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Saxophones Frankfurt Musikmesse 2011

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Harrisonburg, VA
Now I've recovered a bit here are some of my thoughts/experiences:

Apart from finding, playing and buying the best tenor I've ever played, it was quite an interesting show.

I was hoping for some big new outstanding horn, but the 66R is quite an act to beat. However great news is the magnum 76 neck which transforms the 76 into quite a beast. As ever it was a great pleasure to chat with Alex Hsieh the owner. His passion for all things saxophone is inspiring. They were right across from Cannonball this year and I was hoping to get a chance to try some to see whether anything had improved over last year (very good loud horns but lacking somewhat for me in the dynamics department). I never got to play any though, the somewhat cool reception from the reps dropped them off my priority list and by the time I got back there my cab for the airport was due.

Peter Ponzol Pro One
I've mentioned this elsewhere. This could be a very serious horn. I preferred the tenor, a very rich sound, even from bottom to top and easy subtone. Stunning horn. Had a nice chat with Peter and I mentioned the alto didn't quite cut it for me. The issue there was just the high C seemed to break up when really pushed. maybe that's just me, the same thing seems to happen for me on MKVIs

Now this could be a great horn, but a rather disappointing experience at their stand. As soon as I started test playing, the endorsers started playing as well, as if there was some kind of loud/fast competition. I think Stephen Howard mentioned a similar thing last year at the Mauriat stand. I can't quite understand this as I was testing dynamics, ie playing nice and quiet, trying to listen to the tuning and suddenly I'm bombarded by lickerama. It's not as if they were demonstrating to someone else or warming up for a performance. It seemed to be a really really nice horn from what I could tell, but when I pointed out a slight issue with the ergos (my G finger kept catching on the G#), rather than taking on board what might be useful feedback I was mildly berated for having hands that are too small.

This was funny. In the past I've always found them extremely good and useful horns though somewhat lacking in character for me. But I tried the solid silver tenor and what a shock. Beautiful smoky sexy lyrical sound. I then got chatting to the reps, as they were interested in my PPT mouthpiece and I explained the point about it's versatility, to prove it went from the whispering subtone to the roaring R&B (as with my new tenor), and sadly the horn decided not to go there with me. Oh well. Still a lovely horn if you don't want to be as obnoxious as I sometimes am.

Drake Mouthpieces
A great pleasure to meet Aaron (and his lovely Missus). I was initlally looking for ligatures to recommend with the PPT, and though his fitted beautifully, just before I ordered a couple of gross, he pointed out that you need to make sure it fits a specific reed. This fitted my Legere but if I'm to sell them with the PPT people may be using a thicker or thinner reed, so it might not work so well. Looking forward to an adjustable version.

BUT, the Bird alto mouthpiece, that was great and one I could quite easily use if I lost my RPC. I didn't get to try the Getz tenor though as time was not on my side. I have a feeling I might have struggled with the facing though, being used to a 9*. Still, it's something I'd like to try in the future.

Warburton Necks
Really interesting looking necks, I was hoping to try one with my new tenor, but even though Terry had 75 sizes of tenon, as soon as he saw the size of this tenon receiver, he decided he was going to need 85. Still we got Curt (musicmedic) to measure it so hopefully he can make one to fit. I can't wait to try it.

What can I say? As ever a pleasure to chat with Curt, he had a bigger stand and I was happy to see he was extremely busy a lot of the time, lots of interest there. He had a look at my Conn 10M and Buescher, and pointed out a few mechanical improvements that could be made.

Silvin (he of the mouthpiece silencer) had a much bigger booth this time, and had a new design of strap. Well not really a strap, it worked with a couple of arms that hook over your shoulders and a pad that rests against your stomach. So absolutely no pressure on your neck. I like this idea, great if you have a bad neck (but obviously not so good if you have dodgy shoulders). The pad against your stomach though is a great idea, because obviously it relieves some of that pressure on the shoulders, however I think the design needs refining just a bit. If you have a less than concave stomach (or like me you have a party 7 rather than a 6-pack), then it can start to slide off to one side. But he took this on board and said he would work on that. Yippee.

