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Yamaha YAS-875 Custom Alto Saxophone

I just don’t like change that much. I’ve been married to the same woman for 40 years; I’ve worked at the same place for 35; I wear suits I got 15 years ago; and I still play the Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone I bought new in 1958. That horn’s done a great job for me over all these years, and although I tried colleagues’ or students’ instruments many times, I never ran across one I’d rather have.

That’s why I was so pleased when I recently played Yamaha’s Custom alto saxophone. I’d always been fearful about what I would do if something ever happened to the old Selmer, but after a week with the Yamaha, the fears had gone away. As much as I hate to admit it, the horn plays at least as well as mine, and in some ways it’s even better (a slight acoustical defect in my model Selmer causes low B to bubble unless special care is taken, while the note pops right out on the Yamaha). In fact, the Custom speaks easily and produces a consistent tone quality throughout its entire range. Even the notes above high F sharp are easier to play than on my instrument. Although some saxophonists found the tone of earlier versions to be a bit too dark, that’s not a problem with the current model, which is fully capable of the bright, edgy sound many players are looking for these days (a newly designed neck, substituted in 2000, may be the difference). Key placement is comfortable and the action feels solid and secure. Indeed, the instrument gives the impression of being very well constructed and reliable overall.

In checking the intonation with a tuner, I found it to be quite good. Although it’s impossible to build a saxophone that will have perfect intonation without some favoring of notes, this Yamaha alto comes about as close as you could reasonably ask for. At a suggested retail price of from $5,141 for the gold lacquer finish to $5,702 for silver plate or black lacquer, the Yamaha Custom alto is not cheap. But for an instrument of this quality, it may be a bargain.

Of course, I’m not going to sell the Mark VI any more than I’m going to divorce my wife or give my old suits to Goodwill (I will admit that I’m retiring from the job, however). But I really would like to have that Yamaha. Maybe if I just left my old horn in the car with the doors unlocked…

Originally Published