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Conn-Selmer PTS380V Premier Vintage Tenor Saxophone

Review by Courtney Pine

The very first saxophone that I ever embraced was an old 19th century (made around 1872) original Adolf Sax tenor saxophone. Maybe I have been spoilt at starting with such a prestigious horn but I have had many chances to play some of the world’s best and that brings me to my review.

For the last six years I have concentrated my efforts to playing the Bass Clarinet, I must admit to doing a few shows on the soprano saxophone but not on the tenor at all. Why? I became disillusioned with not only my approach to playing the great horn (chromatically, playing everything I knew up and down the instrument at ludicrous speed!) but also and most significantly the quality of the newer tenor saxophones.

I made a visit to the UK branch of Selmer (Vincent Bach) and was introduced to the brand new Conn - Selmer Premier 380 tenor saxophone - it was love at first sight. Having played every single new selmer over the last 20 years I was pleasantly surprised to see this horn resplendent in an original vintage finish lacquer. I took the horn out of it’s case to find that it weighed a bit heavier than my reference 36 it felt like my old Selmer Mark 6 or did it?

On arrival to the Batcave (home!) I dug out a few of my favourite selmer things - a 1939 balanced action, a 1964 mark 6, another mark 6 from 1969 with an F sharp and my reference 36. The Conn - Selmer Premier 380 had a tough task if it was to stand up to these prized pieces.

Firstly the weight was very similar to my vintage horns could it be the alloy? Time to take a closer look - the neck or crook is of a very similar angle to my Mk 6 not bent up to high which to players like me who like to dig in deep for those harmonic high notes often end up in trouble bending the neck down whilst playing. Good to see this is in its right place. The neck locking mechanism on the horn body has been displaced slightly to the left not a problem. As I looked down the side of the horn the ball bearing mechanism that made noise in sensitive studio situations has been retro fitted with balanced action style hook and pin (somebody has been listening to us the saxophonist) silent smooth and effective for the optional C and Bb notes. The top side F key is the new curved selmer style that fits so well in the right hand, the F sharp is in the traditional tried and trusted place. Below this is the standard F sharp trill key. When looking around to the front keys, above the middle F key is a troublesome pad that if left unchecked will open up going months before a player will realise that something is amiss, often squeezing harder until the repairman fixes it. This horn has new lever that will keep this key down with a screw mechanism for adjustment. When I turned the horn around looking behind the bell I noticed more adjustment screws for F, E and D keys just like my balanced action. Talking about the keys I have noticed a modern day trend of using different colour pearls to add a sexiness to the look of the horn this is the first time that I have seen a darker coloured pearl that works really well with the vintage lacquer, they are also tapered nicely in that classic Selmer style that feels so good under the fingers. The low C has double supports so has the Low B and Bb which is not just an esthetic addition the extra support is felt on those little fingers of both hands. But what does it sound like?

I placed my mouthpiece onto the horn everything felt very familiar and I blew with ease a Low B and it felt good! The horn felt great not thin, tinny, light without soul or body it played as good as it looked what a relief! As I filled the horn with a subtone I instantly thought can I play fast on it? I sprung into an ascending B diminished scale going past the top F sharp reaching higher up to front spatula key D and then back down, took the horn out of my mouth turned it around and stared at it as if it where alive, this horn had me in love again with playing the tenor saxophone!

I have had problems with the modern tenor saxophones playing the higher register. This is due (I have been reliably informed by many an experienced saxophone repairer) that this is due to the top F hole being to large or the heights of the palm keys being badly adjusted or the bore size of the modern horn, this problem confounded with the knowledge that on vintage horns these high notes are easier to play than on modern horns . Would this pose a similar problem to the Conn - Selmer Premier 380? My fears were laid to rest as every single harmonic responded as if I was playing my old Mk 6 Selmer THE WAIT FOR A SUCCESSOR TO THE SELMER MK 6 WAS OVER! This is a bold statement to make but after the Selmer Mk 7 I have been waiting for a horn that felt as good to play as my vintage Selmers and now it’s here.

What makes the new Conn - Selmer Premier 380 play so good? I believe that whoever designed this horn not only listened to real players but then went back to a tried a trusted formulae of getting the composition of the body right which means not only will it feel good to play but it will also sound great. The other important factor is the manual or keyboard or keys which if placed in the right place

will make operating the horn in all situations pleasurable, these attributes I can happily say this horn has. Next was the tuning test.

I got out a few tuners and started tuning the horn A=440 it was bang on. Usually a horn plays flat in the low register and sharp in the higher zones this horn played accurate in all areas it passed the tuning test with flying colours.

The horn is presented in a leather case a fantastic Eugene Rouseau ebonite mouthpiece, cork grease, strap and duster. I walked around central London with the horn strapped on my back rucksack style (gone are the days of swinging a tenor saxophone around my knees) the back straps are adjustable and makes the complete package even more attractive.

I hear that the Conn - Selmer Premier 380 will be competitively priced (much cheaper than a vintage horn) and I believe for the first time in the company’s history that they have at last created a tenor saxophone that is on par with the great horns of yesterday. Don’t take my word for it, try one yourself you will not be disappointed. The new Conn - Selmer Tenor Saxophones stunning new (vintage) look, innovative features, great full sound and intonation in all registers, an instrument steeped in the great Selmer saxophone tradition finally here and ready for the future.

If you play a Selmer as your horn this is worthy of the name. The best modern Tenor Saxophone that I have ever played! Courtney Pine

Conn - Selmer Premier 380 a brilliant new Saxophone for a new generation based on old traditions built with modern technology, A MODERN DAY CLASSIC! Courtney Pine

Conn - Selmer Premier 380 built with an old school heart and with many modern day features not only for an older generation but also for the now and generations to come - A MODERN DAY CLASSIC! Courtney Pine






Yamaha YCL-CSGIII Bb Clarinet £2252

With the help of Michael Collins and other leading Yamaha artists Yamaha have redesigned and reinvented the CSG model. They have produced an instrument which is comparable to the Buffet R13 and may fight its dominance of the market.

Yamaha reanalyzed and re-evaluated literally every single design specification. A new bell and barrel, made from the best selected grenadilla wood, offer a tone of breathtaking richness and depth. The sound is warm yet has a clear focused centre.

Ergonomically-designed new key shape offers comfortable and natural key touch. Yamaha-original silver-plating is applied on them. A newly shaped Eb lever is adopted as a standard, along which the entire mechanism is totally re-designed.

Cork pads and leather pads are optimally placed to maximize on their tonal quality, touch and functionality.

It comes in a hard case with outer case cover, mouthpiece and Yamaha accessory pack.


Review of YCL-CSGIII Bb Clarinet

“The new CSGIII is seen as the clarinet to compete with the dominance of the R13. The clarinet looks great, It blows easily and has an even tone throughout. There is a lovely full sound and good resonance at the bottom of the instrument. The keys feel great under the fingers. The speaker key in particular is a great shape and is in a much more natural position. The intonation throughout is good with no bad notes. The upper register plays easily even up to top C. The one thing I don’t like is the mouthpiece that comes with the instrument, apart from that it is a lovely instrument to play.

Will it compete with the R13? I’m not sure, price may be a barrier and the Buffet dominance is hard to break, but it is definitely a great clarinet that must be tried.”

Karen Hobbs – freelance clarinettist

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