Yamaha has released their new YBS-480. This will eventually replace the already popular YBS-52 intermediate baritone saxophone. The neck and bore have been altered, supposedly to closer match the professional model YBS-62 and there is a socket for a removable peg on the bottom.
Since this model will most likely be used by students and often younger students the option to rest the horn on a peg will be a welcome addition.
I had a chance to try this new horn in New Orleans in January at the Jazz Education Network conference, and I thought it was excellent. While I personally play a vintage horn I have no problem recommending a Yamaha especially to schools and students. They are tanks and can take a lot of abuse and still function very well. They are priced appropriately and are very consistent from horn to horn.
The YBS-52 is a big staple across the world in classrooms and hands of students so the improvements this horn will bring are going to make a big difference to baritone players all over. Kudos to Yamaha! Any attention to the big horn is much appreciated.
I have been meaning to put together an article on cases specifically for baritone saxophones for some time. It might be the most common thing I get asked about in regards to the big horn.
In the new article released today I’ve collated my advice, experience and hopefully a fairly complete and accurate comparison of many of the options out there today. I’d like to thank Jason Marshall, Lauren Sevian, and Jeff Suzda for their input on the article as well.
I have covered Larry Dickson’s first, second, and third, installments in his 4 album project that mirrors the seasons. Today I am happy to say I’ve had a chance to enjoy the latest one from his quartet titled, “Winter Horizons”.
Similar to all of the other albums this album is very well done. The playing on the album is great, but what always stands out to me is Larry’s choice of songs and arrangements. There is an especially nice arrangement on Well, You Needn’t. On this disc there is a balanced and enjoyable mix of originals, standards, Thelonious Monk songs, and even a less-known but very enjoyable Billy Taylor original.
The format is again a chordless quartet. Being familiar with the baritone saxophone one might immediately think of the Mulligan/Chet Baker quartet. But this album uses alto saxophone instead of trumpet. This instrumentation might lead you to remember the “Two of a Mind” album that Mulligan did with Paul Desmond, but that’s not really the feeling here either. Rick Van Matre has a more modern slightly edged alto sax sound that contrasts nicely with Larry’s more mellow rich sound.
Eden has a very interesting approach to the baritone, and often shares the unusual methods for practicing. He is especially adept at using the upper altissimo range of the baritone, often playing alto or trumpet parts at pitch.
The new album is a very playful group of original songs. He has a robust sound, but a fairly gentle approach to playing. There’s no lack of variety on the album despite not including a chordal instrument. This time around Eden used some non-standard saxophone sounds (key clicks, overtone rolls) to create new sounds in a very listenable way.
While Adam Larson is not a baritone saxophonist, he is a great saxophonist and a very busy clinician and teacher. He has a written a new etude book titled “Leaps and Sounds”. Its not a baritone saxophone specific book, but I think its very relevant for any modern saxophonist. He has written 12 etudes over the chord changes to common jazz standards and incorporated large intervals and lines that move in and out of the altissimo register. I recommend these for advanced high school or college students, they are not easy!
I firmly believe that altissimo is especially important to the baritone saxophone. Not just as a way to remain in-step with the trends of saxophone in general, but also because I think its easier and more practical on the baritone. I hope to have a full article about altissimo on the baritone up soon, but in a nut-shell, because the first altissimo octave on the baritone is merely the standard upper octave of an alto saxophone I think those pitches are all usable and within comfortable listening range. The voicing, fingerings, and intonation can be tricky but worth the effort to have access to another octave of range for improvisation.
There are never as many options for a baritone saxophonist as there are for the other saxophones. This is true for brands of horn, mouthpieces, cases, and perhaps especially instrument stands. From a business perspective it makes sense – baritone products are larger, harder to make, need to be able to handle more weight/force and of course are harder to sell since there are less baritonists out there overall. But today I would like to review a product that now goes with me to every rehearsal and gig.
Gijs van Leeuwen is from the Netherlands and has created a company called Woodwind Design. As far as I can tell he has been around for a while, mostly making specialty stands for woodwinds, especially clarinets out of interesting materials, often beautiful woods and other materials. In the last few years however he has developed new carbon fiber stands that he crafts in his workshop (garage?). We mentioned the stands a couple years back. Carbon fiber is quickly becoming a very popular material, not only for its sleek futuristic look but also because it is incredibly strong yet lighter than many metals of the same weight. Its being incorporated more and more into many instrument cases – although beware, some case manufacturers offer a carbon fiber “finish” that looks like but is not actual carbon fiber. Gijs is a woodwind player himself, but also a tinkerer and inventor. His stands in my opinion are the best option for baritone saxophone available.
