Category: General

Rampone & Cazzani makes a very compelling handmade baritone!

Rampone & Cazzani is an Italian company that has been making instruments for well over a century. Recently they have been putting quite a bit of work into their saxophones, and my opinion is that this is one of the finest modern baritone saxophones available anywhere. In this era where there are more new saxophone companies than ever before this is quite an achievement.

One of the key things that makes the Rampone horn different is that it is completely hand built. It comes from a small artisan workshop in Italy. The bells are hand hammered and everything made by hand. Many of the newer saxophones are all built in factories in Asia. Even ones that claim to be hand assembled have quite a bit of machine-based work in them. Repairmen have grumbled about build quality, materials, and repair-ability of these horns, although that is not something I’m overly qualified to comment on.

The modern Asian horns all play pretty well, they are generally priced fairly well and look great – but they all play exactly the same. If you blindfolded me I’m not sure I could easily tell them apart. None of them really stands out as different and honestly they are all basically copies of Selmers – with some small differences here and there and a huge range of aesthetic finishes and options. Not to mention more and more keys (do you really need a high G key?). As baritone players even the companies that are making decent horns these days either don’t put as much time into their baritone, don’t offer a professional level horn, or only offer a Low A option.

A really important difference and distinction between saxophone brands and models is the shape of the bore. The shape of the bore determines a lot about a saxophone, especially its sound. Conn’s, Martin’s and Kings all have different bore shapes and dimensions that the Selmer horns. Most modern horn are modeled after the Selmer dimensions since the Mark VI is so highly regarded and was played by many of the saxophone greats. However baritone players have often sought out slightly different horns than alto and tenor players, often favoring Conn’s (Mulligan, Temperley, Carney, Smulyan etc).

Rampone offers their baritone with many different options, finishes, materials and offers both a Low A and Low Bb variation. I’ve had a chance to play the horn many times and it’s by far my favorite modern horn to play and very comparable to my vintage Conn baritone, albeit with modern keywork and so many fewer dings and dents.  I also recently had a chance to speak with Claudio who along with his father are the makers of these new horns. He is incredibly knowledgeable about saxophones and modern players and did not have the snake-oil salesman aura about him that a lot of other modern horn manufacturers do.

When playing the horn it had a huge, robust sound. Lots of projection, and maybe a somewhat brighter sound than my Conn – although this could also be related to the silver plating. The neck is very long, even longer than my Conn, so it had a slightly different feel to it and need the harness/neckstrap to be let out a bit, but was fairly comfortable to play, and the modern keywork was much appreciated, especially compared to an unmodified Conn layout. The horn comes with a beautiful hard case, covered in leather, and on wheels. The case in and of itself is a huge step up for a baritone! The model I tried is their R1 Jazz saxophone, it was fully silver plated, although the neck had a slightly different finish to it. The whole horn and especially their engravings are beautiful – as one would expect from Italian craftsmen. Check out the gallery below for all of the pictures!

The folks over at Rovner are handling the US distribution for Rampone horns and have been travelling around to some shows with them to let people try them out. If you get a chance, I would really recommend trying these unique horns.

You can take a look at them over on their site as well:
http://www.ramponecazzani.com/eng/2009j_ag.html

Lauren Sevian shares her story about sexism in jazz

Jazz is a disproportionately male genre, at least in the US and I suspect most places. As such, it is unfortunately not shocking, but disappointing, to learn that the ‘scene’ or industry is rife with sexism against women.

Sometimes its struggling with the absurd assumption that women can’t play as well, and sometimes its just dealing with everyday stupid and inappropriate behavior from teachers, colleagues, promoters, or anyone else – I’m sure many other scenarios that I can’t even imagine.

I would very much like to present Lauren Sevian‘s recent story about her own experiences:
Sexism in Jazz, From the Conservatory to the Club: One Saxophonist Shares Her Story

Playing and promoting jazz, improvised music, and even just acoustic music is already an uphill battle. The negativity from sexism doesn’t help anyone and can be incredibly damaging. Lauren’s story is just one of many, and honestly by far probably not the worst out there, hopefully with the recent attention to this issue things will change for the better.

Next installment from Larry Dickson

Baritone saxophonist, Larry Dickson, has released another very fine album in his series that are seasonally related. (Check out the last couple).

This next release, “Donora Autumn” is full of excellent original compositions, with a few familiar songs included as well. As always, the playing is tasteful and arrangements swinging. This time with If you get a chance I’d highly recommend adding this to your listening collection. I’ll be patiently awaiting the fourth season.

You can read a comprehensive review over at AllAboutJazz.com

New article on Leo Parker

Those who know of Leo Parker know he has influenced many modern baritonists, despite not having wide recognition for most jazz listeners. The Jazzwax.com blog has put together an excellent article about Leo Parker and some of his records as a leader, including some interesting back story to the true composers of Miles Davis’ supposed song “Walkin'”. There is also some excellent info on Gene Ammons’, one of Leo’s frequent collaborators. If you aren’t familiar with Leo Parker, this is a great place to start.

In a lesson with Ronnie Cuber, I once asked him if he like Leo Parker. He laughed and told me that he couldn’t listen to Leo Parker or he would start trying to sound too much like him! I guess that is as close to a compliment as he would go. Gary Smulyan and almost every other baritonist of note seems to speak highly of him as well.

Check out the full story here.

Josh Sinton releases new album

Josh Sinton is a long standing member of the creative music scene focused in New York City. He is one of the few musicians in that arena to dedicate himself to the baritone saxophone, and we are all the richer for it.

Sinton is part of a new band called “muscianer” and they have a debut album “Slow Learner.” I recently saw Josh and he was kind enough to give me a copy to listen to. I think anyone who appreciates modern music and is looking to hear baritone saxophone in a new and different way will really appreciate it. The video below will give a quick sample of what can be found on the album. The album officially arrives September 25th, you can pre-order it here.

musicianer is also embarking on a tour for the release. Click here if you’d like to see a list of shows.

Leo P performance on the BBC

Leo Pellegrino (better known as Leo P, and not to be confused with Leo Parker), was recently featured in a tv performance with the BBC. Check out the video below. The dancing might arguably be more impressive than the playing, but its fairly fun to watch and exciting to see people actually appreciate the baritone sax on a fairly wide scale.

The saxophone intro and dancing are especially impressive. The performance eventually leads into an arrangement of the classic baritone saxophone feature by Charles Mingus, ‘Moanin’. The arrangement is very similar to the Mingus Band’s albeit with the addition of the well known Metropole Orchestra and a nice trumpet solo from Christian Scott. Leo seems to be channeling quite a bit of Ronnie Cuber in the rendition, although even in his younger days I don’t believe Ronnie was that fleet of foot.

New York Baritonist Andrew Gutauskas Releases Debut Album

Andrew Gutauskas, a very adept player in the NYC jazz scene has released his first album as a leader. It’s titled “Look Up!”, a reference and homage to his late mentor, Mr. Joe Temperley.

You can check out a few of the tunes, including the the title track below. A beautiful original tune that seems to pay respects to Temperley, and one of his most popularly performed Ellington songs “Single Petal of a Rose”.

The whole band is comprised of fantastic New York musicians, all of whom are quickly becoming the core of the new generation of great musicians.

Those interested in getting the album will find it on iTunes.

Andy has created a beautiful original work that honors a mentor. A tricky line to walk, but I think he has done it beautifully.