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Reeds My experiences A/B-ing my two altos with 2 Selmer Super Sessions & various brands of reeds.

Jazz Is All

Barcelona, Spain
Since I got my new vintage Couesnon alto 3 weeks ago I have been playing it back to back with my 1928 True Tone IV and a Selmer Super Session E with various different reeds to see how they compare, which sounds better with which and etc etc. Kind of an A/B test but without recording anything but rather just going on my ear memory between horns. The fact is that I have always combined reed and mpc testing and tryouts with practice and plain old free improvisation. I feel I kill two birds with the same axe that way, and it improves my playing and knowledge of my equipment at one and the same time.

The other wrinkle to this is that I have two Super Session E mouthpieces, one is the original pre-2011 model with the letter on the barrel and the other the remodeled one that they created in 2012 or 13 before discontinuing the model entirely for Alto and Tenor. This one has the E stamped/engraved on the table and also has a deeper drop into the chamber just at the throat. That suggests that it would be a tad brighter than the former design but frankly the difference is really subtle if it exists at all, and I can't really pin it down when playing. For that reason I am going to record myself doing this, so I can judge without the horn and playing getting in my way....just the cringe factor of hearing myself through speakers. I tend to feel that I prefer the latter of the two and should keep it and sell the other, but I want to listen to these A/B tests on the stereo to know for sure.

The reeds I have been playing a lot on the two horns with these two mpcs are Rigotti Gold, Francois Louis, Marca Jazz, various synthetics and Gonzalez. First off I have to say that my ears are very finicky to the sound of synthetic reeds on alto. I think it must be because of the higher pitch of the entire range of the sax and that often with a plastic reed is exacerbated IMO. Well to my ears I think a Legére sounds like a piece of plastic, a Foreskin original tan reed sounds pretty okay and actually can play altissimo very easily but also can squeak and suddenly blow unwanted overtones, especially if it is on the soft side. Mine is old so maybe that is the problem. The tip seems softer on one side. Plasticovers are okay but nothing to write home about so in fact I actually prefer cane on alto. I know that is bucking the trend but so what. Cane just sounds better when the reed is a really good one, and I get lots of those just by weeding out the dogs.

Anyway, the funny thing now is that whereas I used to think Marca Jazz reeds were brighter than either Rigotti or FL, that was on tenor, and with higher baffle mpcs. On my altos, with the round chamber of the SS, the FL is the brightest of the three, believe it or don't. After that the Marca sounds better to my ears than the Rigotti. However, the reeds that sound the best most consistently for the sound that mpc and horn combo creates are VD Trads and I have to go out and get some more because I stopped buying them 2 years ago and I am at the end of that box.

There is one other reed that I want to try on alto, that I have never had for anything but tenor, and that's Alexander Superial D.C. I played my Comm III tenor tonight for the first time in 3 weeks, and it was a wonderful experience both for the love I feel for that sax and for what I discovered about what reed sounds best on it. Anyway it did tonight and that was the Superial D.C. 3. I have two of them and they both played equally well and put out the purest, clearest, most undistorted tonal and sound quality I have ever heard on this horn. All the other brands have some kind of overlay of sound thickness or buzzing or distortion or their own harmonic overtones....something that makes them sound thicker and too beefy in a way, but these Alexanders were pure crystal clear core-sound, and it was incredible. Whatever I blew came out instantaneously as pure and clean as translucent crystal. Like looking through a window and not seeing the glass at all as opposed to all the tiny bits of dirt, dust, oxidation, whatever making the glass apparent. It's like the difference between the sound of a guitar with a totally pure sound from the strings and all the unintentional fuzz filtered out and a guitar played with some kind of distortion pedal that thickens the sound and distorts its purity. I don't know if I am explaining it well enough for you to get what I mean.

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