I am looking for advice on purchasing an alto. I am primarily a tenor player approaching my last semester of college studying jazz performance. Thoughout my time at school I have been lucky enough to have a Keilwerth SX90 alto loaned out to me to by the school that allowed me to play alto in jazz ensembles and in my classical studies despite my not owning an alto. However, as I approach graduation, it’s time for me to get serious about purchasing an alto of my own. While the Keilwerth is a great horn, I personally prefer both Selmer and Yamaha.
Like I said, I am primarily a tenor player and I intend to stay that way as it is the instrument I feel comfortable on and as an improvisor, it is the instrument that I am working on developing my own voice on. But I know that in order to get work I want as a freelance saxophonist, I need to be as diverse as possible and it is necessary for me to own a good alto. I do really enjoy playing the alto even though it isn’t my main focus.
My tenor is a late Super Balanced Action that I am absolutely in love with and wouldn’t trade for the world. As much as I would love an SBA, BA or Mark VI alto, I don’t think the cost of these is justifiable for a double at this time in my life.
For that reason, I had been researching older Selmers. I feel so comfortable on my tenor that I would love to have an alto that felt similar. I have been looking around at horns in the super series (radio improved, cigar cutter, etc.) as well as a few even older New Large Bore’s. With these being so uncommon though, I have had limited experience playing these horns and have only had the opportunity to play test a few.
On the other hand, I recently was offered the opportunity to purchase an unlacquered Yamaha Custom Z series 1 for a very reasonable price and I am starting to think that while it doesn’t have the mystique and history of a vintage Selmer. It might be a more rational and practical choice over an old Selmer. At the very least, Yamaha has proved much more consistent in their manufacturing process than Selmer’s of the 20s and 30s.
I am hoping not to spend more than $2500 at this time. I realize that with a larger budget I would have a lot more options; however, I am hoping to continue on to my masters following graduation and need to be smart about how I spend my money at this point in my life. I’m hoping to find a horn that plays great and feels great within my price range that will have decent resale value down the road should I decide that an upgrade in necessary.
If anyone who has experience with both pre-Balanced Action Selmers and Yamaha Custom Z’s could shed some light and give me some advice on this matter I would be very appreciative. I would also love to hear people’s experiences with just one of these horns even if you haven’t played both. Thanks in advance for the help!