This is a gem of a little book, packed with everything you’ll ever need to know about saxophone and clarinet mouthpieces. Design, history, who played what – it’s all covered – even reeds and ligatures get a look in. Each model is illustrated with a very clean and clear photograph, with a sometimes light hearted “food for thought” or a “tip” to supplement the often extraordinarily detailed text. There are also some very interesting and engaging passages where Weinburg draws on his vast experience and his own personal reminisces. Mouthpieces is somewhere between a reference guide and a player’s prayer book and will no doubt become an essential must have item for both student and seasoned professional alike.

From the moment you pick it up, this gold plated Mauriat alto sax feels right. The way the weight is distributed evenly across the instrument, the position of the palm keys, the solid action and a superb factory setup give the player bags of confidence together with a real feel good factor. Like all Mauriat horns, the build quality is second to none with solid joints (particularly at the head) and strong, well balanced springs. The 67RG comes with rolled tone holes that make the notes pop out clearly and precisely – the intonation on our sample was spot on. This horn blows so easily it’s untrue. The tone is clean and centred, while the unlacquered gold plating produces a bright sound but with a tremendous warmth and depth. The flexibility in the sound dynamics is also really. I particularly liked the positioning of the table keys that gave easy access to the low Bs and Cs, while at the other end we found that the faultless action of the palm keys made the high notes really easy to pitch. The instrument is supplied with a quality Mauriat hard rubber mouthpiece and a couple of Rico Royal reeds and comes in a preformed Pro-Tec zippered semi-hard case, with a useful large zippered front pocket, optional shoulder strap and “grab” handle.

The Selmer ‘La Vie’ range hails from the American Conn connection and is a superb example of quality Taiwanese workmanship. OK, this isn’t a Parisien peach, but it does have a lot to shout about! The ‘La Vie’ range covers both Alto and Tenor instruments, the AS/TS 250 combines a red brass neck, body and bow with a yellow brass bell, while the AS/TS 240 features a bronze neck, body and bow with a similarly attached yellow brass bell.

Coming with high Gs, the overall setup of these instruments is very similar to the 80s Mk2 with Mk3 palm keys. Our Alto samples had a very solid feel and were well built with superb attention to detail. The key action on both instruments was very positive with firm springing and no “clanking”, although our bronze model was a little “foggy” through the bottom C to G. Both the AS250 and AS240 had good intonation and were easy to play. However, we found the AS240 Bronze a mite too bright for the sound that is normally associated with bronze bodied instruments, its overall colours more suited to a classical palette. By contrast, the red brass AS250 shone like a beacon, with a more flexible sound and great dynamics right through the range from pianissimo to fortissimo - there was generally a lot more guts to this instrument – a true jazzer!

This solid looking tenor sax from American ‘Antigua Winds’ is aimed squarely at the music student/semi-professional market. With a key work setup that is as close as you’ll get to the Selmer Series 2, it is a superbly built instrument with a very responsive and solid action. The well finished top post and the excellent octave mechanism contribute to the overall quality feel, while certain details, such as the strong springs and metal rather than plastic reflectors in the pods – a sure sign of a good resonator – give further weight to the Antigua’s classy credentials. This horn has also got great dynamics and the tuning isn’t bad either, with our sample effortlessly hitting middle and top Eb in tune. The tone is in the easy/ mellow vein, but has an edge that will please the hard bopper. Coming with an excellent padded strap, a 4C generic mouthpiece and a medium 3 reed, the whole kit is packed into a high quality preformed ABS case with key locks and top and side handles.

Rico have recently come up with a novel pocket sized way to store your reeds in a humidity controlled environment. Using toughened plastic click/lock air tight cases incorporating Rico’s reed/vitaliser Humidity Control Pack, there are two storage solutions. The reed case stores up to eight reeds and is the ideal gigging companion, while the reed vault with its storage capacity of up to 25 alto reeds or 15 tenor reeds provides the perfect touring package. The interchangeable Humidity Control Packs are effective for up to three months and come in three different moisture levels: low, medium and a ready to roll high. Horn heaven!

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