Monday, June 25, 2012

Kansas City's Charlie Parker Cutting Contest

A brand new saxophone competition and tribute to Charlie Parker is being put on by the NPR radio show 12th Jump Street appropriately broadcast from Kansas City, Bird's hometown. This is the first year they'll be hosting the competition, but it should be continuing annually.

The contest is open to saxophonists only and very easy to enter. Submit a video (at least one minute long) online at the competition's facebook page of a Charlie Parker related standard like “Cherokee,” “Scrapple from the Apple,” “Donna Lee,” or “Now Is the Time” or just improvising on some standard. Listeners and fans of the show will vote on the videos, and the music director Joe Cartwright will pick the winner from the 5 most popular videos. You can submit your video any time starting today, June 25th until August 1st 2012.  The winner will be announced Monday, August 6th.

The winner and a guest will be flown down to Kansas City and put up at the Phillips Hotel on 12th Street for four nights, August 22-26. The winner will play on the 12th Jump Street's annual Charlie Parker Tribute show, which is then rebroadcast throughout the US and the world. They will also get to enjoy a few different events during their stay. Further details can be found on the facebook page.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Yamaha YTS-23 Saxophone Reviewed

In the past I've only reviewed upper end model saxophones here, but with students always asking which horn to buy I decided to do a review of something more basic, Yamaha's YTS-23. Yamaha actually offers a large array of different level models, and you can see the full line up laid out nicely here at the Pro Winds Direct site.

The YTS-23 is Yamaha's most basic offering in a saxophone and is meant for the beginning to intermediate player. However, that doesn't mean it isn't a serious horn. The sound and feel of blowing through the horn, especially with a proper setup, outshines some of the common competitors. Though the sound isn't as full as most pro level horns, it is  balanced nicely between highs and lows. The level of resistance is at a very comfortable level and was surprisingly even throughout the horn even throughout the altissimo register. The altissimo register of the horn that I played was actually really great.

The keywork is comfortable, though I do have a slight problem with the octave key. The octave key juts out past the thumb rest directly below the octave key. My preference is to have the octave key and thumb rest even, but this is something that could actually be more efficient if you got used to it. The intonation is also solid and easy to adjust too, no big surprises there.

Overall, the horn is solid, and I would definitely recommend it for the beginning player. I think a more developed player will want a horn with a little more depth/punch to the sound.

Here is a clip of me play testing the horn: Ben Plays Yamaha YTS 23.mp3

Conclusion: A solid horn for beginner and intermediate players. More developed players might find it slightly thin sounding or find the octave mechanism less comfortable than the average setup.