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

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