Saxophone Highlights from NAMM 2014

namm-2014Similar to last year’s NAMM show, the 2014 show was another year filled with some new products ranging from saxophones, mouthpieces, ligatures, reeds and much, much more. This NAMM show in particular, saxophone and reed manufacturer, Lupifaro invited me to join them at the booth and assist with the setup and tear down at a music trade show which is something I always wanted to learn.

It was difficult to see as many products this year, as I was at the Lupifaro booth most of the time but, I tried my best to visit as many booths as possible to test-play some of the latest gear as well as touch base with saxophone artists and friends. I found that this year’s NAMM show in comparison with last year’s show had many more mouthpiece and ligature exhibitors. I will be reviewing some of the products I had a chance to try at the 2014 NAMM show as well as finish with some products I hope to review and share this upcoming year.

Rafael Navarro Mouthpieces

navarroI have heard a lot of buzz around Rafael Navarro’s mouthpieces as well as have talked to various endorsing and non-endorsing artists who only had positive things to say about the mouthpieces as well as Rafael’s work and knowledge. This year, Rafael brought his whole line of mouthpieces from soprano to bari saxophone with the Maestra, Bahia, and Bob Mintzer model. I was able to try each model in various tip openings and liked them all evenly. Rafael’s mouthpieces definitely had the edge, power, and tonal characteristics I have gotten when playing on certain vintage mouthpieces and his mouthpieces offered even more when you put a lot of air into the mouthpieces. Regardless of which dynamic level you’re playing at, the overall sound of the mouthpiece is extremely resonant.

I would highly recommend checking out Rafael mouthpieces and if you find a model you like but want certain specs that suits you’re playing better, Rafael has the experience and expertise to make these changes.

More info: https://rafaelnavarro.com

A more in-depth mouthpiece review is coming soon.

Ishimori Ligature

ishimori-ligatureI have recently been reading about and have seen more and more players switch from their current ligature over to the Ishimori ligature. This was the first year I saw Ishimori at the NAMM show and had a chance to try out the Ishmori ligature and the Woodstone tenor saxophones. I was able to try 6 Ishimori ligatures, all the same model, but each had a different finish from copper to brass to my personal favorite, pink gold, which is a solid silver ligature which is then gold plated after. I would have to say that I did notice a difference in the sound between the various finishes and overall my favorite was the pink gold because I found it projected very well as well as added some additional warmth to my overall sound. I would highly recommend checking out these ligatures when you get a chance and see how they fit your current setup.

More info: https://www.wood-stone.jp

Woodstone saxophone

woodstone-tenor-saxThe Woodstone tenor saxophone looks almost identical to a Selmer Mark VI in terms of the body and key layout but the neck reminds me of a SBA or Balanced action tenor neck. I had never gotten the chance to try a Woodstone tenor saxophone but I was glad I had a chance to try one out.

Out of the various finishes at the show, my favorite was the vintage finish tenor as well as the satin silver tenor with a gold plated bell. I found the Woodstone saxophones to respond immediately with a full rich sound. I found the keywork incredibly comfortable under my fingers and enjoyed all the additional features on these saxophones like the thumb rest, neck, octave mechanism, and more that were designed by Ishimori.

I would recommend the Woodstone tenor saxophone to players who are really in the market for a Mark VI because the layout, look, and overall sound of these Woodstone tenors is targeted towards the professional players who are looking for something to replace their Mark VI or looking for a tenor they could use as a backup to their Mark VI.

More info: https://www.wood-stone.jp

CE Winds

bg-ligaturesThis was the first year CE winds came to the NAMM show and I had the opportunity to speak to Brian Seltz who is the president of CE Winds. Brian told me their mission is to offer popular vintage mouthpieces such as the Otto Link Slant Signature, MB I, MB II, New York Meyer, Dave Guardala studio model, and a Vandoren Blue Jumbo Java at a fraction of the cost, and the pieces are handmade and finished in the USA.

I got a chance to try the Sig, the Legend I and the Legend II. I have to say that all mouthpieces played great and in terms of a comparison between a vintage mouthpiece and a new “vintage” mouthpiece, CE Winds is definitely on the right track and has a good idea of what characteristics made the vintage mouthpieces so desirable. I really enjoyed testing out the Sig mouthpiece and it was incredibly close to my Otto Link Slant Signature.

I would have to say for the overall price point compared to an original vintage mouthpiece, I would check out a CE winds mouthpiece before making an investment in another vintage mouthpiece.

More info: https://www.cewinds.com

BG Ligatures

bg-ligaturesI have used BG mouthpiece cushions as well as have and still use the BG Yoke neckstrap from time to time when playing alto and have to say it’s a great strap. While at the NAMM show this year, I met Jessica Watts at the BG booth and she was nice enough to let me try two ligatures that she believed would work well with my setup.

Duo Ligature

Jessica told me the Duo Ligature has been out for the alto saxophone but recently they introduced the Duo ligature for the tenor saxophone. I have personally been using a Francois Louis or Vandoren M/O ligature on my tenor and wanted to see how the Duo ligature compared. I found the Duo ligature to give a round and more spread sound when compared with my Francois Ligature, and the Duo still embodies some of the focus I find when I am using my Vandoren M/O ligature.

Amazon: Duo Ligature

Super Revelation ligature

The second ligature I tried was the super revelation. This ligature reminded me of my Rovner Eddie Daniels ligature that I use on my alto saxophone. I was surprised by the Super Revelation in terms of how big and warm the overall sound was. I would have to say that this ligature reminded me of my Vandoren M/O ligature in terms of the focus I can attain, but the overall sound was a bit bigger and incredibly warm, which I did not suspect from this ligature with its metal plate.

Amazon: Super Revelation Ligature

More info: https://www.bgfranckbichon.com

Saxholder

Jazzlab SaxholderI had written a review previously on the Saxholder and how it is one of the most innovative neck-straps to come out on the market in many years. I just wanted to add that the Saxholder has had two new changes.

The first change is the two straps that rest on your shoulders will actually connect in the back instead being open like the previous strap.The second change is that the part on the neck-strap that rests on your stomach is now larger and I found it to be a bit more comfortable.

More info: https://www.jazzlab.com/en

Overall Thoughts

The 2014 NAMM show was another great year and I was very impressed by new exhibitors as well as returning exhibitors showcasing their current products along with products that they have revised to make even better.

I would have to say that there was just not enough time to check out all the gear I wanted to this year. I can honestly say there are way too many excellent products on the market, making the buying process more difficult, but at the same time this gives the player so many more options to choose from than years before.

In addition to the products I have reviewed, I have included a list of gear that I hope to check out this year and will hopefully be reviewing sometime soon.

Saxholder

My list of products to check out

Marc Jean ligatures
http://www.musiquedemarc.com/en/Ligatures.asp

Silver Eagle alto saxophone
https://silvereaglesax.com [Sorry(!), but this web page has disappeared since the original publication of this article]

Silverstein Ligature
https://www.silversteinworks.com

Gottsu Sepia tone mouthpiece
https://www.gottsu-japan.com/home-english

Brancher Neck-strap
https://www.brancher-france.com

Forestone black bamboo reed
https://www.forestone-japan.com

ReedGeek
https://www.reedgeek.com

I would love to see any comments with regards to products I should check out or any questions regarding certain products that I could help answer.

Thanks for reading!