Monday, March 30, 2009

A Chance to See the World

As I boarded my flight from JFK to Frankfurt last night to attend my 10th Frankfurt Music Messe, I couldn't help but reflect on the international travel I've done over the past 10 years. Compared to many, 10-years of international, or Frankfurt Music Messe attendance is not so much, but for me it is a bit of a milestone.

Over the past 10 years, I've had the chance to visit the following countries (listed somewhat geographically as to not tax my memory too much):

New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan, China, South Korean, Japan, Russia, India, U.A.E., U.K., Ireland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay.

I've been slipped a "mickey" in Bangkok, Thailand; abandoned at the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia, and most recently I was in Siberia, Russia in November! I've also seen so many beautiful cities, met fantastic artists, outstanding businessmen, and great people! While the cultures of the world are fascinatingly different, the love and joy of music is universal.

As a young drummer (aspiring to be a percussionist) growing up in the corn field of Central Illinois (Sullivan, Illinois to be specific), I had aspirations of playing professionally and teaching at the university level. And, while that didn't work out as planned after graduating from Millikin University with a music business degree, and Northwestern with a masters in percussion, I couldn't have had a more wonderful and enriching professional life! After working for the Percussive Arts Society and Yamaha Corporation of America, my opportunity to do business internationally started in 1999 when I was at SABIAN. Since then with SABIAN, SKB, and now with D'Addario I continue to travel internationally.

As the wheels touched down last this morning, I couldn't help but reflect. There are more countries I'd love to travel too. What ones have I missed that you'd recommend?

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Rico By Any Other Name....

A Rico by Any Other Name…..

By Mike Zucek-North Central Regional Sales Manager

If you’ve been playing a clarinet or saxophone for any length of time, you’re likely already familiar with the current line-up of Rico reed products. There’s the famous Rico “Orange Box”, as well as Rico Royal, Rico Plasticover, La Voz, Mitchell Lurie, Frederick L. Hemke, Select Jazz, Grand Concert and our newest top line reed, (making many players re-think what they should be playing), Rico Reserve. But there are some names from Rico’s past that are not commonly recognized as Rico reeds. Let me explain….

The term “private label” is often applied to products manufactured by one company under another company’s name, or a name that is loaned or licensed to another company. Although Rico no longer produces “private label” reeds, it did so at one time (in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s) for a small group of band instrument manufacturers. (If you’re into collecting reed boxes, you’ll find this interesting!)

The most common Rico “PL” reeds were the “Diamond Cut” brand for the old C.G.Conn Company and the “Roy J. Maier” brand for the H & A Selmer Company. You’ll find Diamond Cuts in a black and silver box with a diamond graphic in the middle of the lid and the legend “made by La Voz” in the lid’s corner (La Voz , of course, being Rico!) “Roy J. Maier” reeds were branded in honor of one of Rico’s principal owners, and the mechanical genius behind Rico’s manufacturing machines. You’ll find these reeds in a textured silver box with the maroon colored “Roy J. Maier “signature in the center of the lid.

Another “PL” reed, called “Symmetricut” was produced for the Chicago Musical Instrument Co. (or CMI) during the 70’s. These were packaged in an all green box with white borders and the Symmetricut name in white on the lid. You may come across earlier Symmetricut reeds in yellow and dark maroon boxes as well. These, however, will be marked “Ciccone Symmetricut” and were made by Tony Ciccone before Rico purchased his company. Later Symmetricut reeds, from the late 80’s and early 90’s were actually marketed by Rico as a “house” brand and were in an all green box with the reeds in separate “Novapak” reed holders.

Although not actually private label reeds, you may still come across the rare “Andre” brand (primarily for Tenor Sax). These were made by Rico for limited distribution (and sometimes for export) for a short time in the seventies. They mostly came in an all yellow box with “Andre” in maroon on top. Another reed, primarily exported to Japan was the “Nova” brand, which was packaged in a gold foil box with ‘Nova” in block letters on top.

Other than being manufactured by Rico, what else do these brands have in common? You guessed it; they’re all actually Rico reeds; the same ones you can still get in the ubiquitous orange box!

If you’re interested in building a collection of colorful reed boxes, I suggest you ask around whenever you’re in a music store, as you never know what the dealer has hidden away in the back storeroom! (Or right out front in the “bargain bin”). They may be #4 alto clarinet reeds, but what’s that matter if you can add that colorful package to your collection!

In my blog posting for next month, I’ll delve into some of the historic packaging for Rico branded reeds. Do you know why the box that preceded the “orange box” had a simulated wood appearance? Tune in next month…

Monday, March 16, 2009

Exciting Times at Rico!

Exciting Times at Rico!

With all of the great changes and improvements at the factory I am excited for the future of Rico and reeds in general.

Being a reed player myself, I am always looking for advances in playability and sound production/longevity. One of the most important features is to get the most vibrations and tone out of the reed and this plays right in to the new Rico and new Rico machinery.

The machines I am speaking of are called “blanking machines”. These machines take the raw tubes and create an almost ready reed. For me, the most exciting portion of the machine is regarding the flatness of the reeds.

These new machines create the flattest tables on reeds that I have ever seen and, in addition the smoothest that I have ever felt. Even if your mouthpiece table is not completely flat (which does happen!), all of the new Rico reeds will help create better contact between the reed and the mouthpiece.

Most players understand the importance of the contact between the reed and the lay of the mouthpiece. Essentially, the more contact between the two parts equals more vibration and tone. One thing that I have found over the years in playing situations is that you can work to stifle some of the vibrations (if necessary), but if they aren’t there to begin with you can’t create them from thin air.

Regardless of which Rico reed you try, they all benefit from these new machines and a new level of consistency unheard of in the single reed world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reserve - a huge fan!

Of course, I work for D'Addario - Rico!

But when being on a stage (I was trained as classical clarinetist in Paris and still perform as solo, chamber music and orchestra player), just the quality of my set-up is important.

I play the Reserve reed for Bb clarinet because I like this dark and deep sound but also the large scope of musical colors I get.

I am currently preparing several concerts with the Mozart Concerto. And Reserve is the reed I will play. It sounds as I like, I feel comfortable and therefore can express myself "ad libitum".

FYI - my set-up is Signature Selmer clarinet / Lomax mouthpiece / Reserve #3.5+ Check out the video of Romain Guyot talking about his equipment:

Just try it and let me know. Thanks.