This article is part 2 in a 2-part series covering the latest and greatest saxophone products shown at NAMM 2018. In case you missed it, click here for part 1.
I have been hearing more buzz around the AM mouthpieces made by Arnold Montgomery. While at the show, Arnold had me try the “Aras”, “Katana”, “Luna” and the new “Blue Heron” models in hard rubber as well as metal.
- The Aras is the brightest of the current models with a high baffle that leads into a medium sized bullet chamber
- The Katana is the 2nd brightest but not as bright as the Aras. Contains a medium high step baffle with a medium large chamber.
- The Luna has a smooth rollover baffle that leads into a large chamber. This model was made to go after those players who enjoy the sound characteristics to those popular mouthpieces made in the 1940’s & 1950’s.
- Blue Heron: This is one of Arnold’s newest models. Arnold informed me this model is for those players who really like vintage hard rubber Otto Link mouthpieces but with a slightly different baffle.
After test playing each model, I preferred the Katana model the most for its overall sound and play-ability. I thought the Blue Heron or Luna would had been a closer fit for me since I play on an old hard rubber slant link but that was not the case. With that being said, Arnold also let me try his personal mouthpiece which was a Ankh prototype and I liked this mouthpiece the most out of all his models. I am hoping he makes a hybrid between the Katana and his Blue Heron model because I think that mouthpiece would suit me the best. I would like to thank Arnold for taking the time to show me his various mouthpieces and I hope to check out more of his work later this year.
Marmaduke Feather Strap “Dual”
It was great to see Alex Miyatake at NAMM this year. If you are not familiar with Alex, he is the owner of Marmaduke Music and produces his own line of mouthpieces, ligatures, reeds, and neck-straps. I met Alex at my first NAMM show and have visited him ever since to see what new products he has to offer. Since I liked his mouthpieces, (facings similar to vintage hard rubber Otto Link’s & Meyer’s) I was interested in trying out his new neck-strap called the Marmaduke Feather Strap “Dual”. I already own his Marmaduke “Feather” Strap III EX for tenor saxophone and wanted to see how it compared. The new Marmaduke Feather Strap “Dual” offers the saxophonists a neck-strap that also doubles as a harness. This strap I found to be more comfortable than the “Feather” Strap III EX due to its gel inserts (reminded me of the Just Joe’s neck-strap). The side straps can be attached to your belt and around your waist so the neck-strap turns into a harness. I did notice with the harness attachment that the horn felt lighter and moving around with this strap was not restricting. I currently use the Jazzlab Saxholder neck-strap and found the Marmaduke Feather Strap “Dual” to offer similar comfort and re-distribution of pressure from my neck to my shoulders. If you are in the market for a strap/harness combo, I would recommend you add the Marmaduke Feather Strap “Dual” to your list of neck-straps to test play.
The Growling Sax
While walking around the NAMM show, I ran into a few players who told me to check out The Growling Sax company. I have seen quite a few Facebook videos with players test playing the various line of Growling Sax saxophones and I wanted to check them out for myself. Melvin Quinones, owner and CEO of The Growling Sax, had me test play two tenor models at the show. One of them was The Growling Sax (TGS) Uprise Series Professional saxophone and the other was the TGS H1110 Professional tenor saxophone.
TGS Uprise Series Professional Tenor Saxophone
The Uprise tenor saxophone I test played at the booth had a matte black finish with matte silver keys. Some features specific to this model are as follows: brass neck, body, and bell, rolled tone holes, adjustable high D, Eb, and F palm keys, Italian Pisoni pads, blue steel springs, metal thumb hook, metal resonators, and a hand engraved bell, bow, body tube, and neck. The Uprise tenor saxophone’s overall construction and aesthetics reminded me of the MacSax Mac 8 model as well as the adjustable high D, Eb, and F palm keys feature is something I have seen done on Keilwerth as well as the Eastman 52nd street saxophones. Sonically, I found the TGS Uprise model to produce a broad & big sound that reminded me more of a Conn. I found that depending on your mouthpiece setup, this horn could lean towards the brighter or darker side. The overall ergonomics felt quite good but I would have the spring tension lightened for faster action personally. Overall, I found the Uprise model to play well in tune and if you are currently on the market for a tenor saxophone and are open to any brand, you might want to check out TGS Uprise tenor saxophone.
TGS H1110 Professional
The other model Melvin Quinones showed me was the TGS H1110 Professional model tenor saxophone. Compared to the Uprise model, The TGS H1110 professional tenor saxophone boasts a few different features such as: 85% copper neck & straight tone holes. The TGS H1110 Professional tenor saxophone I played at the show had a cognac bell, bow, neck, and a black nickel body tube. The engraving on this model was the typical floral engraving I have seen on many saxophones but with the growling sax logo either stamped or laser-engraved on the side. In comparison to the TGS Uprise tenor saxophone, I found the TGS H1110 to have a much more focused sound. The setup and ergonomics did feel very similar to the Uprise model. Sonically, I found this model had a slightly warmer and mellow sound with less resistance compared to the TGS Uprise model which could be attributed to the material and neck taper. Overall, I told Melvin if he could combine sonic characteristics found in the TGS H1110 with the additional features on the TGS Uprise model, that would be the horn I believe many players would be interested in checking out. I would like to thank Melvin for his time and again, if you are in the market to replace your main saxophone or looking for a back-up, you should check out The Growling Sax saxophone line and see what you think.
