HollywoodWinds Hollywood Legend Alto and Tenor Saxophones
The folks at HollywoodWinds Corporation (formerly Unison), makers of Hollywood Legend series saxophones, have done their homework in regard to saxophone design by combining advanced technology with common sense to create a quality instrument. The Legend, available in tenor (shown) and alto models, is an attempt to transcend the plethora of Taiwanese horns on the market and create an artist-quality saxophone.
At first glance there is something strangely familiar about these saxophones, as if someone fused a Selmer with a Yanagisawa and then blended in a bit of vintage Conn. Company cofounder and L.A. repair guru Rheuben Allen says, "The design of this instrument allows the older style '30s and '40s tone and lower register response." Whatever the recipe, it is obvious these horns are professional quality in every respect. The construction of the Legend series horns is solid and offers a nice array of details and advancements.
I played a silver-plated alto and a gold-lacquered tenor and found both to be free-blowing with excellent pitch and scale. The sound was a bit brighter than saxophones I own but, as advertised, the tone possessed that solid-core found in older saxophones. One advancement, a double-octave key system, did leave me with mixed emotions. The double octave, designed to help response in the middle register, made the alto a bit unfocused in the upper register. I chose to cork shut one of the octave vents, which made the sound a bit more centered. However, this problem was not noticeable on the tenor and did improve the response.
Key placement on the Legend is ergonomically sound and, for the most part, fits the hand well. I did take issue with the curved left-hand thumb rest and the placement of the high E key. The thumb rest felt odd to me, forcing me to over-adjust my hand placement. The high E key is set too close the high F-sharp post, causing me to bang my right hand knuckle on the post. Finally the low E-flat lever felt a bit off angle with the other right hand keys.
One thing is for certain: This saxophone was created in consultation with a repairman (one Rheuben Allen), for it has a number of features that help maintain adjustment and regulation. Much like saxophones made by Yanagisawa there is double bracing on the low C and low B keys. However the Legend goes a step further, double bracing the low B-flat as well. It might be a small point but I like the extra-wide bracing that is used on the key guards. This ensures that if you do bump your horn against the wall that it is not going to push the guard into the body of the instrument quite so easily. I was a bit surprised to see that the body bracing, in the upper stack, did not run continuously from low F to B above middle C. There is a gap of about two inches that is missing. Again, a small point, but one that could make a world of difference should the horn become damaged.
Throughout the horn there are a number of adjustment screws to help the player self-regulate the saxophone. Of course the quality of these adjustments go only as far as the skill of the repairperson or the common sense of the player. These adjustment screws can be found on A/A-sharp, middle F/F-sharp, low B-flat and the octave system. The adjustment screws are well thought out and will cut down on bench time otherwise spent adjusting these critical areas.
Given this attention to detail, I would like to have seen more work put into the low C-sharp, B and B-flat keys. The movement between C-sharp/B and B/B-flat was fine, but why not take more time to angle these keys to help make the movement effortless? Also, I thought the neck strap ring, especially on the alto could have been stronger.
Cosmetically, these instruments are impressive. The silver-plated alto gleamed with the richness of fine sterling tableware. The lacquer on the tenor was clean and seamless. Both instruments had wonderful engraving. If created by a laser it is the finest laser engraving I have seen.
Prices are moderate for the market with the lacquered alto retailing for $2,950 and the lacquered tenor for $3,250. Perhaps the greatest obstacle facing HollywoodWinds is not keeping up with the market but trying to get the serious musician, raised on brand names, to try these instruments. If they do, I am certain they will find a very fine, professional instrument.