Borgani Pearl Gold Tenor Saxophone
Modern saxophone makers have presented instruments that are long on promise and short on delivery. If consumers are not barraged by new advancements in technology then they are overwhelmed by the weird or the retro. It’s no wonder then that I approached a review of a Borgani saxophone with skepticism.
Here was an instrument that neither I nor many of my peers knew much about except for Borgani’s claim to have created an instrument that was a “union of mathematics, physics, CAD, old traditions and a hint of instinct…re-creat[ing] the sound of the eternal instruments of the ’50s without purpose of imitation.” But Borgani boasts a powerhouse clientele including Joe Lovano, Bob Berg, David Sanchez and Jimmy Greene, and I am happy to say that the Borgani Pearl Gold tenor has not only silenced my pessimism in modern methods, it has restored my hope that someone out there is listening to players’ needs.
From the moment you open the case you can’t help but notice the craftsmanship and detail that has gone into this instrument. Every Borgani saxophone comes in six different finish options, from a 24-karat gold plate to the raw brass finish of the Vintage model. The tenor saxophones range in price from $3,800 to $4,500, and the product line includes soprano, alto and tenor models (sorry, bari players). The Pearl Gold model I was sent ($4,195 list) was svelte with a brushed gold body and polished, lacquered keys. This finish, along with a flared bell and art-deco neck brace, were the only noticeable nods to saxophone designs from the past.
The Borgani offered a smooth, fluid action with the keys placed ergonomically for the hand. One of the first things I noticed was how comfortable the right-hand palm keys felt. They were in perfect placement for my large hand, allowing me to execute high passages with ease, but I had some concerns that players with smaller hands might have difficulty with the action as set up on the test saxophone. But Borgani advertises that it will be happy to ergonomically fit any saxophone to any player, stating, “Much like a tailor creates a made-to-measure suit.” Upon further examination I discovered that the thumb rest had been moved approximately one inch to the left allowing the hand to better fit the pearl keys and side keys. A contoured brass button, which is easy for the index finger to reach, has replaced the common, flat, pearl-button bis key. Repairmen will be happy to know that both the low C and B keys have been braced with double arms to reduce play in the keys. Additionally, the low B key has an adjustment screw.
The sound of the horn was clear, focused and muscular, producing a centered, free-blowing tone throughout the entire range of the instrument. Special kudos go to the quality of sound in both the palm keys and the low C to B-flat range. Both were effortless to produce and the horn was a joy to play. According to Borgani the quality of sound is created through a galvanic process using different, precious alloys. Basically, the variety of plating/finish options offered allows saxophonists to choose an instrument with the sound they want.
If you are like me, you may be overwhelmed with all the technical jargon. But the point is that the player now has a hand in the creation of the vehicle for his or her voice. Borgani claims to have a close relationship with the people who play its instruments, and Roberto Romeo of Roberto’s Woodwinds (Borgani’s sole North American distributor), says the company is “the most receptive I have ever seen when it comes to player input.”
The Pearl Gold tenor would be excellent for both solo and ensemble jazz playing. It was a bit bright for classical/crossover work, but this could be remedied with a change of pads and resonators (the test saxophone had metal resonators).
The only negative point I found was with the instrument case. Although the leather exterior was attractive, I found it somewhat flimsy and underpadded. Additionally, there was no interior storage room and only one medium-sized, unpadded pouch on the exterior. Plastic locks, hinges and zippers also presented the potential for damage. To maintain such a fine horn, I would recommend purchasing an aftermarket case.
The Borgani Company should take pride in the product it has produced. 130 years of manufacturing saxophones excludes them from the one-hit-wonder category. If consumers can bypass their natural tendency to purchase a more familiar brand, they are in for a wonderful treat with a Borgani.