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  • Writer's pictureJulian Chan

Yanagisawa Saxophones and being an Artist

WARNING: Saxophone post ahead. Feel free to skip if you’re not interested!

I've been playing Yanagisawa saxophones since the year 2000. My first professional-level saxophone was an A-901, which also happened to be my first pro horn as a working professional musician. I have to thank my parents for that investment in me, and words can't express my level of gratitude to them - that saxophone has taken me places in my music life I'd never thought I would experience. This horn sowed the seed of what is now one of the biggest highlights of my saxophone life - to be part of the Yanagisawa Saxophones Artist family.

It’s the best saxophone I’ve ever played, and every Yanagisawa saxophone I’ve played or play tested over the years did not disappoint. They have maintained the status of being one of the top 3 saxophone brands in the world for a very good reason.

I didn’t always think that way though. Like many saxophone players at the time, I was also dreaming that I would get a Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone one day. FYI, the Selmer Mark VIs were highly sought-after models of saxophones, perceived by many as Strads in the saxophone world. Here’s the crazy thing - back in the 90s, when we still didn’t have internet access back then, you could probably find a Mark VI alto for a few thousand RINGGIT!! I even almost bought one for around 2k, but somehow I missed the boat on it. It wasn’t meant to be (and thankfully so!).

Even with the hope of getting a Mark VI one day, I continued to develop myself with my Yanagisawa alto (and a few years later, a S991 soprano sax) and always thinking and visualising that I have a Selmer Mark VI sound. What’s interesting is that when I have done several recordings on either albums, or sessions, I found that I could get close to the sound I heard in my head. But I still wanted the Selmer sound. Somewhere down the road, I even bought a Selmer saxophone - a black lacquer Series II, and even switched to a P. Mauriat (one of the early, now defunct, model). I put the 901 under the bed for a few years.

Right before I left for New York City for my Masters studies, I sent in my current P. Mauriat for an overhaul, and I took out my Yanagisawa 901 to play a gig. I was pleasantly surprised how well it played and how nice it sounded, even after having not played it for more than a year. But I didn’t take it with me to NYC, but rather the P. Mauriat instead. Halfway in my first semester, I suddenly realised how much I missed the Yanagisawa, and I was fully convinced after I tried my professor’s Yanagisawa sax (he’s one of their top artists!). When I had the chance to go back to Malaysia, I immediately took out my 901 alto and reconnected with it and sold off my P. Mauriat. Best decision ever made. I also managed to upgrade to a upper model alto, an unlacquered A-991 alto which I still keep and use until today.

My time in NYC was one of a musical transformation, and it was a great opportunity for me to start anew with my musical identity and I was glad that I could do that with a Yanagisawa saxophone as part of that journey - never looked back since. It’s a part of my sound until today.

It’s my Mark VI.

It’s still one of the best saxophones I’ve ever played.

A big thanks to my situ, Antonio Hart, and Mr. Hidemasa Sato of Yanagisawa Saxophones Japan for having me as part of the Yanagisawa Saxophones family.

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