In July 2006 Mark was presented with a
Signature Custom Solid Silver Body Tenor Saxophone. All performances and
recording thereafter will be using this amazing British instrument . The
first recorded works on the instrument is Good Bye Pork Pie Hat and Lover
Man. These tracks will be available the on the CD Solo. Mark Buckingham.
Which also contains versions of Misty, Tenderly, Stardust (on Alto) and
improvisations on alto and Eb clarinets. (not forgetting the Flintstone's
Theme for solo bass clarinet). Please check the www.signaturecustom.co.uk
web site for details of the awesome instrument. CD avaliable hopefully
Please enjoy the test recording of Good
Bye Porkpie Hat, recorded on the first evening of delivery. Straight out
of the case, incredible craftsmanship and musicality. MP3 and Improvisation.
Photographs of the Signature Custom will
be appearing thanks to Kevin Mayhew Publishers on the Jammin' The Blues
Books for Bb and Eb instruments.
Just discoverd that the Signature Custom
crooks fit on my selmer series 80 alto and made a remarkable improvement.
Check that out.
Signature Custom 925 Tenor Saxophone
The instrument sent to me has a solid
silver crook and body, bronze bow and bell. The instrument is supplied
in a rugged Hiscox case.
Opening the case of this instrument is an experience in itself. The saxophone
is flawless - not one fingerprint anywhere! The finish is exquisite. The
solid silver patina is marvelous, the lacquered bow and bell is many-layered
and with a wonderful colour; the lacquered keywork, faultless. Looking
down the bell (as you do) there is the wonderful colour of natural bronze.
Lush! The saxophone had no marks, scratches, blobs of solder, not even
dust. A fantastic experience. I keep washing my hands so as not to leave
fingerprints all over it. An honour to hold it.
The instrument is ‘Made in England’
(the only UK saxophone) and is meticulously designed and built by David
Farley at the Trevor James premises. Each Signature Custom saxophone is
built by David only and to your own specifications, hence the quality
and workmanship is unprecedented in the saxophone world. There is a waiting
time for the Custom Signature saxophone. David will custom set-up for
you and will adjust and alter keywork if you have particular requirements.
Again absolutely unique by a maker.
I could devote many pages to describing
the playing and sound of the saxophone and all its nuances, but I will
endeavour to be fairly brief.
Listening to the recordings I and others have done will really speak the
I fitted my Bobby Dukoff 9* with a Rico
Royal 2 (I’m expecting criticism of my soft reeds) and then spent
all day playing it - I only put it down to eat and drink, and even then
rushed my food to get back to it. As you may deduce from my soft reeds,
I demand flexibility from the instruments I perform and record with, so
that I can create colour and tone adjustments within phrases very quickly.
The Signature Custom response and quality of tone is otherworldly.
Playing pianissimo low Bb and fiddling
around all the low notes at PPP and with subtone is always a good test
for any saxophone and this instrument is faultless. But it is the tone
that got me; most saxes, even top of the range, lose clarity and go sort
of woofy, if you know what I mean, but the Signature Custom maintains
an absolutely clear tone and ease to add colour to the tones that I’ve
not experienced before. Playing the whole range of the Signature at PPP
is also an experience. No fluffy notes, no creaking or cracking/splitting
of notes. It just does what it’s told - again, the depth of tone
at PPP and the options available to alter and develop colours and effects
is outrageous. I then spent the day working the Signature through the
volume range at all pitches, playing long notes and at speed altering
the tones and colours, growling, singing the same pitch as the note I
was playing, then singing the 5 above etc. - what fun! Again, the Signature
did exactly what it was told to do and just made it sound so clear and
concise and so easy to project.
Projection on the Signature will inspire
confidence, many players these days are not taught to project so when
they want to be heard they just blow harder to turn the volume up but
because the tone of the Signature is so broad and focussed, there is an
inbuilt projection. I don’t know how the Signature does it - I just
play it but I’m sure David and the Trevor James personnel could
explain the science of acoustics and metals for you but ut however they
achieve it, the instrument sings, which is what it is all about at the
end of the day. I think players that have not had the years of projection
training and want to be heard will be astounded with the presence of focus,
sound and tone the Signature offers without having to force the volume
up and stress everybody.
When it comes to fff the Signature takes
on beastly proportions, the power available is immense, and with no loss
of tone quality. Playing medium volume phrases and then punching out a
fff in the middle of it is such fun (simple pleasures). The saxophone
is there waiting to respond and produce a glorious sound.
Enough of trying to describe sound in words. On the second day of receiving
the Signature I recorded Goodbye Porkpie Hat by Charlie Mingus. It can
be heard on www.gruntproductions.com This improvisation is one take -
no edits, no cut-and-pasting of the audio.
When it comes to the action of the Signature
it is faultless. Fast, responsive, positive, lightning quick. I did a
short improvisation just to see how fast the Signature would go. Anything
I tried, worked. This is also available to hear.I have recorded Lover
Man and re-recorded Goodbye Porkpie Hat for the CD Solo Mark Buckingham,
it also includes the improvisation to see how fast the Signature would
play. In the recordings I have endeavoured to show the complete sonic
range that I am capable of creating with a saxophone and which the Signature
allows me to achieve, which is far more than any other tenor I have played.
