Personal Instrument Choices

Clarinets: Backun Canada

The Backun Alpha clarinet is a vibrant revelation, and the best value instrument made of any kind in the world. The throat tones are clear and resonant, the instrument is in tune from chalumeau to altissimo, the tone is warm and lively and the keys just dance.  The newly invented resin body is remarkable in its vibrancy.  This is the ideal clarinet for a beginner or for outdoor playing by a professional.  Add a Protégé Bell and Barrel and you have a step-up instrument suitable for advanced studies.  Add a MoBa Bell and Barrel and you have a professional instrument.

 The Backun Protégé clarinet is a superb professional clarinet at an intermediate price.  The premium-grade grenadilla or cocobolo body, barrel and bell are made at Backun Musical Services with a CNC-machined complex bore and detailed undercut tone holes.  The power-forged nickel, silver or gold keys and Valentino pads help the instrument just sing with dazzling verve and speed.  A beautiful, warm, powerful sound, without the “sizzle” that lesser wood can produce.

The Backun Lumiere Clarinet takes the clarinet past standard symphonic models and onto the virtuoso stage. The tone is just chocolate covered caramel. The chalumeau is warm and woody; the throat tones are rich and clear; the clarion register sings; and the altissimo is sweet and pure. Dynamic range is extended, the fortissimo incredibly powerful but still sweet and centered. You can plaster a ppp right onto the back of the hall, and candiminuendo al niente into the hall ambience. You will have the audience hanging on the edge of their seats.  I own the Cocobolo models, which have a warmer purer more “singing” tone.

Backun Bells and Backun Barrels simply free ANY clarinet from tonal restrictions, register, textural and response issues. They allow the player to choose the color and tonal palette he or she wants to deliver. The profusion of designs and woods give the artist a rich world of choice. Be warned, it’s hard to stop with just one!

Selmer

The Selmer Privilege Bass Clarinet is the icon of the low clarinet world. Effortlessly robust, woody and rich in tone. The legendary Model 33 tone quality of the chalumeau register now extends all the way up into the altissimo, perfectly in tune, and with vastly improved mechanics. Gorgeous wood, seamless tonal texture from top to bottom, great intonation, and beautiful factory workmanship. I bought the best two of six on display at Clarinetfest 2007 and would have been perfectly happy with any of them!

Saxophones

Yanagisawa Baritone and Soprano saxophones demonstrate the performance expected from instruments made in a specialized handcrafted setting.  These instruments are crafted by highly skilled artisans who work with the most technologically advanced tools and machinery to produce every single part of every saxophone at the Yanagisawa factory in Tokyo. The solid sterling silver models that I play are dark, sweet, warm, rich and incredibly vibrant with the most solid core sound I have ever heard.

Trevor James

Trevor James RAW Tenor and RAW Alto saxophones offer the vintage French saxophone sound that first compelled me become a saxophonist while studying clarinet in University.  The glorious reverberant, dark and slightly grainy sound so appropriate for early 20th Century French Classical repertoire, and for capturing the sound of the jazz heroes of the golden age of bop and post-bop playing is produced by these instruments like no other modern saxophone.  These instruments are incredibly well made, by an English manufacturer that listens to its artists, distributors and dealers like no other company.

The intermediate models of these Trevor James saxophones, the Signature Reference series, are vastly superior to and less expensive than any other manufacturer.

Mouthpieces

 Jody Espina

Jody Espina owns three mouthpiece companies, JodyJazz, Chedeville, and Rousseau.  Originally a highly regarded woodwind player and teacher in New York, Jody worked on his own mouthpieces with legendary mouthpiece designer Santy Runyon and eventually opened his own company, now with a factory in Savannah, Georgia.   The mouthpieces are made with a combination of modern Computer Numerically Controlled machining and old-world artistry in the final finishing of rails and baffles.

I use his mouthpieces exclusively, Chedeville and Rousseau for classical clarinet and saxophone, and his JodyJazz Custom Dark line for jazz on all saxophones.   All of the mouthpieces I chose are made with Jody’s proprietary CHR Chedeville rubber.

I am an Artist-Clinician for all these companies, as well as Vandoren and Legere reeds.