Mark’s Yamaha Saxophone Story

I play, and absolutely love, a circa 1990 Yamaha Silver-plated YTS-875S Custom Tenor Saxophone, serial #001752.

I found this saxophone quite by accident.  I was in Rueben Allen’s Sax Shop in North Hollywood (sadly, no longer there) and I saw this beautiful silver tenor saxophone hanging on the wall.  I was playing a early ’60’s Selmer Mark VI tenor at the time and wasn’t really even shopping for a new axe.  But for some reason I had Rheuben pull this tenor down; I played it and bought it on the spot.  And I never played that Mark VI again.

In fact, I ended up loving my Yamaha Silver Custom Tenor so much that I eventually bought a matching Yamaha Silver Custom Alto and Straight Soprano.  (Interestingly, I ended up selling that silver soprano to Hiroshima’s Dan Kuramoto.)

In my line of the music business, I meet thousands of people face to face, and folks are constantly ogling and admiring and complimenting my saxophone.  Because it’s silver plated it tarnishes pretty easily and, despite my rather sporadic efforts to keep it shined, it has, over time, taken on a very lovely, soulful patina.  In other words, a great sound and a great look.

A couple of interesting side notes: I now live about two blocks from Rheuben’s old shop.  The place is now the Rose Theater, one of the many local live theaters in this neighborhood, the NoHo Arts District.  Also, I get my horn worked on at Baxter-Northup Music by an excellent repairman named Ross Steidinger who, coincidentally, used to work with Rheuben at the Sax Shop!

Also, in 1993 Rheuben Allen did the photography for my third CD, Kokopeli.  That CD cover is on his photography page.  It was during that photo session that he took the “arm holding sax” photo you see above (I love that shot).

Mouthpiece: For the longest time I played a vintage Otto Link 9 on this tenor, and always got a lot of tone compliments: deep, round, beautiful, sensuous.  However, I always had trouble in the altissimo register with that piece, so at the urging at someone at Woodwind & Brasswind I tried an SR Tech Pro mouthpiece and have been playing that exclusively ever since.  It’s got the same deep, round, beautiful tone as the Link, but with a much more responsive altissimo.

Reeds: I use, love, and swear by Fibracell reeds. I use them exclusively (medium strength).  For me, the convenience, reliability, and consistency of these reeds makes them the only choice.  I like to keep 5 – 10 of them in my case and rotate them around, never playing only one of them all the time.  I find that depending upon conditions — temperature, humidity, altitude, etc. — there is always one of my Fibracell reeds that plays just right.

I know there are lots of players who pooh-pooh the idea of using synthetic reeds.  (Case in point: I had a lesson with Brandon Fields once and he was not the least bit impressed.)  But I love them.  I love the tone I get and how consistent and easy they are to use.

I keep my sax in an SKB case.

Speaking of Yamaha tenors, you might want to check out my friend, Robert Kyle’s, music.  He, too, plays the circa 1990 Yamaha Silver-plated YTS-875S Custom Tenor Saxophone, also gets a beautiful and warm tone, and is an extraordinary musician and saxophonist.