Thursday, 28 March 2013

Howarth's Chiltern A900 Alto Saxophone

    The first thing that people comment on about this sax is the way it looks. And that’s before they hear the way it sounds. The matte, dark lacquered body with green mother-of-pearl keywork means that this saxophone really turns heads.
Having played this horn exclusively for the past four years, gigging it regularly and playing a wide variety of styles: classical, jazz, rock, funk, strange experimental fusion… I can say this sax can handle it all. The tone is clear as a bell, allowing for piercing high-register sounds and growling lows. Each note which comes out of the instrument is distinctive, allowing fast passages to sound like a series of individual notes, rather than a wash of sound. The action is incredibly light, so little or no effort is needed to press down the keys, and makes playing faster passages all the easier. Tonally, this horn is extremely flexible, giving off a warm, rounded sound, suitable for flowing, slow classical passages as easily as a rawer, raunchy sound, perfect for funk and rock styles. There can be a few issues with control over large leaps and longer low notes, leading to occasional unwanted harmonics.
The vintage finish on this horn is surprisingly robust and, despite four years of hard service, shows little in the way of every day dings and scratches which other instruments collect in day to day use.
This sax is incredibly light-weight, making for very comfortable playing, and meaning that carrying the horn around is a lot less effort with many other, similar quality horns, which is fantastic for touring and gigging musicians. The horn comes in a snazzy zip-up, hard shell case, moulded closely to the body of the sax. This closeness does mean that there is no room for any of the extras which anybody keeps in their cases- spare reeds have to be kept to a minimum, and your sling has to be kept inside the bell of the saxophone. The case itself, whilst strong enough for standard use, does scratch and graze with any unusually heavy duty use. The hard shell is quite thin which means that some deeper grazes feel like they have cut quite close to the inside of the case.
Overall, I love this horn. It has everything that the modern player really needs. An easy playing instrument which can handle any genre and survives the rough and tumble of heavy use and being thrown into the backs of vans and cars, this is a professional standard horn which is very competitive in its pricing.
(Played using a Mayer Rubber Mouthpiece, Rovner “light” leather ligature and Vandoren Jazz 3 ½ reeds)