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.

Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club 4-26-13

 

Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club - Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD

Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club – Wisconsin Ave. Bethesda, MD

I played Friday night at the new Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, MD with Jr. Cline and the Recliners. I was playing the third horn chair (they usually only use two but add a third for the bigger gigs) so I was on alto and bari for this gig. It was a great show for quite a few reasons. First and foremost, we had the addition of Julia Nixon on vocals. Julia is a top notch singer who was a mainstay in the DC area for years although I believe she lives in North Carolina these days. Having her on stage really made a special night even better. The gig was also special for me because it was my first one with the ten-piece show version of the band. It went very well in spite of only one rehearsal with the full band (actually no rehearsals with Julia although most of the guys have worked with her before).

What a Beautiful Room!

What a Beautiful Room!

The club is absolutely gorgeous and is set up perfectly for concerts. It seats a few hundred people at dining tables, has a large area available as a dance floor, and has house PA and lights. The stage is plenty big and the acoustics of both the stage and the room in general are excellent. The food is excellent although maybe a little pricey but the band can order whatever they want for half price. In addition, everyone we dealt with was very nice and supportive of the band and our efforts.

It’s often said that the things that burn the hottest burn out the quickest and, much like the Tally Ho where I played a couple weeks ago, it takes a lot of support to keep them great. This is the kind of place we need to have around both for fans to have a nice place to go as well as for bands to have¬†accommodating¬†places to play. If you’re interested in seeing great bands in a great environment then make sure to frequent places like this to make sure they stay around.

One last thing. I finally managed to get a Jazzlab Sax Holder and it arrived just in time for the gig. I actually tried it out for the first time on stage. I will post a full review very soon but I’ll say this (Spoiler alert!) I think it’s a keeper.