If you have a music bucket list, attending NAMM at least once should be on it. NAMM 2015 was held in Anaheim this year and hosted over 75,000 attendees. Opening day included a visit by the Disneyland band. The best concert at this year’s NAMM was by Yamaha even featuring Toto, James Blunt, and Tom Scott amongst so many more excellent musicians.
Tip of the conference: Don’t forget to bring your mouthpieces, reeds, neck strap, and camera. They don’t sell stuff at NAMM. But if they ever let someone sell this kind of thing, that company will probably make a killing.
My adventure as the Quinn the Eskimo Vintage Horns social media and woodwind guy was to try as many wind instruments as I could. I started with the offerings of the big three, Yamaha, Selmer-Conn and Buffet-Crampon. Then I sampled some of the lessor known brands. Here are my personal favs this year:
Clarinet: The Yamaha’s new CVSR clarinets were a standout with such a controlled sound and keyworks that were as smooth as butter. I don’t play clarinet enough to switch from my Buffet R-13 Festival, but if I were considering, this would be a strong candidate. The Selmer Privilège bass clarinet still was my favorite, again for the keywords and for the low C sound.
Sax: The Selmer Paris Ref 54s still have the sound and feel that I endorse for alto sax. There were many styles and flavors but the sound was uniformly wonderful and the feel perfect to my hands. The Selmer Paris Ref 36 for tenor sax had the kind of sound and feel that I was looking for. So don’t forget to try it out too if you are looking for a modern tenor sax.
I really liked the Yamaha Custom EX and Z too. They were very nice rides, both having great intonation across the registers with very little effort on my part.
Reed: I have taken to trying synthetics a lot more because I have so many gigs with multiple instruments to play. I like the Légère Signature reeds the best, which wasn’t always true for my alto sax or sop clarinet. Benedikt Eppelsheim recommended them to me 8 years ago for my bass sax and bass clarinet (mostly used in the pit) but I didn’t like the sound for my main stay instruments. Now the sound is the same, the sizes match what I get in reeds that are not synthetic (thank you!) so I don’t have to guess what size is correct for me.
Mouthpiece: I didn’t expect to find a mouthpiece that was better than what I already have in my collection. But the Gottsu handcrafted mouthpieces were so sweet, that I almost broke my promise to my wife not to buy anything. Uniformly high quality, some interesting marble looks, and such a lovely sound, these are worth looking at if you can find a dealer carrying them.
Teaching media: I ran into Greg Fishman trying out Yamaha’s new line of instruments. I have so many Jazz method books by him, that all my instructors have played my dog-eared copies at lessons. This year he came out with his new book, The Lobster Theory, which is available in paperback or digital (through Amazon and iTunes). As Jeff Coffin sez about this reference:
What Greg Fishman has accomplished in this book is to explain, and then show through the use of awesome drawings and complete musical examples different concepts and ideas that are essential to our development development as musicians. The Lobster Theory is a really fun read and I enjoy Greg s sense of humor and wit. The ideas he presents here are effective, long lasting and inviting for students and educators alike.
SaxRax: For those hobbyists like me who are over 50 years old, some gigs that we’d love to have done are now off the list. For me that is sitting in with a Tower of Power style band with my bari sax. But standing with that weight hanging around my next would put me in a world of pain.
Well SaxRax is introducing the Sax Stand for your consideration. You can move with this adjustable stand, play your heart out and still be able to walk tomorrow.
Fav Musician: I actually got to talk too: Mindi Abair let me take a picture with her. She is so busy with her Grammy nomination and new CD called Wild Heart. She MC’d one of the Yamaha concerts and played a song off her new CD.
She also sang which was a nice treat.
Surprise Music Manufacturer: Chateau is a company working out of Vietnam (need to confirm this). Not only did they introduce me to the Gottsu mouthpiece (see above) I got to play their top of the line saxes. The overtones just popped, the ergonomics were just right, and the price of these instruments were surprisingly affordable. I liked some of their other accessories too like the leather neck strap. I expect to hear a lot more from this company.
So the question is, will I ever go to NAMM again? Well, I’ll have to think about that because I’m hard-pressed to think it ever could be as good as my first time. But if going to NAMM is not on your bucket list, maybe you might want to rethink that.