• Jessen G Mezzo Soprano

    by  • May 23, 2010 • Jessen

    This is, unquestionably, my favorite new saxophone.  Not because of the way it looks — although it’s a very interesting look — but because the tone is a nice compromise between the soprano and the alto, rather similar to that of the Conn-O-Sax.

    Below is an excerpt from the interview with Mr. Jessen I conducted in 2008, referencing mainly the G Mezzo.

    Peter Jessen Interview Excerpt

    Q. Why a G mezzo soprano?

    A. I have never been completely comfortable on soprano and wondered if it would be possible to make a sound similar to Cor Anglais with more volume and single reed and thought this might be obtainable by changing pitch from Bb down to G.

    The Jessen G Mezzo Soprano
    Inventor: Peter Jessen
    Introduced: 2008
    Discontinued: N/A
    Original Advertised Price: Not Yet Determined
    Available Pitches
    G Mezzo Soprano (keyed range, low Bb to altissimo F#)
    Available Finishes
    Silver Plate over Copper Body, Bare Copper
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    The first prototype was way out on the tuning, but the second is much better. It’s still very much a saxophone and a soprano, but has a mellow subtlety that is very pleasing.

    I am currently working on third prototype, which takes forever, as on these horns I have to custom make all keywork as well.

    The sound of the prototype is very promising and lives up to the somewhat diffuse and odd idea of combining the color and depth of a Cor Anglais with the intensity and dynamics of the soprano playing of Roland Kirk.

    I’ll have to adjust a few bore dimensional things before I know for certain if a custom mouthpiece will be necessary; I hope not! So far, I have used a standard Bb soprano mouthpiece in designing the G soprano.

    The final G mezzo soprano will have drawn toneholes — homemade tooling! — and a keyed range of low Bb to altissimo F# (concert pitch F to C#).

    Q. What audience did you intend for the G mezzo soprano?

    A. I have had one of the prototypes tested by our foremost crossover player here in Copenhagen, Torben Snekkestad, and his immediate reaction was a desire to record baroque music with it.

    I think the G mezzo soprano has the potential to be used in all genres[, however] I see a clear advantage in the altered pitch when it comes to playing, for example, ballads.

    Q. Why [is the horn made out of] copper?

    A. I chose copper because it is easily available here in Copenhagen and therefore “scrap-able” when not successful! I have to order the proper sheet metal from Germany and can’t afford to make to many mistakes on this. I had experimented with making necks in copper in 0.7 and 1.0 mm and found it to have a more mellow sound than brass; it also appeared to give the instruments more evenness in tone.

    Q. I’m told that your keywork is made by a different company, similar to what Inderbinen does.

    A. I found keywork elsewhere to be able to make the instrument in reasonable time and so be able to test my ideas. The quality on [the horns the keywork is from] is at a level these days where it is not great, but definitely acceptable. I am still looking for better keywork, as it will also be a cost cutter in a commercial sense.

    The tube work however, with bore dimensions and tonehole size and placement made by hand, as I firmly believe this is the core of the instrument’s soul.

    Q. You mentioned Benedikt Eppelsheim. How did he inspire you and affect your designs?

    A. I was very fortunate to meet and later visit Benedikt Eppelsheim, creator of the “TUBAX” and other exceptional saxophones and he has been very generous in sharing his knowledge and experience and allowing me to see his techniques and tooling and I must say that he is an outstanding craftsman, highly innovative and has been a massive inspiration for me.

    Prior to meeting him I really had never thought I’d be able to make the instruments I’ve made over these last few years; he assisted with the G mezzo soprano design.

    The Sound

    As Mr. Jessen indicates, “The sound of the prototype is very promising and lives up to the somewhat diffuse and odd idea of combining the color and depth of a Cor Anglais with the intensity and dynamics of the soprano playing of Roland Kirk.” If I had to characterize it myself, I’d say that the Conn-O-Sax, which was designed to look and sound like another double-reed, the Heckelphone, has a soprano sax sound combined with an alto sax sound, but more heavily on the alto side. Mr. Jessen’s horn has the same combination, but it’s weighted more heavily on the soprano side. Both the Conn-O-Sax (or F Mezzo-Soprano) and the G Mezzo have obvious double-reed overtones, which I find quite pleasing.

    More Information

    Discussion Forums

    • The Woodwind Forum (My original announcement about this horn + more pictures. I’m also an admin there.)
    • SOTW Thread (Sax-on-the-Web thread about Jessen’s horns.)

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