Category: Reviews

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

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

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.

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.

Vandoren announces V16 reeds for baritone sax!

The longtime reed (and mouthpiece) manufacturer, Vandoren, has just announced that they have started producing V16 reeds for baritone saxophone.

Full disclosure, in addition to being the curator of JazzBariSax.com I (Andrew Hadro) am also a product specialist for Vandoren. I’ve had a chance to try out the V16 reeds for a while now and I think they are going to be very popular. Here’s what I recently wrote about them:

V16 reeds are mainstays among alto, tenor and soprano saxophonists and now the V16 reeds have arrived for baritone. Players can expect the same powerful tone with an exceptional edge especially in the lower register that will really appeal to baritone saxophonists. Whether its supporting a big band, playing in a funk section, or being a soloist, these reeds will give you the sound you need to be heard.

Check out Vandoren’s official product page for the V16 reeds here.

Larry Dickson produces another excellent album

LD_SummergoldPromises_coverCincinnati based baritone saxophonist, Larry Dickson sent us another album, . Much like the first one, this album has an excellent mix of songs. About half originals and a mix of standards, lesser known composers, and a Strayhorn-Ellington piece. The arrangements are very swinging and tasteful, the band’s playing and the recording quality is quite professional. I especially enjoyed Larry’s originals compositions. They have the feeling of classic swinging tunes, but are completely new to the ear.

Trombonist, Bill Gemmer has a number of really great solo moments as well, with an excellent mix of beautiful tone and plenty of agility on the trombone. Larry’s playing at times reminds me very favorably of Ronnie Cuber, especially on Weep. Mulligan fans will recognize this tune as one of the more memorable from the Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band. And other times I am reminded of Gary Smulyan’s deep edged tone, but really what we’re hearing is Larry’s sound that has been honed through years of dedication to the baritone saxophone in a jazz setting. And for that we are grateful. If you get a chance, I’d recommend getting a copy of “Summergold Promises” for yourself and any fan of the jazz baritone sax.

Check out Banta Boxes!

Alden Banta is a fantastic baritone saxophonist and doubler (many times over) in the New York City area. He plays just about all of the woodwinds and can often be seen inhabiting the pit at a Broadway musical, or holding down the baritone chair in some of the city’s finest big bands. On top of all that he is busy with another new little project – his Banta Box.

I recently ordered one of his Banta Boxes from him. These are small open-topped wood boxes that very securely clip onto a music stand (see the pictures below). They are perfect for keeping all of the little accessories that often float about a music stand in a convenient location – reeds, caps, phones, pencils, metronomes, tuners, headphones, …beverages? If you suffer from WMS (Wandering Metronome Syndrome) like I do, then this accessory will really help.

After living with and using the Banta Box for a couple weeks now I am thrilled with it. It keeps the music stand clear of everything that would normally be constantly falling off or blocking the music and keeps me focused on the task at hand. The construction is quite sturdy, yet the whole thing is very light. While its a little large to travel with to every gig, for an at home music stand or perhaps longer engagement (especially one that involves doubles) its a valuable tool. The felt on the bottom of the inside is an especially nice touch as it prevents any noise and clanking when dropping things in,

They are individually signed and numbered, and built to order by Alden himself. He offers two sizes 6×12 and 6×15, and you can even pick the color of the felt.

If you’re interested in one contact Alden – abanta71 @ gmail.com

Andrew Hadro
Curator, JazzBariSax.com

 

Custom necks for Conn 12M’s now available!

I’ve long admired the work of the ProShop that is part of Music Medic, run by Curt Altarac. They are always doing interesting, fun and creative projects. They have a great series of repair articles, offer great repair tools and supplies for professional and DIY repairmen, provide incredible insight into the major overhaul of an original Adolph Sax saxophone, and are always releasing innovative new products – and some wacky ones like the keyless overtone sax.

Having met Curt and a lot of his team at various saxophone events around the country, I can personally attest to their passion and knowledge about the saxophone. In Georgia recently I geeked out with a fellow saxophonist about the intricacies of building sax necks and how they have changed over the decades.

brassbrightneckAnother thing I love about Music Medic is that Curt is a baritone saxophonist himself, so the big horn does not get neglected the same way it might in other situations. The most recent news on this front is that Music Medic’s ProShop is now offering custom made necks for Conn 12M baritone saxophones!
Check them out!

The neck is important on any saxophone, but from my experience the neck on 12M’s makes a huge difference, and an under-performing neck can ruin an otherwise good horn, especially intonation wise. So I am happy to see a new option. I hope to get my hands on one or two of these to test out in the future, and I will be sure to post an update or demonstration if I do.

If you get a chance to try them out, let us know how they are!

-Andrew Hadro
Curator, JazzBariSax.com

New CD from Larry Dickson

larrydicksonA reader and fellow baritone saxophonist, Larry Dickson, recently sent us a copy of his new album, “Second Springtime”. Larry seems to have a vast knowledge of the baritone saxophone and its various practitioners and it shows through the varied song selection on the album. There is everything from original music, to a Pepper Adams composition, some Ellington, and even a beautiful ballad that you may have heard Mulligan and co perform on the album “What Is There to Say?”.

Definitely worth a listen from all fans of the baritone saxophone. Its available on Larry’s CD Baby page.

Brian Landrus features the deep end

landrusdeepBaritone saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Brian Landrus has recently released a new album titled “The Deep Below”. It features him on the low range of woodwinds, baritone sax, bass sax, bass clarinet and bass flute. This release comes shortly after Brian’s tie with Chris Cheek for Rising Star in the Downbeat Critic Polls.

Definitely an album worth giving some attention to. Check it out on amazon!