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2 things - speaking as a lead alto player...

* The lead player is responsible for putting down the pitch and phrasing for the whole sax section, and for being the liason between the trumpets and the saxophones. Thus, a clear, focused, stable sound is required, so the other players can hear you, and usually this means a slightly brighter tone than that of a straight ahead jazz player. Think Jackie McLean instead of Kenny Garrett (though pitch wise probably Kenny Garrett is the better choice...)

* I don't recommend going more open than a 6. A 7 is OK if you are strong and experienced, but I would rather play a 6 on lead because sometimes you need to whisper, especially if you are doing anything in the Basie realm. If your work is more modern and includes a lot of fusion material, then the 7 would be OK. But a 6 is still fine, especially if you learn to play efficiently. I might have given you a different answer when I was 30, though... :)

In terms of advice, not having heard you, I think that a Meyer is a good choice, IF it's a good Meyer. Phil Woods got a huge sound with a Meyer 5, as did Cannonball. Both were excellent lead players (though Phil got way more work in that lane). The problem with Meyers is that good ones are hard to come by, though the relatively recent New York edition is pretty good.

I really like the 10MFan Alto Madness piece, a bit more $$ than the Meyer, but very good and excellent for playing lead. It's also a little brighter. I haven't played the Gaia, though I understand it's an excellent piece, but I haven't looked at Theo Wanne's pieces for alto because, having played a few on tenor, they tend to have less resistance than I like. A little resistance is a good thing.
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