Friday, February 9, 2018

Preview: TM Custom Tenor and New Records

Last summer I visited Tenor Madness, one of the main vintage sax shops out there. I played some pristine Mark VIs, a couple relacquered SBAs, and a bunch of other vintage and modern horns. I also played their horn, the TM Custom. I really liked it, but it had rolled tone holes, which typically gives a horn a more spread sound than I'm used to. As a reference point, Selmer horns, like VIs and SBAs, have straight tone holes while Conn 10Ms have rolled tone holes.

I had sold my VI and been on the hunt for an SBA that I could afford. I ended up getting a relacquered SBA from another shop, but after a few days I realized that the sound really thinned out when I pushed it hard, and so I sent it back. My next try was a Selmer Series III, which had ended up being a little too dark sounding and too resistant for me, so I kept looking. While at the JEN conference in Dallas I ran into a buddy, Jeff Pifher, a very good player, who let me play his pristine original SBA (the horn in the linked video). That was an eye opener. It was a great horn, but it wasn't the perfect horn I thought it would be. 

In the meantime Tenor Madness had come out with a straight tone hole horn. I went ahead and bought one, and I've had it for about a month now. It's a fantastic horn, and I'll be writing a detailed review with a video in the near future when things are a bit quieter for me.

I'm also excited for two recording projects that are coming to fruition. A collaborative project, R.O.C. jazz collective, I'm part of will be releasing a EP very soon, and my new record, with a bunch of original tunes, will be out sometime this summer. Lots of exciting things all around.

Lastly, I don't know that I've really said it here on the blog, but I'm teaching jazz and woodwinds now at College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, so anyone out here in the northern mid-west that wants to play, hang, or take a lesson, please let me know! 


  1. Hey Ben, I've been reading your content since way back, always a great source. What is the difference between the SBA (or what you looked for in the potential SBA you were searching) and the TM horn? Still wondering if my year-old Yamaha Custom Z was worth the five grand I invested in it... They still have great resale value though, so my hopes are up!

    You can answer me via email, if you want :

    Thank you so much,

    Montreal, Canada

    1. Hey Alex, The TM horn has a later SBA sound to it, so less hollow than the early SBAs. It has all of the flexibility of an SBA, which is great, but the air stream feels a little bigger on the TM horn, which I like. The TM horn probably doesn't have quite as many of the upper harmonics in the sound which adds complexity to the core sound, but it will certainly develop more of that as the horn ages. Typically vintage horns have more of that ring to the sound. I'm not sure exactly why, but it has something to do with age or use.

      I think the TM horn gets you really close to a late SBA, maybe in some ways better and other ways not quite as good, but I'd have to be able to compare them directly, which hopefully I'll get the chance to do that in the future. I'll be doing a long review and a video of the TM horn in the future, so that should give you some more info (a sound clip is worth a thousand words right?).

  2. Thanks for your response! I'm looking forward to the review. Have you ever tried Custom Z's? If yes, what's your take on them? I find my setup (Laquered Custom Z and a Drake Gerry Bergonzi 7*) way too free blowing and bright, and my friend's setup is much more satisfying to me (MkVI and an modern hard rubber Otto Link), resistance-wise and tone wise. Will you be talking about resistance in the TM review, by any chance?

    Thanks so much,