Also mentioned elsewhere. Amazing. I was expecting a chad valley toy horn, but found an extremely good sounding and playable horn. Lightning fast action due to the design and obviously very easy to do a self service, the pads just slot in and out and always seat as they are floating. The only downside for me was a bit of happy intonation in places, but they took this on board seriously and I look forward to it being a really viable instrument in the market. Piyapat mentioned they intend to bring it out in kit form which will be cool.

Yes, our very own Stan the colourful mouthpiece man. He didn't have a booth but caught up with me as threatened. Had some beautiful looking (and playing) mouthpieces (see, we mouthpieces makers don't all hate each other). Beautiful workmanship.

They were pleased to hear that I was still using the exact same two reeds for alto and tenor that I got last year. Those ones were prototypes and this year I thought I'd better get a couple more and found that 2.25 were just right. I also managed to do a comparison with Forestone, but Legere's still seem to have the edge on them for me (literally, as I find Forestones are slightly uncomfortable due to being not as wide across the tip - more on that when I do some sound comparisons)

As mentioned, I had issues with the tenor, but I have a soprano to try in the comfort of my own studio (I have probelems with soprano reeds) so I'm looking forward to giving this a go and keeping my fingers crossed. Very helpful and friendly people.

HL Saxes
These are the ones milandro mentions, really very nice horns from Taiwan and a nice booth to hang out at and chew the fat with Moon, milandro, Stan and Clarnibass among others.

Hung out here a bit (obviously - they know me well by now as I've bought two saxes from them in the past). They had some new things, including a one piece soprano and a gold plated alto which I blew a bit there and everyone thought it sounded identical to my Buescher 400 which I'd taken along to the show for comparisons. Stephen Howard mosied by at that point and studied it, then proclaimed that it appeared Chinese manufacturing/build quality had finally arrived. I might just have to pop over to their shop and see if I can borrow it on approval, not sure if I can afford another horn though after buying the second most expensive instrument at the MusikMesse.

That was quite a busy stand, not least because of endorser Bobby Wellins, a UK sax giant and legend. I had a couple of jams with him, a real pleasure and very fun guy to be around. Things hotted up a bit there when Ernie Watts showed up to check out the Bauhauses, he had obviously heard about them and seemed very impressed. He played about four tenors and though he's a Keilwerth Artist he was heaping praises on these, as was Tony Kofi who don't up later and spent even longer. He seemed unable to put them down, especially my favourite, the brown one.

Great disappointment. I hadn't played a modern Selmer for a few years, but the Ref 36 and 54 tenors were almost unplayable below C: maybe they had been abused at the show but you'd think Selmer would keep them set up properly. The Series III played OK, but for me the sound was thin and characterless. (Sorry Selmer fans, please don't hate me, maybe it's just me). I think Selmer should be worried about horns such as the Ponzol Pro One and the Bauhaus M2

Rampone & Cazzani
What can I say? I've been loving these horns each time I go the Messe, and keep telling Claudio I shall pop into the factory in Italy with a view to buying one. But when I tried their new "Two Voices", I just kept coming back to it. The only saxophone more expensive at the show was their totally solid silver tenor, but it was the Two Voices I fell in love with, so I just had to buy it there and then before anyone else did.

The engraving is based on an actual existing work of art by one Casanova of two towers, which Claudio has said he will send me a copy of. I still have to visit Quarna Sotto, either to try out some necks, buy a curved sopranino or just have a romantic weekend with the missus.

My sympathies, I had a pretty rubbish day at work too......

Thanks for the great read Pete, I'd love to go to a show like this even if it is just to listen and gawp :)
Don't ya just hate it when people go on and on about their holidays.
Cheers Pete, thanks.
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