In some years, the live-jazz offerings at the NAMM 2018 tradeshow, which took place Jan. 25-28 at the convention center in Anaheim, Calif., can feel like a showcase for cruise-ship entertainment. In 2018, hipness prevailed. To cite just a few examples, guitarists Jeff Parker, Fabrizio Sotti and Kurt Rosenwinkel (two sets!) gigged on the D’Angelico Guitars stage; John Patitucci’s Electric Guitar Quartet burned through high-wire postbop at the 15th annual Bass Bash; and Chicago tenorman Chris Madsen brought elegant midcentury power to the Vandoren VandoJam. (Industry pros, take note: good music means good marketing.) Here is a selection of gear highlights, among so many others, which you’ll see throughout the year in JT and at JazzTimes.com. EVAN HAGA
Fender’s Eric Johnson Thinline Stratocaster
Johnson, the tasteful, tone-obsessed shredder who collaborated with Mike Stern on 2014’s Eclectic, teamed up with Fender to make a semi-hollow version of his signature Strat-ocaster. For fusion players, this could be a holy-grail ax: think the sound, playability and familiarity of the premier rock guitar, with the added smoke and resonance that an f-hole provides. fender.com | Check the price on Amazon!
Yamaha EAD10 Drum Module
Boasting one of the most impressive demos of the year, Yamaha’s new acoustic drum-module system quickly inspired a couple of questions: How does it sound so good? And where is it? Consisting of a single stealthy microphone/trigger component and a central control module with a wide range of effects, the EAD10 is a simple, affordable, effective recording and micing option You-Tubers should love. yamahadrums.com | Check the price on Amazon!
Catching up with Joe Lovano is always a welcome event. At Sax Dakota, the jazz eminence was on hand with his straight alto and tenor horns, and explained for us the appeal of recording with the latter—in the right studio space, directing the sound toward the floor allows it to better resonant throughout the room. saxdakota.com
In the fall, Roland announced the Aerophone AE-10G, a graphite-black version of its excellent digital wind instrument. In demonstrations it sounded legit, capturing the gamut of acoustic-sax tones as well as old-school timbres from the EWI’s fusion heyday. But the realism doesn’t stop there. The Aerophone features a sax-like key layout, a mouthpiece-mounted breath sensor and a “reed” that can handle idiomatic techniques like tonguing and slurring. roland.com | Check the price on Amazon!
Last year, Jody Espina’s JodyJazz found success with the SUPER JET Alto, which serviced an underserved market: players looking for a bright, powerful mouthpiece to tackle rock, funk and smooth-jazz. It did so well the line now features a SUPER JET Tenor, a silver-plated brass mouthpiece that’s ready to wail. jodyjazz.com | Check the price on Amazon!
Ibanez “Upswing” UB804 Upright Bass
The woody, earthy grandeur of your prized double bass is fantastic—until you have to deal with TSA or a packed subway car. Enter Ibanez’s UB804 electric upright, with a 34-inch scale that makes it an ideal entry point for electric players looking to take up the acoustic bass. Other selling points include the AeroSilk piezo pickup system, which handles arco and pizzicato technique without needing tweaking, and a TAMA RoadPro performance stand. ibanez.com | Check the price on Amazon!