“Artisan,” as in “artisan bread” or “artisan beer.” Usually small companies that make specialty or custom saxophones.
Jim Schmidt’s saxophones have actually been around for a long while. The idea behind this horn is a new fingering system. I’ll quote from the JS Engineering website: “The logic behind [the] fingering system is straightforward. One note follows the next chromatic note by closing down the next key with the next finger of your hand, and so on down the line, one after the other in linear sequence.”
There has been some controversy with these horns; the biggest point of contention being whether or not these horns have Asian-sourced parts. From my standpoint, I don’t care: the beautiful engraving — designed by a famous tattoo artist, no less — and the folks that endorse this horn makes up for that contention. (Also check out their Facebook page for more pics and info.)
These horns are essentially the resurrection of the King Super 20 Silver-Sonic. That’s a really good thing: there’s a reason why the Super 20s rival the Selmer Mark VI in price. They’re also the only saxophones still made in the USA — the Cannonballs are just assembled here. So, for more information, check the thread and review at SOTW, Helen’s article at Bassic-Sax and a thread Gandalfe started at the Woodwind Forum.
This is not a pro sax; it’s about a $550 student horn. It’s also not revolutionary; the Grafton Acrylic Alto was the first plastic sax. However, the VibratoSax is being marketed properly — although I think $500 is still a little high — and it’s certainly eye catching. This pic doesn’t even cover all their available colors! There’s also a Bb tenor in the works ….
The Inderbinen saxophones (soprano, alto and tenor) have been described as “sublime” by folks that have had dozens of Selmer Mark VIs or other high-end horns in their past. If anything, the complaint is that these horns have a look you either love or hate. These are also the most expensive new soprano, alto and tenor saxes available, minus horns with custom finishes: 8070 Euros ($10,785 US) for an alto. Also interesting is that the keywork is from … a Yamaha.
This is actually the older version of Aquilasax’s C tenor: the newer version was improved by some of the suggestions on SOTW, amongst other places — which I think is pretty kewl. Aquilasax currently offers a C soprano and C tenor and is testing the waters to see if there’s a market for a C bass and F mezzo soprano. If you want one of those, sign up on their website!
Peter Jessen makes a bunch of different pitches of saxophones, but, in my mind, the G Mezzo is probably the most significant: after all, it’s a new pitch!
The Pro One is a new horn designed by Peter Ponzol, the person that designed the Keilwerth Modell Ponzol horns available in the late 1980s/early 1990s. Yes, “Antigua” is a fairly big name, but there have been a few folks that have designed (or had input in the design of) a horn and then had an Asian company actually manufacture the sax, so I’m extending the definition of “artisan,” in this case.
J’Elle Stainer has been around for quite awhile, actually. One of the principals in the group is Lopes, which was another Brazilian company that specialized in sax customization. Stainer has a bunch of interesting horns: the contrabaritone, a narrow-bore contrabass; a compact bass, which is a regular bass with the tubing wrapped differently so it’s about as tall as a baritone; the Ivophone, a slide sax; and a subcontrabass sax. In addition to those, they also have a few different selections of bass sax. For more, I strongly recommend checking out Helen’s series of articles on Stainer on Bassic-Sax.Info.
Benedikt Eppelsheim has created some wonderful instruments. On the sax side, there’s the Soprillo (Bb sopranissimo), a re-worked Bb bass that I’ve been told by folks that know is absolutely wonderful, a reworked Eb contrabass and Bb, C and Eb Tubaxes (all contrabass sax replacements). He also collaborated with International Woodwinds — for a very brief time — to create a C soprano. And that’s only on the sax side: he’s made several other woodwinds, too. I’m particularly fond of the look of the Bb contrabass clarinets. Check out Eppelsheim’s homepage, Soprillo.com and Helen’s Bassic-Sax Blog.