"Humanity i love you because when you're hard up you pawn your intelligence to buy a drink ..." e.e. cummings
To stretch the evolution analogy a bit (a lot actually), natural evolution (that which occurs in nature) is an extremely hit-and-miss, messy, process. The vast majority of genetic mutations are total disasters and are not carried forward. A tiny, tiny percentage of mutations turn out to be advantageous and are passed on, thereby resulting in LONG term, incremental improvement to species and variation of species. Now that I think about it, evolution by natural selection is actually a very poor analogy to any sort of "evolution" of a musical instrument. The difference is, changes to an instrument are not random and not accidental.Evolution is not necessarily better (nor guarantees better results) I guess that for people blowing lightbulbs by breath, the automation process would have mean more years to live (if they could find other jobs!) but as you have to break some eggs to make certain foods, it takes people devoting their lifes and health for craftin fine products.
Key word here is PASSION. I believe that older makers were all about pride, joy and passion of actually believing they were aiming to produce the best saxophone out there. Nowadays if you want to play ball you just have to have money and talk to some people in taiwan to craft you next line of (insert your brand name) custom (other hype name) (insert sax voice here) And they're all about making the biggest profit they can out of literally color stones, feathers, bangles, bubbles and beads.
Which leads to the question: What actual changes have been made to the saxophone in recent years, and why? I think if you examine this, you will see that economic parameters loom large, and money is the key motivation (as jicaino says), which does not necessarily result in a better product.
Here's the really good news, and also part of the answer to why many of us choose the vintage instruments: You can still get your hands on the great saxophones of the past today for a reasonable price, and there are more techs than ever who are overhauling these instruments so they play as good as new. To those who say this is just starry-eyed romanticism, I'd say this wouldn't be happening if the modern horns were truly better instruments.
I think this illustrates JL's point perfectly: I would choose the Buescher over the Selmer not because vintage horns are better per se, but because I might actually be able to afford the Buescher.
Martin "Dick Stabile" Tenor: Barone Jazz 7*/GW7
"The spiritual life is built upon a commitment to truth telling and truth living. As master jazz musicians, [John Coltrane and Miles Davis] presented their spirituality within the reality of cool." --Farah Jasmine Griffen and Salim Washington
For altos I've owned a selmer series III, buescher aristocrat, "the martin" alto, transitional 6m, a mark VI, and a mark VII. For tenors I've owned a buescher aristocrat stencil, a pre-war 10m, and my yanagisawa.
I've come to realize that I sound like myself (which I believe is a good sound) on any horn. The differences between horns is slim if at all. So why would I kill myself on the low Bb to low C# when I could use a horn with modern mechanics and be able to fly through it sounding just as good?
I used buy into the "vintage" sound thing. That was until I recorded myself playing a buescher aristocrat, one of the darkest most sultry sounding altos, and a custom Z, arguably one of the most bright and thin. Guess what? When listening back I could hardly tell the difference. I would have taken comfort over any difference in sound.
You may ask then why I play vintage selmer altos when I think modern horns sound just as good. I had the money and I played a mark VI that really pushed my buttons so I bought it. I also have a soft spot for alto BA's so I may sell my VII for one.
When it comes down to it, I think the mouthpiece and player play a much larger role in the sound than the sax. But to each his own.
Alto-Mark VI 118xxx, Mouthpiece Cafe New York Cafe Bros., Hemke 3, bonade inverted.
Backup: Mark VII 284xxx
Tenor-Yanagisawa T991, Mouthpiece Cafe Bergonzi Slant Supreme, RJS filed 3S, FL brass.
Soprano-Yanagisawa S991, Yanagisawa HR 5, La Voz MH
Thing thing about funk is that funk reveals the truth.
And the the truth is, you ain't got no funk.