By C.W. Via

Like a fine wine, prime-aged steak, or a Cuban cigar, one recognizes quality and excellence the moment it passes one's lips.  Such is the case with Rigotti reeds.  Now I realize most of you may feel such high praise and platitudes are not befitting a saxophone reed.  But let me assure you that they are apropos given the reed in question.


I have been playing saxophone longer than most of you readers have been alive, and for the majority of those years, I have understood the nature of those little slivers.  I have always respected them as I recognized they held my fate and future in their fibers. And over the years I have been quite adept at their selection and manipulation.  With high predictability, I learned their patterns of behavior, that is until recently.  The past five to seven years has made being a reedman difficult.  At first, I thought it was the inevitable effects of age, and then I came to the unifying conclusion that, in fact, reeds stink.  That's right, reeds stink, and we all know it.  I don't care if they change their name or wrap them in a pretty little wrapper, reeds are not of the quality and consistency that they once were.  What makes it worse is when those companies tell players like me, who have spent over 50 years putting these things in our mouths, that things have never been better. Well, I call "FAKE NEWS" on that.  That is until I tried the reeds by Rigotti.


Recently, I was doing a dance job with a young player who moved to town.  I was quite impressed with his playing and asked about his equipment (something I am not prone to do).  He told me he was using this French reed called Rigotti.  I did some investigating and came to order a few boxes for alto and tenor saxophone.  I tested both the Rigotti Gold Classic reeds for alto saxophone and the Rigotti Gold Jazz tenor saxophone reeds.  I found both to be outstanding.  From the second I put one in my mouth, I recognized that familiar taste.  That right, good cane has a unique flavor, and I don't care what anyone says, I stand by it.  Sure enough, the cane used in these Rigotti reeds are like the cane us old folks came to know, love, and make music with all these years. From the Var region with no pesticides or automation to muck things up, these folks just make reeds the way they always have.  I reached out the good folks at Rigotti and they were nice enough to share the story of the company. Not much of a story to share, they are simple folks who make reeds the way they have for years.  Apparently what money they spend is on their product not on advertising.  I am ok with that, I just wish I knew about them 10 years ago.


All the drama aside, I recognize that what has impressed me about these reeds is not so much the product themselves but that they embody elements of what a reed used to be like.   Rigotti reeds are remarkably consistent. I ordered the Classic Gold in size 3-hard for use on my Meyer 5M.  I like my reeds on the stiff side to ensure a good core and heart to the reed.  On the tenor, I found that the 3-softs paired well with my old seven Ott Link Tone Master.


Of the ten alto reeds in the box, I found 9 of them to be excellent candidates with just a little break in period.  The 10th played well out of the box and lasted a good couple of days.  I had similar results with the tenor reeds, finding eight out of ten to be quite lovely to work with.   I still practice a couple of hours per day and do a standing small group/dance job once a week.  Rigotti reeds have that perfect crispness and feel that a good reed has.  The strength, throughout the box, was relatively consistent and the longevity was impressive.  I found a box lasted me more than a month. With as much as I play alto, the tenor reeds lasted a bit longer.


The best part of playing these reeds is that I was able to recognize the familiar patterns of behavior once again.  Absent was the odd warping or the wild strength variations found per box.  About the only thing, I found confusing was the three subcategories in sizing.  Unlike common reeds, Rigotti reeds have three sizing grades:  soft, medium, and hard in each numbered grade.  I frankly couldn't tell the difference between a 3-soft and a 3-medium other than the soft reeds played a bit brighter.  Perhaps someone more sensitive than me can tell the difference. For me, it was simple; the Rigotti is just a tremendous classic reed.