D’Addario Select Jazz Mouthpieces Arrive at Sax Noir

I’ve heard nothing but great things about these, and Steve Kaldestad is playing them, which is one heck of a testimonial!   D’Addario sent me two complete Demo kits of these quite new Alto and Tenor mouthpieces and I will be stocking them in the studio for students and colleagues to try.  Just believe everything D’Addario says on their site and in their ads.  “Vintage inspired.  Legendary Tone.  100% precision crafted, milled from solid rubber.”   I’ve already written an article about them for Clarinet & Saxophone magazine and Canadian Winds, and am just awaiting the even newer D’Addario Reserve classical Alto saxophone mouthpieces for review before sending it in for publication.  You owe it to yourself to try these!  They are up there with the Vandoren V16 mouthpieces…almost…just not as consistent in tip openings and rail symmetry.  That’s not unusual….in my experience, no one except Backun is as consistent as Vandoren in hitting their specs.  So try a few of these to pick the very best one if you are interested.  Like Vandoren V16’s the Altos are modelled after 50’s Meyers and the Tenors are modelled after 50’s Links.  Far better than the current “Link” and “Meyer” mouthpieces which are hand made with poor quality control and are incredibly inconsistent.  “Hand-made” or “hand-finished” is a pejorative in my opinion…unless a great artisan is doing it right in front of you to your taste….

Orpheum’s 90th Birthday Party

What a hoot!  Despite a one hour late start to the party due to a particularly long-winded MC, everyone had a blast.  In fact, a few people started early and some of the “flappers” (there was a 20’s costume party, since we were celebrating a 1927 birthday) got into the bathtub gin a little heavily.  We had to fend off their pleas to start playing early, since we could have been heard in the auditorium, so they settled for pictures with us.

A few videos were shot as well.  Here’s an early one before we were swarmed by the crowd, and another one later from the balcony.


Sax Noir re-formed and hired to play Orpheum

Sax Noir was down to a duo briefly, with the departure of Debbie Webb to the “other” coast and Valerie Crocker getting too busy with family and her work as a music teacher.  Bryan took over brilliantly as principal saxophone of the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble for Debbie but wanted to stay on tenor for the quartet.  Ace teacher and player Tina Wang joined both PSWE and Sax Noir on 2nd Alto.  We cast about for a Soprano player and Michael Morimoto, saxophone instructor at the Vancouver Academy of Music was interested.  He’s joined just in time for our rehearsal this weekend to prepare for our upcoming gig at the 90th birthday celebrations of Vancouver’s premier music hall, the Orpheum Theatre!

Student visits Selmer Paris

Ace student Joey Liu capped his first season with the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra by winning the Principal Clarinet position with the intermediate orchestra, and then spent an afternoon at Selmer Paris on his family vacation this summer!   He brought his own mouthpiece and reeds and tried some instruments and then tested a few Selmer Concept mouthpieces and brought me the best one!  Meanwhile, I was trying the only one available in Western Canada and found that it had a slightly veiled tone due to some manufacturing flaws.  The one Joey gave me today is excellent, and sure enough all the measurements show it is made to spec!   There are students….and then there are STUDENTS!  It has been a real blessing to work with Joey and his brother Jeffrey and get to know his family.  Hard to imagine a higher or more rewarding calling than teaching….I had him sign the box and am placing it in my scrapbook as a memento of our joy in working together.  I will be balancing some reeds for it and checking out it’s sound, intonation and response for a few weeks.  Happy, happy, happy!

Stanley Drucker Heritage Collection CD arrived!

Stanley Drucker joined the New York Philharmonic as a clarinetist in 1948 at the age of 19. Since then over 40 million people have attended his concerts and his sixty year tenure earned him a Guinness World Record for the Longest Career as a Clarinetist. Mr. Drucker left the Philharmonic at the end of the 2009 season, and performed the Copland Concerto at the age of 80.   He said “A musician never retires.  I’m a player and I’ll always play.”

The Heritage Collection showcases live never-before-released chamber music performances from 1972-2004 and includes pieces from Claude Debussy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Igor Stravinsky and more. I was one of  first 250 to reserve my limited edition set and received an autographed copy!

Simply magnificent and still available at http://digitalforce.com/stanleydrucker/

Ryan Cheng Performs at St George’s Rigg Scholarship Presentations

Ryan played a transcription for Tenor Saxophone of Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei (originally for Cello) yesterday at the St George’s School Rigg Scholarship Presentations.  It was a “multi-arts” event with scholarships awarded for Music, Theatre Arts (including Technical, TV Production, and Acting) and Visual Arts (including sculpture and painting.)  The event was full of powerful, sensitive and compelling work, not least Ryan’s performance. This is the same piece with which Ryan won the tenor saxophone chair in the National Youth Band of Canada.  I closed my eyes and was swept away by the romance of Ryan’s vision of the piece and his gorgeous tone.  This is the experience that every teacher longs for….to become an audience member instead of a critic. Just one of the most fulfilling moments of my life, that’s all!

Excellent student ups her equipment game

Lauren Breakell, an excellent young musician attending York House School will be eligible for the jazz band there next year so she has added a beautiful Trevor James saxophone to her gig bag!  She will be working on the Niehaus Basic Jazz Conception for Saxophone over the summer and will knock ’em dead in her audition in the fall.  In the meantime, Tom Lee music had a moving sale and we got a great deal for Lauren on her first wooden clarinet, a Backun Protégé in Grenadilla with silver keys.  We spent hours on a Saturday afternoon choosing from six wonderful instruments, including swapping out bells and barrels to customize her choice.  Note the Backun standard Cocobolo barrel to add that sweet warm tone.  Lauren is a born musician who works hard, and that is what sets her apart…but great equipment doesn’t hurt a bit! 

Student wins National Youth Band Audition

Ryan Cheng just won the audition for the Tenor Saxophone seat with the National Youth Band of Canada for 2017.  We have been working together for four years and every moment has been a delight. He was playing a lovely Trevor James Signature Reference Silver-plated horn with Vandoren V21 reeds and a Vandoren TL4 mouthpiece.   One of the excerpts was from Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei with which he also won a Rigg Scholarship for excellence in the arts at St George’s School where he has been a member of the prestigious Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band for the last four years.  Ryan’s a sensitive and accomplished musician who richly deserves this honour.

Vandoren Black Diamond BD5 Mouthpiece


I was entranced by recent internet videos of the Vandoren BD5 Bass Clarinet mouthpiece.  Part of it might have been Vandoren artist David Gould’s sublime playing, but there was something about the richness and compact fluid sound of the setup that was wonderful.  I contacted my friend Alex who distributes Vandoren products in Canada and was informed that the Bass Clarinet version was not yet available, but he sent me two of the 13 series American pitch Soprano clarinet models.  What a revelation!   They are incredibly rich, focussed, compact and fluid with great intonation and ease of articulation.  Much more focussed than anything I have played.  This has been the first time I have been tempted to change mouthpieces in 10 years and I am switching over for an extended trial.  They replace my previous favourite Vandoren models, which were already excellent and chosen by many professionals and students.  By the way, they seem supremely matched to the amazing V21 reeds!  I’m going to keep an extra couple in the studio for student trial.  Bravo, Vandoren!