THE YANAGISAWA STORY
The Yanagisawa Wind Instrument Company has been manufacturing and repairing wind instruments in Japan since 1893.
The years of American occupation following the second
world war also brought with it American music i.e. Jazz and Be Bop.
This was the introduction of the saxophone to Japan. As brass wind instrument
manufacturers and repairers, the Yanagisawa Company were often asked
to do repairs on saxophones by the musicians based in the Tokyo area.
This soon led to modifying and improving some of the saxophones that
came through their workshops.
For the next ten years the company to produce alto and tenor saxophones but did not produce any new models. However, as the company motto "Yanagisawa pursues technology" suggests they were by no means dormant. The company, endeavouring to become a saxophone specialist , remodelled the existing 2 saxophones and plans were on the drawing board to produce a full range of saxophones for the domestic market.
In June 1965 the remodelled alto was released as the A-5, closely followed by the T-5 tenor saxophone in February 1966. Not prepared to sit on their laurels, modifications were carried to both models and they were both launched as the A-4 and T-4 in April of that same year.
March 1967 saw the introduction of the first baritone made in Japan. The B-6 attracted a great deal of attention and acclaim. Their long awaited ambition was realised in March 1969 when the S-6 soprano was released. (The first soprano saxophone to be made in Japan)
The company continued their policy of upgrading and superceded the A-4 by bringing out the A-6 alto saxophone in August 1970. By this time, the Yanagisawa Company had proved to themselves to be the leading innovators of saxophones on their domestic market, but the world stage was still waiting.
In February 1972,Yanagisawa developed their first solid silver alto saxophone.
In June 1972, they released the SN-6, the world's first sopranino saxophone with high E key. This first ever made Yanagisawa sopranino is now in the hands of Sonny Rollins.
With the saxophone line fulfilled, the company gained
the fully fledged reputation of being the saxophone specialist manufacturer
to accommodate all saxophone artists. Saxophonists, whatever their ability
and whatever make of saxophone, were always welcome at the Yanagisawa
factory to have their instrument looked at, overhauled or customised
at very little or no charge. Many of the top Japanese saxophonists as
well as international touring musicians called at the factory with their
instruments. The skilled technicians listened very carefully to their
points of view. A common complaint was of the mediocrity of commercially
available mouthpieces. Always obliging in their quest to satisfy the
needs of musicians the challenge was inviting.
Up to this period the Yanagisawa Company had been
manufacturing instruments for other well known saxophone companies who
had their names engraved on them. Examples of this were the Selmer Pennsylvania,
Conn Continental and saxophones under the Martin brand name. To this
day I am still reminded by musicians of the similarities to the older
The popularity and acceptance of Yanagisawa as a major name in quality saxophone production during this period gave the company more confidence to strive forward for their goal of perfection. With the introduction of the -900 and -990 series in baritone and soprano saxophones, the quest was on to prove to the world that another major innovation was due. The S-990 detachable neck soprano was the worlds first saxophone to have a high G key.
The success achieved here eventually saw the introduction of the -900 and -990 series alto and tenor saxophones in September 1992. Now the sceptics, who claimed that only the baritones and sopranos were very good, started taking the altos and tenors very seriously indeed. During the reign of the 900 series , further improvements were quietly taking place and eased the way for the most important introduction of any new series - Today's saxophones the -901, -902, -991 and -992.
Today's models went through the most major
of any upgrade on any manufactured saxophone today. A complete re-tooling
was carried out to facilitate the re-positioning of the tone holes and
taper for the ultimate in pitch and action.