Some of you know Aizen Japan from the excellent mouthpieces they have been making. At last months NAMM show, Aizen introduced their new line of saxophones. I was impressed enough to buy one and since then, a few of you have asked about it. Here is the story.
After walking around the show and playing every interesting saxophone in sight, I came across the Aizen booth. Aizen was a new name to me (pronounced Eye-zen.) The booth was small but unusually attractive and featured altos and tenors on display as well as mouthpieces. Marshall McDonald was demonstrating some burning bebop. The owner and president of the company, Mr Minoru Kubota was there and welcomed players to try his new babies.
I picked up an alto and was immediately struck with the feel of the sax. It has excellent ergonomics. It feels similar to a classic Selmer
only better. The sound is full, rich and responsive. Loud too. The palm keys can take a lot of air and not push back, unlike many altos. If you like to really sing in the palm keys, this alto is great. The actual workmanship seems very good too. All the metal parts are finished nicely and there are none of the rough edges or sharp pieces you will find on many Taiwanese saxes. I was most impressed with the intonation. It was far better than the Yamaha Custom I used to own. This is a pro quality sax.
There were altos in the booth with straight tone holes and some with soldered on (?) rolled tone holes. I preferred the horns with the straight ones. Im not sure if these saxophones are built in Japan, or perhaps partially in Japan. They are specifically built to Mr Kubotas design and a very good design it is. An artist was employed who created the unique engraving. According to the owner, Aizen has decided to only offer saxophones in gold lacquer to show how serious the company is about sound over looks.
After getting home with this horn, I spent a few weeks comparing altos and in the end, decided to keep the Aizen as one of my best, and sell four others. Of course, I buy and sell a lot of horns, but this Aizen will be here for a long time.
Maybe the Aizen saxophone is a not yet a serious competitor for the big four companies, but they could be some day. At the moment they should certainly be on the short list for anyone looking at a Mauriat or similar. (I prefer this to any Mauriat.) I did not play the Aizen tenor for more than 10 minutes, but could tell it was also an excellent saxophone.