Vintage versus modern saxophones…

I’m confused.  Nothing new there then…

Been playing a fair bit of (Bb) tenor recently, kind of lost impetus on C-tenor (but NOT C-Soprano, still very enthusiastic about that one !) and I’m really torn between my 2009 Orpheo tenor and my battered old 30’s Martin/IBIco stencil.  I do have a (hopefully) better playing 50’s Martin Indiana tenor currently in the postal system ‘twixt the US and here, and I’m sure that’s going to muddy the waters even more.  Alto and/or C-tenor isn’t the quite same issue, vintage vs.. modern, but I’m really totally ‘stuck on the fence’ over the two tenors.

The modern Orpheo tenor has it on slickness, speed, crispness, and even looks – but the trundly old Martin has (imho) more flexibility of tone, and I feel more ‘at one’ with the worn old action…  Somehow the older sax seems less of a precision machine, more part of me, a natural extension even.  Now if it was back in the ‘old days’, something like the Orpheo would probably have been the obvious choice, for ease of playing, cleaner sound, good looks, and hopefully near 100% reliability, but that’s no longer an issue at my time of life – now it’s basically just down to my own playing pleasure, often just for relaxation, my saxes don’t get a fraction of the playing that they used to !

The only other consideration is that switching between the Martin Bb tenor and my lovely old Martin C is 99% seamless, same era, same keys, eerily almost the same feel (apart from playing position !), and even the same harmonic fingerings…  Unfortunately I can’t say the same about switching between the Bb Orpheo and the C Aquilasax (or even the Martin C), it’s like chalk and cheese, despite all of them playing well in their own right.

The only great thing in this is that I no longer seem to have any tenor (or C)  ‘mouthpiece jitters’.  The old ‘heavily baffled’ ebonite tenor Couf Jazz’s still sound (and play) best on everything !  I even recently picked up a long-lusted-after Saxscape Downtown Studio tenor mouthpiece from eBay, and, although it plays admirably, it has still failed to depose the faithful old Coufs from pole position – hooray !!!

So Lewis – How do you juggle between your modern Rampone and your delightful Buescher tenor, or have Rampone got it right with a perfect mix of ‘old and new’ feel and sound ?

This entry was posted in C Saxophones, Eb/Bb saxes, Mouthpieces. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Vintage versus modern saxophones…

  1. Lewis Pelham says:

    I too have periods where I “prefer” one size of saxophone, & tend to abandon the others.
    I have recently emerged from a three year Bb tenor period. Oh how I envy those who have just one horn.

  2. alan says:

    Lewis – I seem to be going back into a Bb period…  The Indiana tenor arrived, bit of tweaking (and resoldering the not-previously-mentioned ‘fractured’ octave key repair – grrr…)  it plays beautifully, like a REAL Martin tenor.  If that was all that was wrong with it, it’s great – half the pads freshly replaced before selling, as well,
    Hmmmm… Do like the raw power of tenor, quite forgotten what it’s like to really roar  😯  Must apologise to the neighbours sometime – still, they have noisy kids  😆

  3. JonF says:

    Hi Alan
    I try to play all my dozen or so saxes, so I don’t tend to drift away from some, but I certaily have periodic favourites. At the moment I’m very taken with a new modern one, an unlacquered Bauhaus Walstein alto, which plays great. In the past I’ve tended to favour my vintage saxes, but at the moment I really like my modern ones, a mix of Yanagisawa and cheapy Bauhaus. However, I think part of the reason is that none of my modern saxes have a particular modern sound – they are all pretty rich sounding models.
    I guess overall I liike playing my tenor most (good job as it’s the mose expensive sax I’ve ever bought).However, I’m off now to shake the house with my mighty baritone, and I’m sure I’ll really enjoy it.

  4. Lewis Pelham says:

    Mentioning that your neighbours have noisy kids brings on one of my many Bete Noires.
    I have never understood why restaurants allow endemically unhygienic, ill mannered and noisy children yet refuse to admit well behaved dogs.  🙄

  5. Ross says:

    Alan, great to have the blog back!
    I recently tested 12 new Chinese tenors to find five for a school music program I’m involved in.
    These were new horns but being heavily discounted to clear.
    Of the 12, one was unplayable, five were dodgy, five were good and one exceptional! I bought this one!
    The horn is cloned from a Selmer SA Series 1. As I have the prototype Selmer it’s good for comparison.
    My Chinese tenor is much brighter without that ‘core warmth” of a quality horn but it is warmer than
    the many student Japanese and Taiwanese horns I have played. It is mouthpiece friendly and with my
    R&R Dukoff really wails! The action and set-up was great out of the case.
    The exercise proves that quality control in the manufacturing was poor but occasionally one of gem will
    slip through!
    Which segues back to the theme – I, too, am having a Bb period, playing and comparing my tenors
    and annoying the wildlife.

  6. saxismyaxe says:

    Stick with the vintage one. As you say, there is nothing like these tonally, and the keywork has that organic feel that merges naturally with the player.
    The new fangled, over engineered keywork quickly makes one feel like Charlie Chaplin caught up on the mechanical assembly line a la Modern Times. 😉

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