That’s a Lot of Gear to Haul Around

Crystal Visions Makes the Best Posters

Crystal Visions Makes the Best Posters

Yesterday was a crazy day not just because I had two gigs. Also not just because the time in between then was supposed to be one hour and they were an hour apart not counting tear down and set up time. In addition to these things I also had to take a ton of gear as it was two different bands. The first gig required tenor and EWI along with my rack that has my hardware synth rig, a mixer, and my in-ears as well as stands, and my iPad for reading music. The second gig was alto and bari along with stands, a change of clothes, and again my trusty iPad. In between, I also brought a cooler with some food since I wasn’t going to have time to eat dinner except in the car. It was a lot to deal with in one day and I’m lucky I remembered to pack everything and didn’t lose anything in the process. I actually used an app called Wunderlist (task tracking software) to make lists so that I grabbed everything I needed.

The Cat Stayed Home

The Cat Stayed Home

The first gig was with Technicolor Motor Home at the Dundalk Heritage Fair opening up for Three Dog Night. This was a great show for us because we played for a very large and appreciative crowd. The weather was absolutely gorgeous. We also played the gig with 4 subs (out of ten pieces) but you would have never known it because everyone was so well prepared. The sound company did a great job and the logistics of everything were like butter. I even got a special parking space since the crew knew that two of us had to leave early to get to our next gig.  All in all it was pretty much the epitome of the perfect gig.

View From the Stage at the Dundalk Heritage Fair

View From the Stage at the Dundalk Heritage Fair

The next gig was all the way down in Bethesda, MD playing with another ten-piece band in Jr’ Cline and the Recliners. As I mentioned above there was only an hour for turnaround as the first gig ended at 7 and the second gig started at 8. Of course that’s not possible unless I were to really take my life (as well as those around me) in my own hands and I am not willing to drive that crazy. Luckily, the band was able to move the start time back until 8:15 and they played the first two songs without the two of us who were “coming in hot”. The first gig I thought went really well for me personally, the second gig wasn’t as great for me. I played the section stuff well but I just couldn’t get on track from a solo perspective. Part of it is playing Eb instruments with a rock and blues band so I end up playing in C# a lot (that’s like kryptonite for me) but I also just never felt settled in the second gig and that’s a shame because the band was roaring. I mentioned before about the Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club being a great venue and it was just as amazing this time. They treated us like gold and we had a really nice crowd there. I’m going to have to really shed C# blues before the next gig to get it under my fingers so I fell better about myself when it’s all over. It’s funny because I’m so used to playing in F# because I usually play tenor on these jobs. You would think it wouldn’t be that hard a transition but it seems like nothing IO play sounds the way I want it to. Oh well, I’ll make it work.

Jr. Cline and the Recliners (taken after the show)

Jr. Cline and the Recliners (taken after the show)

Review: Jazzlab Sax Harness

Pretty Girl Not Included

Pretty Girl Not Included

One of the big problems I’ve had the last few years when playing bari is ending up with a very sore back. It had gotten to the point where I would take the bari off the strap anytime I had any decent amount of rest and then re-hang it before the next entrance. I’m talking about as little as six bars rest. That technique got me through the gig and kept me from being in terrible pain the next day.

While playing bari always seemed to affect my lower back the most, playing tenor with a normal neck strap always made my neck sore although not nearly as much as bari affected my back. I never liked harness style straps because I didn’t like the way the horn hung – it seemed to be too close to my body with that style of strap. Because of the way it hung, it always felt like the angle of the horn was wrong for me. I think it would be fine for sitting down but I spend most of my gigs standing up and I like the horn to be more out front than angled to my side. I started hearing a lot of great things about the Jazzlab Sax Holder and I finally took the plunge to try it out. My experience with it so far is over three gigs and several practice sessions but I believe I have a good feel for what it does and how that affects me.

How Did It Do?

There’s no doubt the weight is much better distributed with the Sax Holder. The weight of the horn was moved from my neck (with a pull on my lower back) to my shoulders. The strap adjusts fairly easily to the contours of my shoulders and the weight is further distributed to a brace that rests on the body. This brace is adjustable both for height as well as thickness and I think this is the part that saves my back while the shoulder straps save my neck. The strap works like a marching tether for drummers in many ways.

The first time I used it I had a gig on bari and alto and the strap arrived during the day of the gig while I was at work. So like any rational person I decided to try it on the gig without any test. To make matters worse, traffic going to the gig was terrible so I didn’t even make sound check so I was only able to try the strap for a few minutes before I went on. I did have a regular strap on stage just in case…I’m not totally nuts…but I didn’t need it because the Sax Holder worked like a champ. It was effortless to hold the bari while playing and I didn’t take it off at all while playing the bari songs. I also felt very comfortable playing alto. The angle of both horns was right where I wanted them to be. The Sax Holder has a longer strap portion that acts more like a traditional strap and that makes it much better than a harness for me.

The second gig I used it on was just tenor and I once again didn’t have much time to adjust it (it was an outdoor wedding and you probably know how those go). Again, I appreciated how well the pressure on my neck and back was alleviated but this time I felt like maybe having more time to tweak the adjustable shoulder braces would have helped me a lot. The seemed to dig in a little bit more than they should the whole night. On the other hand, the strap works really well with a tux or a suit as it hides well under the jacket, doesn’t mess up your bow tie, and actually keeps a traditional tie in place without a tie clip.

The third time I used it, was a outdoor concert and I was dressed MUCH more casually than the other two gigs. In this case, it actually interfered with my open collar shirt more than I wanted it to. Plus, the guys in the section were giving me grief about it a little it (“Oh I thought you were wearing a brace because you broke your sternum”). Ultimately, I decided not to finish out the gig with it that night even though it was still very comfortable for me. I think I can better plan my clothing in the future when I want to use it.

Pros

Really does protect both my neck and my lower back

Works well under a suit jacket and with ties

Horns hang at a good angle for me

Easily adjustable when switching horns

Lightweight

Comes with a soft bag and stores comfortably in the bell when in the case

Cons

Sometimes it’s awkward to have on when you aren’t playing. Walking up and down steps feels weird if you try to look down

Doesn’t work well over an open collar shirt

Can look a little strange when you aren’t hanging a horn on it

Verdict

For bari this is a no-brainer. It makes playing one pain free for the first time since I was much younger. I was able to feel comfortable without removing the horn and I was even able to move freely and do dance moves with the section. For the tenor, where I don’t have as much lower back trouble but I do have neck strain, it’s something that I can and will use under the right circumstance. Even if the guys give me grief, it’s well worth being pain free after the gig. For alto it’s really not necessary but I am often playing alto in conjunction with either the tenor or bari so it will get used especially since it is so adjustable. Overall, I think this strap is a winner and money well spent. I actually ordered mine through a store connected to Amazon but I don’t think they have them all the time. I’ve also heard that there is a model 2 coming out but I will probably wait on that until I hear more as this one works fine.