Forestone White Bamboo Reed
Since Forestone first came to the NAMM show a few years back, I have play tested their Forestone Traditional, Black Bamboo, Hinoki model reeds as well as their saxophones and mouthpiece patches (Hinoki Reed & Mouthpiece Patches Review). Each year, I have played Forestone’s various synthetic models and have become more open to potentially switching from cane over to synthetic (but not yet). This year, Lars Heusler (CEO of Forestone) introduced me to the white bamboo model which is a French filed cut unlike the un-filed cut on the Hinoki. I played tested a 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, and 3.5. I found I needed to move down to a 2 or 2.5 to find the right reed strength for me. The white bamboo model was quite free blowing and the overall sound between the low end and high end was consistent. I have found many synthetic reeds to tend to play from top to bottom freely but the timbre is quite different especially in the low and high end of the sound spectrum. This is not the case with the Forestone white bamboo model. Personally, I think this is the best model that Forestone currently offers from a sound and consistency standpoint. I am looking forward to picking up a few Forestone White Bamboo reeds in the near future but personally will continue to play traditional cane reeds because I still feel there are certain sound characteristics that synthetic reeds have not been able to achieve for me.
Vandoren V16 Large Chamber Tenor Mouthpiece
After Vandoren released the V16 S+ chamber for alto saxophone (BSWE V16 S+ Alto Mouthpiece Review) and is was quite a hit (my personal favorite V16 alto offering), Vandoren began developing a large chamber V16 tenor saxophone mouthpiece. This year, Vandoren finally released the V16 large chamber hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece. I have played Vandoren products in the past and my first hard rubber tenor mouthpiece was a V16 Medium Chamber T7 tip opening. I was excited to see how the V16 large chamber played in comparison. When I played the V16 Large Chamber T6 I noticed an overall darker sound that took more air and had a greater level of resistance than I was used too. Personally, I prefer the V16 medium chamber in comparison to the large chamber mouthpiece because I find my sound to be more focused, contain more edge, project further, and have less resistance. With that being said, saxophonist Lucas Pino, (BSWE Lucas Pino Interview) was very pleased with the overall response and sound on the V16 large chamber tenor mouthpiece and actually has been asking Vandoren to make a V16 large chamber model to suit his playing. I am interested to see which Vandoren artists and players switch over to the new large chamber model and hope to in the near future spend some more time with this mouthpiece and try various reed and ligature combinations to see what works best for me.
Although Marca Reeds have been around since 1957, I actually have not had the chance to test play them. This year, after visiting the Vandoren booth to test play the new V16 Large Chamber hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece, I stopped by the Marca booth and met with Nicolas Righi (CEO) & team to test play the various reed models they brought to the show. I test played the American Vintage as well as the new Marca Jazz Reeds with a filed and un-filed cut
Marca American Vintage Reeds
The Marca American Vintage Reeds reminded me of a cross between a Vandoren V16 and a Vandoren ZZ reed. I tried a 2 to 2.5 American Vintage tenor reeds which played quite well but I always use a Reed Geek to make sure the back of the reed is smooth and even so it has a complete seal with my mouthpiece.
Marca Jazz Un-filed/Filed Reeds
The Marca Jazz Un-Filed/Filed played very similar to the D’Addario Select Jazz Reeds. I found the Marca Jazz reeds are slightly more freer blowing with a bit more edge than the Marca American Vintage model but both models played well overall. I am glad I finally spent some time at the Marca booth to check out the new Marca Jazz series reeds which suit the type of sound I am looking for. I highly recommend if you are unhappy with the current reeds you are using, to test play the Marca brand and see if they work for you or not.
1.) ReedGeek Klangbogen – Matte finish (https://www.reedgeek.com/product/klangbogen-bore-reed-stabilizer-3-pin-set-one-piece/)
2.) Kim Korea Saxophones (https://www.kimssaxophone.com/)
3.) Jody Jazz Jet Tenor Mouthpiece (https://jodyjazz.com/super-jet-tenor/)
Final NAMM Thoughts
The 2018 NAMM Show was filled with new products, artists, and most importantly, exhibitors showcasing their latest and greatest saxophones, ligatures, mouthpieces, necks, reeds, neck straps, sax stands and the list goes on and on. What I have seen over the past 5+ years, besides the introduction of new products, is further improvements in the manufacturing and assembly of saxophones and accessories resulting in equipment that lasts longer. Unfortunately (like every year), I was not able to visit every booth at the show that I wanted to and spend the amount of time I would have liked to test play various products. As always, to any of the manufacturers I met at NAMM, if I did not include you in this list, this is not a reflection on your product, it just simply came down to time. If you would like me to review your product specifically or have any questions, please feel free to contact me using the information from my author bio below. Again, another great NAMM Show in the books and I can’t wait to see what NAMM 2019 has in store for us saxophonists next year!