Several weeks ago I had my first opportunity to see and play these remarkable new Virtuoso saxophones. The annual NJMEA convention in East Brunswick, NJ is host to many manufacturers and instrument dealers as well as clinician and presenters in music education. It was at NJMEA where I met up again with Les Silver of R.S. Berkeley. Les was kind enough to have me as a guest at his booth and I got to try all 10 of the altos and tenors on display. In addition to Les being at the booth, Bob Ackerman was on hand, demonstrating his gold plated Virtuoso alto sax. Later in the day, Tim Ries was on hand to demonstrate the Virtuoso tenor he endorses.
Following the convention, I had the opportunity to try the Virtuoso tenor in gold lacquer in my home teaching and recording studio. It was there that I had the chance to really put the instrument to the test side by side my own and another Mark VI.
First, I must say that each Virtuoso saxophone has a slight variation to the tone quality depending on the finish. My personal favorites at the convention were the gold plating, gold lacquer and matte finishes. All instruments in the Virtuoso line have a beautifully engraved custom neck and engraved bell. The silver and black horns were gorgeous but I still preferred the sound of the other three models.
When I received the gold lacquered tenor at home I played it quite a bit and found it to be very responsive, warm and friendly in the fingers. It compared very favorably with my own and another Selmer Mark VI. The Eb spatula key on the right hand feels slightly lower and the left hand palm keys a bit smaller than my own instrument. Once I learned to adjust to the placement of a few keys, I began to wail on the thing. The sound is crisp, clear and clean through the full range and into the altissimo. Notes did not choke off even into the highest altissimo more than an octave off the horn. All-in-all, I would have no problems playing this horn on a gig, in a lesson or elsewhere.
For those players who are looking for a rich, warm, sound with the feel of a much more expensive instrument – the Virtuoso Saxophones may be for you.
You can find out more about Virtuoso Saxophones at http://www.virtuososaxophones.com