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Gearhead: The Latest Instruments and Accessories

New from Vic Firth, Hal Leonard, D'Addario and more

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D'Addario Select Jazz alto mouthpiece
Hal Leonard's "Charlie Parker for Bass"
Vic Firth TW4 Tala Wand

Axos Alto by Henri Selmer Paris

Under its new SeleS brand, Henri Selmer Paris recently released the Axos, an alto sax that, according to the company, “provides playing comfort with its specially adapted keywork and great mechanical reliability.” The horn, crafted in France, features leather pads with metal resonators, and ships with a Henri Selmer Paris S-80 C* mouthpiece and a backpack-style case. $6,499 retail. Selmer

New From Vic Firth

Rock, jazz and jazz-rock veteran Steve Smith has added a product to his multi-rod-like Tala Wand line. The new TW4 Tala Wand – Slats (pictured) features a foam center covered with four flat bamboo slats wrapped in PVC. Volume-wise, the Slats aims to be louder than Smith’s Tala Wand and Rute models but quieter than a standard drumstick, with wide-ranging textural and dynamic capabilities and excellent

feel. “I particularly love using the TW4s in groove situations,” Smith says in a press release.

In other Vic Firth news, the company has released barrel-tipped versions of its ubiquitous American Classic 5a and 5b sticks. Vic Firth

D’Addario Select Jazz Alto Mouthpiece

D’Addario’s Select Jazz alto model shoots for the ideal that so many current mouthpiece manufacturers have their sights set on: a vintage-inspired design achieved through computer-driven manufacturing precision. The mouthpiece is milled out of solid rod rubber rather than molded, is available in three tip openings (5, 6 and 7) and features a medium chamber and facing length. $149 online. D’Addario

New From Hal Leonard

Hal Leonard’s recently launched PlayAlong is a game-changing educational resource, even within the burgeoning market of tablet apps. Programs featuring interactive sheet music, play-along tracks and practice tools are many at this point, but never has an app integrated its features as smartly and attractively. Start with the sheet music, which is hyper-clean and easy to read and can be easily marked up and adjusted (in note size, transposition and more). Then there are the backing tracks-facsimiles of iconic music that are as convincing as re-recordings get-which can be slowed down or sped up without changing the music’s pitch or diminishing audio quality. Other tools include tuners, metronomes and straightforward recording functions via the tablet mic or a selection of iOS interfaces.

Right now the song selection is strong but not extraordinary. At the time of this writing, in mid-January, a search for “jazz” turns up 215 results. But the company no doubt has oodles of content being prepped for addition. Prices aren’t all that cheap-a score/audio package for a single song runs $4.99; just the audio is $.99-but shouldn’t dissuade you from giving the app a go.

For those who prefer the slightly more streamlined technology of ink and paper, Hal Leonard recently published or began distributing a few choice new books worth checking out. Journeyman bassist and educator Andy McKee’s 72-page 101 Upright Bass Tips: Stuff All the Pros Know and Use ($14.99, with audio download code) is the sort of book you can keep around and dip into now and again to pick up a fresh, pithy nugget of musical wisdom. McKee’s “tips” are obviously born of professional experience, he’s a breezy, conversational writer and his expertise runs the gamut, from technique and instrument maintenance to travel logistics and more open, even philosophical musical advice, like the importance of the blues and developing a deep rapport with your drummer. Also in the bass-book stack is the 92-page Charlie Parker for Bass ($19.99), a collection of 20 heads and sax solos arranged for electric bass, in standard notation and tab. You can already hum the tunes-and probably most of the solos: “Anthropology,” “Billie’s Bounce,” “Confirmation,” “Donna Lee,” “Ko Ko,” “Ornithology,” etc. Grab your fretless and a percussionist and do your best Jaco. Finally there’s Jack Eskridge’s 184-page Blues to Jazz ($24.95), a book that serves to guide players through a common guitarists’ crossroads: absorbing the more advanced harmonies and chord shapes of jazz after having developed a working knowledge of the blues. Eskridge explains the various jazz-inflected blues progressions (say, the Be-Bop Blues, derived from “Blues for Alice”) before presenting a compendium of triadic “rhythm chord” shapes. Want to comp those lab-band charts? Start here. Hal Leonard

Originally Published