I’m on a mission to find out the best tenor saxophone.
I’m looking for a new saxophone, and this week I’m testing the Trevor James Signature Custom Raw to find out if it’s the best tenor saxophone for me.
I’m going to be playing it in a bunch of different styles as well as testing four different aspects of this saxophone to see how it performs.
My Sax School students often as me what is the best tenor saxophone to play. I’ve been playing the same tenor saxophone for the last twenty years or more! So when I decided to look for a replacement for my Dave Guardala tenor, I really had to go out and research what was available.
One of my Sax School students has a great collection of saxophones and has loaned a bunch to me to test.
Trevor James Saxophones
I’m so grateful to Trevor James for getting in touch with me to lend me this saxophone to test. Trevor James make great student instruments as well as pro models, and I’ve heard great things about them from some of the pro players we’ve had on Guest Masterclasses with Sax School. Andy Snitzer who has played with Paul Simon and Billy Joel plays one of these and he loves it!
The Signature Custom Raw
I’m looking at four different aspects of this saxophone to see how it performs.
I’ve read in reviews of this saxophone that it has a vintage sound – and they’re right! The sound is fat and warm right across the range. I’m not sure how it would play in a classical setting but it’s great for jazz, funk or soul, or pop.
This mechanism feels really nice – Dave at Trevor James does a fantastic job of setting up these saxophones. It feels really smooth although I have struggled a little with my right hand little finger, where the mechanism feels a bit heavy when I’m playing fast. Otherwise the keys fall easily under my fingers and feel quite natural.
The intonation is really consistent and even across the saxophone so I don’t really have to think about it once the saxophone is warmed up. It quickly felt comfortable to play.
Both the overtones and the altissimo are really good and the sound is great, right into the top of the altissimo.
For me as a pro player, I need my saxophone to be really versatile. So I’m going to be testing this tenor sax in four different styles.
- Ben Webster – I Got it Bad
- Wilton Felder Street Life solo
- Sam Butera – Buona Sera solo
- Rimsky-Korsakov – Flight of the Bumblebee
These are all pieces from lessons inside Sax School, so if you’d like to learn them, check out our membership here:
Playing classical on saxophone is a great way to boost your technique and it gives me a chance to really put the mechanism of this sax to the test, compared to my own tenor.
I’m using the same mouthpiece throughout this test. It’s a Theo Wanne Slant Sig Size 8 Hard Rubber and a Légère Signature 2.5 Reed. I’m using the same microphone and audio interface and I’m not using any effects on the recording either.
Watch the video to hear me play the four pieces on the Signature Custom Raw.
So what did you think?
I loved this Signature Custom Raw tenor for the straight-ahead jazz, for the funk pop. For the jump-jive, bluesy tunes this saxophone has a huge sound – perfect for filling the room when you’re gigging live.
I’m not so convinced for classical playing. I had to really think about my fingers, and for me it doesn’t have that classical sound.
But for all those other settings this is a wonderful saxophone. Let me know what you think!