Low Bb tube with Conn 12M
For many years I traveled around New York City and the east coast playing gigs and rehearsals without a saxophone stand. I have had plenty before, big solid steel ones, and even the lighter K+M plastic ones, but without a car it just wasn’t feasible to carry them to gigs, especially if I had a bag, music stand, and bass clarinet! So the horn inevitably got put onto the floor between sets and sometimes quickly put down all too harshly if there was a quick instrument switch mid song. The horn of course got battered and dinged, which as a baritone player you almost get to the point where you can live with it. With Woodwind Design’s new carbon fiber stands I carry a baritone stand in my case every day – while barely adding any extra weight – quite the life changer.
I have been using the stand nearly every day for 2 years – each stand has a unique serial number and my first stand was #4! The stand has held up beautifully and is in almost like new condition. After putting together a bulk order for a number of NYC saxophonists I received a newer updated stand, and I am very pleased that Gijs continues to improve and upgrade the design, the newer design is even more ingenious (and lighter!) than the first. Check out the photo gallery below, or the video from Gijs as well.
Great features of the Woodwind Design stand:
Carbon Fiber tubes sized precisely so they fit nested perfectly into one another to save space
The tubes will easily fit into the bell or in a side pocket of a case, the bell holder can be stored on the bell in the case – no extra bag for the stand needed
The whole stand weighs only 1.1 pounds!
Carbon fiber is strong and will not break easily, also seems to hold up well over time
4 leg design compared to most stands 3 leg design is much more stable, less likely to tip over
Screw on Bell holder allows for left to right adjustment if the bell on your saxophone brand is off center
Available for both Low Bb horns and Low A horns! You can even purchase an extra tube that allows one stand to function for either.
Rubber feet inset to the end of each foot tube keep the stand from sliding
Locking system makes sure that the upper tube that holds the bell does not move, as well as the bell holder
Alignment markings on each tube to make sure the feet and properly lined up
Rubberized bell holder is slightly bendable, adapts to each bell for secure hold and will not damage the horn
Each hole and tube are different sizes, so it is obvious to assemble
Woodwind Design Carbon Fiber stand
There are very few downsides to these stands. The main one is cost. They simply aren’t cheap! But carbon fiber as a raw material to work with is very expensive and each stand is had made and fit in the Netherlands. The next downside is how long it takes to get one – the wait can be up to several months from the time you order the stand – and so far they aren’t really distributed and sold in any stores that I know of. The last downside is that because these are hand finished stands, if you happen to lose a single tube, in order to replace it you have to send parts back to the Netherlands for a new tube to be fit precisely to the existing stand – but it can be done.
The stands are also available for all of the other saxophones, and possibly of more interest to baritonists, for bass clarinet as well! Those stands are also the most portable option for bass clarinet. JazzBariSax.com has a small stock of saxophone and bass clarinet stands available for sale. Please contact us if you are interested!
has many records out as a leader, and his latest one is another excellent addition. Gary is known lately for digging up rare songs and standards and recording them. This album is no different with a bunch of great tunes and even a Smulyan original! Gary’s sense of humor is excellent, evident in his title “Alternative Contrafacts” – A contrafact is an alternative melody to a known standard’s changes – for example “Hot House” is a melody that uses the chord changes from the standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Gary’s original is titled “I’ve Changed” a humorous play on the standard title “You’ve Changed”.
The band for the album is pared down to a trio setting, with just drums and bass. But with Gary’s harmonic knowledge and capabilities there is no lack of harmony on the tunes.
Personally I really like this album, Gary’s sound on it is almost a little darker than before, an interesting and enjoyable change. The whole album is great, and the obscure song selection is a very welcome change of pace.
On Friday, May 18th, Lauren Sevian released her second album as a leader. It features an excellent band and looks to be full of original compositions from Lauren. The little we’ve heard so far is excellent. Lots of high intensity blowing, and plenty of straight ahead swinging that Lauren is quite adept at.