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"Comparing The New Borgani, Rampone & Cazzani, Selmer, and Yamaha Tenors"

By Aaron Santee

Over the last couple of years, I've either owned or tested most of the industries professional model saxophones.

The ones I'll be reviewing today are the ones I've considered playing at one point or another (current Selmers, and Borgani), have owned (Yamaha 62 and Custom), and will probably be switching to (Rampone & Cazzani R1 Jazz). Some I'm more familiar with than others, some I've only played for a few minutes. But I believe I've given each brand enough time to form an educated and honest opinion on.

Selmer Tenor Saxophones

Let's start with Selmer, since their name "IS" saxophone!

I went with a former student of mine several years ago to Milwaukee's Interstate Music to test all of their new Selmers, and they all played pretty well. Now at the time I was playing an 86,XXX Selmer Mark VI tenor overhauled by Emelio Lyons (got it when I was at Berklee in '97), then "re-adjusted" by Steve Schoene at Schmitt Music in Racine, WI. So I was basically playing on the exact same serial # and overhaul that Michael Brecker has been playing on for many years. I was using at the time a custom made Dave Guardala high baffle / large chamber gold plated brass mouthpiece, La Voz reeds, and Selmer metal ligature. I guess the closest mouthpiece to that custom Guardala (which I sold a few years ago) would be Charlie A's BBQ in a .120".

The sounds and feel of all the Selmers I tried were nice, but my favorite out of the 4 I tested was their Super Action 80 Series III. The sound was nice and big, and somewhat close to my Mark VI. The Reference 36 came in a close second, having a little bit smaller sound, but it still sounded nice. Third place went to the Series II, and last place to the Reference 54 (which my student seemed to like best out of the four!). The last two Selmers really didn't do much for me sound-wise. The Series II is probably best suited for classical playing, the 54 probably for rock 'n roll. I didn't experience a great deal of expression and lush overtones in the 54. With that said, if I were to play a new Selmer, it would be a silver plated Series III (Tim Price figured it right I think!).

Yamaha Tenor Saxophones

Next on the list is Selmer's old rival, the Yamaha 62 and 875. I have not tested a 62 II tenor yet, but have tested that model in an alto, and it's better than their 875 I think - probably because the sound is more complex and refined due to the annealing of the 62 II's brass. The Custom 875 didn't do much for me - again, I think it's the annealed brass issue.

It would be very interesting if Yamaha made a model out of red brass - that would give it more of an "annealed brass sound" I believe - just softer in material. I used to own a 62 tenor and loved it. I liked it's tone much better after I had all the lacquer taken off it and had sterling resonaters put in to replace the stock nylon ones. I also had Steve Schoene treat the new pads with silicone to help with projection better. I guess that's something to think about when getting an overhaul? All in all, I'm very impressed with Yamaha's consistency, good tone, ok feel, and now a more decent price.

Borgani Tenor Saxophone

The third sax model I tested with the same set-up in a hotel room in Chicago. It was Joe Lovano's "Joe Lovano Model" Borgani tenor sax. Comparing it to my Mark VI, it was actually much darker in tone. I've never played a horn that sounded so lush in my life! But, it didn't give me the kick I needed when I pushed it like the Series III, Mark VI, Yamaha 62, or R1 Jazz (I'll get to that horn in a minute) did. It's feel was very vintage, and it would take me some time to get used to the feel. The tone holes seemed to be placed more down the center, not at as comfortable an offset as my Mark VI had. It was the perfect horn for Joe, for his sound and style, but not the perfect horn for my more mainstream playing.

Rampone and Cazzani Tenor Saxophones

Last but certainly not least is the R1 Jazz by Rampone & Cazzani. I was lucky to spend about an hour testing their saxes at the World Saxophone Congress back in 2003. This is the horn that made me sell my Mark VI. It sounded so close to my VI, it was unbelievable! The keys felt really good. The neck I would have to take some time to get used to for certain. It's got a quicker curve, which means the neck is pushed outward more than say a Selmer's or Yamaha's. This model DOES have the high degree of copper in their brass (red brass) for increased harmonics and lush subtones. And the bore size is larger than even Keilwerth! But it doesn't feel big at all, it's very comfortable to play. Clearly I saved the best sax (in my opinion) for last.

I hope these reviews help you in your search of the right sax for you. They're all great horns, but you really need to test 'em all before paying thousands of dollars for yours!

For more information on the horns and other equipment I play, please visit my website - www.AaronSantee.com - God Bless. ><>


By Aaron Santee

Aaron Santee is a Saxophonist playing Jazz and Commercial Styles on Soprano Sax, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax and EWI. Santee is also an educator and now author, with his fist book on Saxophone Now Available. Saxophone - Everything Sax Players Should Know is hot off the press and covers the bases just as the title suggests.

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