I have no doubt that as I work more with the Signature Custom, new sound
opportunities will be revealed and recorded. What joy awaits?
A phenomenal saxophone, a work of art
that sounds amazing!
Please listen to the results.
Improvisation at Speed
Signature Custom Alto Saxophone.
Solid Silver 925 crook with red brass body bow and bell.
The instrument arrived on Thursday afternoon in a rugged Hiscox case,
which is supplied as standard for all Signature Custom Saxophones.
The quality of the finish is outstanding, a deep gold lacquer, which is
3 layers thick; the workmanship is faultless.
David Farley, who designed and builds all the Signature at the Trevor
J. James workshops to order, knows how I like my saxophones set up, as
I already use a Signature Custom tenor. He set all the side key springing
perfectly as I find if they are too heavy the instrument moves when I
hit them, affecting stability and thus tone. The main finger keywork on
first impression seemed a bit too light even for me, but the feel is growing
on me. Being a privileged Signature Custom owner entitles one to the ‘after
service’; David will adjust any keywork and set-up to the player’s
requirements. This is unique, as no other maker offers that. An element
of the saxophone I also like is where the fingers and hands touch the
instrument the keywork is rounded and smooth making it very comfortable
Having complete faith with the Signature Custom I tuned it up in the afternoon
then gigged with the sax that evening, a funk, jazz and jazz/rock gig
in Clapham (I left my Selmer at home, I had such faith in it). The instrument
was fantastic, straight out of the case and ready for professional work
- not like certain makers with huge reputations where the saxes need to
go to your repairer for pad setting etc.
The beauty of having one man as designer, builder and quality control
separates the Signature Custom from all manufacturers.
On the first gig I made the mistake of using a Otto Link 7* instead of
my normal 6*. The difference is huge and I did not realise the mistake
until the next day. I felt my tone did not quite have the projection and
power as normal. The next day I was totally knocked out when I stuck the
6* on the alto.
The power and projection is immense. Playing sub-tones and PPP is so clear
it’s shocking. The solid silver crook has to be experienced, with
such a clean sound throughout the dynamic range. Performers need to have
very clearly projected tone these days so that they are able to carry
their sound through electric guitars and drums etc., often at high decibel
levels. The Signature Custom series will surprise even the most fixed
player who insists on a particular brand (me included). It is so powerful.
Volume is essential for most band work; if you are lucky enough to be
working with quiet ensembles then the depth of tone of the Signature Custom
at low levels will inspire you.
An incredible aspect to the Signature Custom series of saxophones, which
I have also discovered with the tenor, is the balance of tone on every
note throughout the instrument range, and beyond. This is a remarkable
achievement for the Trevor J. James Company because nearly all saxes however
expensive have tonal weak spots.
In conclusion, with regard to the initial performing and playing/testing
of the Signature I am wholly impressed. I can find no fault and in many
respects the alto outplays my normal alto. The tonal clarity, power and
projection is superior.
When one considers value for money this alto wins hands down. Professional
saxophones are very expensive even with retailer discounts and what you
get with the Signature Custom is staggering. Just look at the cost of
a silver crooked instrument and compare with Signature Customs competitors!
I will be using the Signature Custom from now onwards, the asset of the
power, clarity, projection and balanced tone over the whole instrument
as well the inherent tone of the silver crook has won my favor.
Anybody looking for a professional saxophone would do well to have an
unbiased and unprejudiced attitude and blow a Signature Custom Saxophone
from Trevor J. James & Co.
Alex uses a Red Brass Signature Custom Tenor with an option of a Solid
Alex Mitchell studied the saxophone at the Royal Northern College of Music,
graduating with both a Degree and a Professional Performance Diploma.
As a member of the Adelphi Saxophone Quartet he was a finalist in the
Royal Overseas League Competition, received a major award from the John
Tunnell Trust and was selected to perform as part of the Park Lane Group
Young Artists Concert Series. He has given recitals in North America and
Canada as well as all over the United Kingdom in venues such as the Purcell
Room, the Barbican Centre, and St Martin-in-the-Fields. He is an EMI recording
artist and has broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, Classic FM and Granada TV.
He has also performed at the British and World Saxophone Congresses, at
the New England Saxophone Symposium and at the Spitalfields Festival.
He also has experience with orchestral theatre work, including a summer
season with the National Youth Theatre, a winter season at Scarborough's
Stephen Joseph Theatre and on board a P&O liner. Alex Mitchell has
appeared regularly at the Edinburgh Fringe in possibly the world's only
tribute band to the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. He teaches the saxophone at
St Paul's School and at Godolphin & Latymer School, and has been a
visiting saxophone tutor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst,
in the United States, and at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
Signature Custom Alto, solid silver crook, red brass body, bow
Live at Cafe Cairo Clapham North every Thursday.
Photo' s by Defiance.
Mark wiit the Signature Custom Tenor
Solid Silver crook and body, bronze bow
IOTA live at Hampton Court.
This is the Signature Custom Alto 925 Solid Silver crook, body,
bow and bell.
The first gig with the tenor.
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Photographs remain Copyright Trevor J James & Co.- All other
content Copyright Grunt Productions 2006