Bigga Giggas'' John Rekevics Saxophone Library has a complete set of high-quality soprano, alto, tenor, and bari sax samples in mono and stereo on four CDs.
The solo saxophone is notoriously difficult to sample effectively because of the wide range of idiomatic sounds that the instrument can produce. Early sax patches with looped samples often yielded sax parts that sounded more like an accordion than the expressive reed instrument Adolphe Sax introduced in the mid-19th century.
Things are looking up, though. Bigga Giggas' four-disc John Rekevics Saxophone Library ($340) offers 2.3 GB of unlooped soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone sax samples in a well-organized assortment of more than ten dozen 16-bit, 44.1 kHz patches.
All of the samples in this library were performed by Rekevics on vintage Selmer Mark VI saxes, and each instrument was sampled chromatically over its full range. The sustained patches (vibrato and nonvibrato) have four Velocity layers each; most of the others have two.
To maximize versatility, developer John Thomas recorded the samples in mono and stereo. For the mono recordings, he used a Neumann condenser mic in a traditional close-mic setup and ran the mic through a custom tube preamp to capture the warmth of early mono recordings. For the stereo samples, he used a matched pair of Shure KSM32 condenser mics and a solid-state preamp.
Unlike the mono setup, the stereo mics were placed at a moderate distance from the source, adding a bit more ambience to the recordings (no reverb or EQ was added to any of the samples). Because the mono and stereo samples were recorded at the same time, you can use them interchangeably or simultaneously. The latter option lets you blend the two mic perspectives, adding or decreasing the natural ambience as needed.
For most users, the workhorse instruments in this library will likely be the alto and tenor saxes, and Rekevics offers plenty of options to work with. Both instruments have a long list of patches, including standard playing techniques such as smooth, vibrato, staccato, sforzando, growls, flutters, and falls.
The library makes extensive use of keyswitching and crossfading to add as much real-time control as possible. For example, presets with “Dirt” in the label start out with a growl and let you crossfade into the smooth patch with the mod wheel. Other patches let you do the reverse. You can also use the mod wheel to introduce vibrato to a note as it plays by crossfading from a nonvibrato patch into one with vibrato; the transition is smooth and easy to control.
I especially enjoyed playing with the flutters and growls — two essential techniques for adding color to sax parts. You can create a wonderful effect by crossfading from a smooth, sustained patch into a nasty flutter. The tenor's patches are comparable to those of the alto and offer the same great-sounding falls and smooth transitions.
In addition to the multilayered patches that include the full range of dynamics, all of the saxes have patches that focus on one or two layers. One of my favorites is the Soft alto patch with its velvety sound and late-night bluesy quality.
The tenor is the only sax that has subtones, and it's a treat to have those breathy sounds. They're great for creating a smoky atmosphere. The other saxes include special “Xsoft” patches for combining with the subtones for section writing.
High and Low
The Rekevics soprano sax is among the best I've heard in a sample library. Soprano saxes don't play growls, so they aren't included, but flutters, although difficult to perform and limited in range, are provided. The soprano isn't typically used as part of a sax section, but I found that the Soft Stereo patch, when played as a harmonized group, produced a beautifully evocative muted sound.
The baritone sax offers a rich and powerful low end, and it can be plenty aggressive when it needs to be. Because bari saxes don't play growls and flutters, Rekevics replaces those articulations with honks and barumps, those familiar two-note riffs that baris are famous for (think Pink Panther). The library has them in four tempos based on Rekevics' analysis of old R&B and pop hits.
Sax It Up
The John Rekevics Saxophone Library is a welcome addition to the world of desktop composing and arranging. The sforzando patches are all a bit too short, and the “dirty” patches are sometimes a bit too dirty for my taste, but those are nit-picky objections in an otherwise splendid collection. Moreover, the set's PDF documentation is extensive, thorough, and highly informative. All in all, this is a great assortment of super saxes.