All Things Saxophone

Direct Segue—SaxophoneMan’s Blog

Last modified 09/12/08


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04/25/08—My friend Sal

I recently had a chance to catch up with my friend                    who is a top call saxophonist in L.A.  Not only is he a phenomenal woodwind player but also is a real gentleman, and that is not always the case with the cats.  He told me a story about how the Dancing With The Stars gig came about and it is hilarious.  The guys in the band (                     included) had been working together a lot because they all know the same contractor.  They got called to play this gig for a TV show patterned after one in the UK.  The music was easy (that’s usually the case — it’s all about the cues) and when they finished taping the guys looked at each other and said “Man, this sucks!  This show will never go anywhere!”  Of course the next day the producer came in and told them the first episode was watched by 60,000,000 people.  The rest is history.  The moral of the story is:  If the band thinks the show sucks, it will probably be a hit  :>

03/28/08—The fall of a Seattle icon

I learned yesterday that Bud’s Jazz Records & Tapes (yes, tapes — that’s how long this establishment has been around) is closing it’s doors at the end of April.  A sad sign of the changing times.  In my travels to the Seattle area dating back to the 1980’s, I always enjoyed heading down the stairs to that basement shop on James street to find whatever recording I couldn’t find anywhere else.  Of course today you can just go online to iTunes or Rhapsody or Napster or wherever and get anything ever recorded — amazing!  So, with change there are always mixed feelings.  I have learned over the years to embrace it.  Here’s the              if you want to read it.

03/12/08—I only played it in the pep band once!

Yesterday I heard another heartbreaking story of a pep band student who’s vintage King Super 20 saxophone was smashed by a basketball.  “I was just sitting in the band bleachers and the ball bounced off of a player’s foot and hit my horn!”  That’s what happens, people!  You’re going to have enough trouble with the drunks falling on your axe at the gig when you get out of school so don’t make it worse by taking the good horn to the pep band engagement.  Keep a second rate horn handy and ALWAYS use that one.  NEVER PLAY THE GOOD HORN IN THE PEP BAND OR MARCHING BAND!

03/09/08—Covering Styles vs. your own style

Last night I played lead Alto on a great big band show that was a repertory review in nature — almost all the charts were lifts of 30s & 40s big band recordings and we were playing them in the style (which is infinitely better than gigs where they’re not played in the style — but I’ll talk about that later).  After the gig the lead Tenor player said to me, “I wonder what it would be like to play in my style.”  He of course was longing to stop covering everyone else’s style and play his own.  This is the eternal struggle for gigging musicians the world over.  The high paying frequent work comes from tributes to “the dead guys” and the really cool artistic stuff comes few & far between and doesn’t pay much.  The best thing I could tell him (and you) is to work the balance between the two.  That’s how most of the successful jazz musicians do it.  In New York, many of them will do the Broadway gig and farm out 50% of their show dates (their contracts allow that much after 6 weeks or so of night after night performances) so they can play some of their own gigs in balance.  That’s really a good formula and you can make it work in any large city.  Besides that, covering styles is good for your chops.  My friend                           is one of the best piano players I have ever worked with and he is a master of covering styles.  Close your eyes and he’s Oscar Peterson, or Thelonious Monk, or Duke Ellington, or Count Basie, etc. — so, the next time you might be lamenting that cover band gig you’re doing, just remember to keep some of your own gigs in the mix.

02/28/08—The demise of the “student” model saxophone

Recently I have been commenting on the changing market for saxophones — particularly due to the influx of the inexpensive quality horns from overseas.  These horns are going to bring about another change — the demise of the “student” model horn.  With inexpensive horns available that are being marketed as professional level with quality that approaches that of the premium horns, what motivation do the saxophone manufacturers have to make a pared down student model saxophone?  I predict that student models as we know them today will cease to exist.  This change will take time, perhaps 5 years or so, mostly because the long established manufacturers will be resistant to the change and will start marketing their student model horns as “the brand you trust”.  This will keep the lines alive for awhile but eventually mom and dad will buy little Johnny the horn made overseas because it costs less and is equal or better quality.  For example, the dealer that sent me the Wellington saxophones intends to make them available as rentals.  Read my review on the Wellington Tenor Saxophone & Wellington Alto Saxophone.  These horns have quality that approaches a premium instrument, and they’re going to be sold to students.  It’s a new world, people.  Go with the changes or get pushed to the sidelines . . .

02/25/08—Buffet is committed to the saxophone community

You all have probably read my unpleasant review of the Buffet 400 Series Tenor Saxophone.  I was contacted by Buffet about the issue and they informed me that they are redesigning the neck of the sax.  This may have been a contributor to the issues that I reported.  I will be receiving one for review shortly and will report the results ASAP.  Regardless of the immediate outcome of this design change, it is apparent by Buffet’s prompt response that they are very committed to their 400 series of saxophones and the community that plays them.  That’s great to see — if they apply themselves the way they do with their line of clarinets (I am an owner of an R13 myself), then it’s only a matter of time before their name is associated with saxophones in the way it is with clarinets today . . . .

02/20/08—The changing market for saxophones

I recently received an Alto & Tenor saxophone from a major dealer who asked me to review them and I was surprised that I did not recognize the brand name.  The dealer did not tell me anything about who makes them or where they are made to avoid biasing my opinion.  The one thing that I did learn was the price and it is lower than anything I have seen on the market for a decent sax ($1200 for the Alto and $1400 for the Tenor), and after a “quick blow” on these horns (full review coming soon) they are definitely decent.  What this is showing me is the price of good quality saxophones is going down, and there are lots of folks making good saxophones.

On the surface this sounds great, but unfortunately in the long run this may not be good news, at least not for the professional saxophonists.  The “old guard” of saxophone manufacturers like Selmer and even Yamaha (they now fit into that category) may find that they will lose the market on all the horns except the premium bracket.  The problem there is it’s hard to make any money selling only premium horns and the business folks in those companies will quickly shut down the division when the bottom line doesn’t look the way they want it to.  It’s happened before folks, just look at King.

For students and teachers the effect is definitely beneficial.  More bang for the bucks — just don’t tell the dean or the superintendent because they’ll end up cutting your budget  :>

For the pros, 20 years down the road we may talk about how great the old horns like the YS-82Z and the Reference were and how sad it is that they aren’t made anymore, just like we do with the King Super 20 now . . . .


Brent Edstrom


Sal Lozano

Dan Higgins