Friday, November 5, 2010

Cannonball Vintage Pro Series Tenor

I’ve never known a saxophone to have a mental disorder, but this one sure comes close! More on that later.

I saw this Cannonball Vintage Pro tenor sax on the wall in Sam Ash with its beautiful deep amber laquer just begging to be played. The vintage look and profile screamed Mark VI, so I thought I’d see how close Cannonball had gotten. Just holding the horn in my hands let me know something was different. The key work filled up my medium sized hands, much like the key work on modern horns. I am accustomed to the smaller feel of vintage horns, but the Cannonball’s key work still felt very good. My fingers laid naturally onto the keys. Nothing felt quirky or out of place.

Playing the horn felt much like playing a Selmer Reference 54. It felt fairly free blowing, but not as free blowing as a true vintage horn. Some would find that a disadvantage and others would like the slightly more resistant feel. The tone was very similar to a Mark VI, possibly a little brighter but still very focused, until I reached octave key B. At this point the saxophone transformed, and the tone became much brighter and little edgier. This strangely transformed tone continued up into the altissimo range of the horn. Now that was a weird experience, and it was the first time I’ve come across such a defined boundary line. Octave key A and down had a nice Mark VI-ish sound, and Octave key B and up sounded like an entirely different horn. I did not have the chance to play another Cannonball Vintage Pro horn, so I cannot say if this is a odd one time event or whether this is the general tendency of the horns. I can recommend vigorously play testing any horn before you make a final purchase!

Conclusion: This is a great looking horn that feels good in your hands. It sounds like a vintage horn up to a certain point, but unfortunately it loses that characteristic vintage sound when your reach the upper register.

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