YAS 82ZS; Cannonball Curved Soprano Sax in black; Keilwerth Black Nickel Plate Tenor and new Keilwerth Solid German Nickel, burned black; L.A. Sax Brass brandished Alto and Tenor; Chicago Sax un-Lacquered Tenor; and ultra expensive Selmer Reference 54 Alto Saxes, Selmer Reference Tenor and Solid Silver Yanigisawa Soprano, Yana Tenor and Alto Saxes.
I have been playing my 875 Alto and Tenor for over 10 years now and always find the new version of MY Yamaha Saxes to be my Favorite because they are so familiar and comfortable. This is never really surprising to me and serves to remind me why I love my saxes. Much of how we sound is who we are. I post these thoughts, knowing they are not universal, but useful in the search for information and knowledge. Read my Sax Test Article to better understand what figures into an Instrument Test.
The big freak this year was Selmer Saxophones. I have not liked a Selmer since the Mark VI. When I began moving to the new Yamaha's, I held on to my Selmers until the dust on the cases was deep. I finally sold my Selmer Mark VI Tenor after 2 years of sitting around in a closet. No lost love; I liked the Yamaha's better.
The NEW Reference 54 Tenor killed me. Great sound, response, pitch, center, harmonic response and overall tone. I did have to adjust for the key placement but this proved to be less an issue the longer I played it. That is a great Tenor. Mouthpiece Maker Gary Sugal and fellow Saxophonist Wayne Mestas and I played thru the Selmer Saxes a few times and listened to each other doing the same. That Tenor was amazing to play and listen to.
The Selmer Reference Alto was new this year to the show and killed me. What a fun and strong, deep sounding horn. I played 3-4 of them and they all sounded strong and consistent. The comments from others; They loved the sax. They said that I sounded like me on each of them too. More on these later.
Loved the Selmer Bari this year too.
Bari Compari - Selmer Paris #1. Yamaha and Yanagisawa seemed very strong but very similar. I would say, either would work great for me, live or studio. No Keilwerth to play, no idea if I got to play any others until I get thru the rest of the data files; but they did not leave much of an impression if I don't remember right now.
Still love the Armstrong Alto Flute and most of there Bass Flute too. I thought the key work seemed too light. Some Keys had been bent by people playing the Bass Flute at the show. The Key Work was better on the more expensive Emerson Bass Flute with the low B foot. The B foot was not much of a sell since I could not seem to find any center on this Bass below an F, which is the low C on the Alto Flute. Seemed pretty lame to me. The Armstrong was solid and responsive all the way to Low C and seemed to have good center and pitch. The Only Bass I like more is the Yamaha at twice the cost.
In for LA Sax was Jeff Kashiwa. He sounded great on the Brandished Brass Alto with the high G and said the high G makes the saxes sound better and respond more for him. He did sound better to me on the high G Alto than the F# MODEL; but really sounded great on both...
Cannonball Saxes could do no better than to have Gerald Albright standing there and cranking on the dang thing. Gerald is amazing and he sounds just like him on these Saxes. Cannonball has made big strides on these new Alto's with the Big Bell. The Curved Soprano was such fun to play and a great little sax. My Cannonball love ended there. The Tenor was pretty lame and I can't even remember a Bari out that day.
The Yani love... These saxes are really beautiful and play great. I like the Lacquered, thought the Bronze sax was cool, but what an amazing thing to blow Sterling Silver Saxes. I really liked these Silver Saxes on Sop/Alto and Ten. If I had more plastic, I would have more Silver.
Big surprise... The Yamaha's. If I had some cash to blow? I would be all over the Solid Silver Yani's and the Selmer Ref. Alto, Ref. 54 Tenor and that Paris Bari! Soprano's? The only ones that turned my head were the Cannonball Curved and Yamaha 475 is a lot like my 62R.
Other products researched include studio mics, effects and pre-amps; Wireless mics for live; sax stands and more.
I will be busy over the next few weeks going thru notes and writing reviews for the NEW SITE, Saxophone.US, with those broken links starting to hit the new pages as they go online. It was an amazing NAMM 2004!!
Full Product Reviews are now available at Sax Reviews - SaxReviews.com. GregVail.com will be home to the NAMM reviews for 03, 04 and 05 and this page will be updated as the material is sorted out. I just wanted to get something up in the meantime.
Always looking for input so email any thoughts you-all might have.
I talked with many great sax players about becoming staff writers or just contributing writers. Look for contributions from Albright, Harp, Mestas, Sugal, Whalum, Marienthal, Abair, Kashiwa, Scott, Allen just to name a few.
Did you know there is a list out with Ser #'s for Yamaha Tenors with good Necks?
Yamaha thumb rests? They had proto types at NAMM 2003 and I have not heard a thing about them since then. Oleg has new Metal Thumb Rests and I have them on Alto and Soprano now. Very cool feel and vibration. New metals on saxes? In the past Yamaha was talking about the Alto and Bass Flutes Metal for a new Sax. Nothing from them a year later, but Yanigisawa has Bronze, Solid Silver and Keilwerth released the first solid German Nickel saexes this year. Future Neck designs and proto types? Third Party companies are coming out of the wordworks with new necks. Yamaha's new G1 is very cool and I have a Gold Plated G1 on Tenor right now that might be replacing my Silver Plated F1. I heard there are 1 or 2 new Yamaha Necks on the early stages again that blend between a G1 and M1? We will see. Pads? Seen the new Kangaroo pads. The are usually black, thin and very quiet compared to Leather. They also don't get sticky as easy and I have begun changing out the sticky pads with the "Roo". Resonators? Played a new over hauled Tenor with Roo and these over size, Gold Plated disc Resonators. Don't have the name right now, but that combination was pretty cool. With thinner pads, the action can be lowered a bit for real quick feel and the Roo makes so little noise. All very cool new stuff. Also say Metal Plated pads. Like a brass foil; needs no Resonators and pads last forever. I have not played them yet.
All this to say - New Saxes and new stuff for them is keeping the gear game fun! All reviews and links coming soon.
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