Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

The Cannonball Sax Family

  • Published May 08, 2000
The Cannonball Sax Family
By Ralph Sappington, courtesy of {{Christian Musician}} Magazine

We talk a lot here at {{Christian Musician}} about the rhythm section instruments; guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, but out there in the real music world there are horn players crying out, "Hey, what about us?" And we know in worship teams there are saxes, flutes, trumpets and trombones adding their voices to the sounds of praise. If you are a woodwind player, or you have a woodwind player in your group this is for you! If you, or your woodwind player, own an instrument made by one of the giant companies that dominate the industry with astronomical prices and inconsistent quality there is good news!

The reference to family is three-fold in this review. First, there is the family of saxophones built by Cannonball, from the SC 99 Curved Soprano to the mighty B 97 Baritone. Second, there is Tevis and Sheryl Laukat, the husband and wife who developed these instruments and founded the company. Third, there are the musicians who play these instruments and have found a kinship with the builders and the other players.

If you play sax either as a profession or as your avocation, you are aware of two facts: one, you can't just play one horn. The requirements of a woodwind player are to "double," or play several saxes. Second, the cost of a professional instrument is overwhelming. Tevis Laukat was well aware of both of these facts. As a professional musician he doubled on all the woodwinds while maintaining a successful career playing with Ray Charles, Bob Hope, Johnny Mathis, The Spinners and appearing on television for several seasons on The Donny and Marie Show. He knew how hard it was to find a great instrument and then to figure out what to sell, pawn or mortgage to acquire the horn. He and his wife, who graduated with a music education degree from Weber State and taught junior high band, gathered their collective experience and set out to develop a sax that would have great resonance and intonation, quality construction, and an ergonomic feel. Then they went one step further, Tevis found that by hand customizing the necks of the sax he could create crisp attacks, even timbre, a full-bodied balanced sound, and a horn you couldn't quit playing. With Sheryl as the ear and Tevis as the player, they spent night after night perfecting their design until they produced a sax that every player would want and could afford.

We have reports from three musicians who not only tested Cannonball instruments but who took their hard-earned cash and purchased the instrument for themselves (no free horns or paid endorsements here!) First, as a composer and worship leader I travel quite a bit working with many different ensembles around the country. Several years ago I wrote a jazz vespers worship service that is used at universities by campus ministries. One of the finest groups that I have worked with is at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. Many of the musicians in this group are students, but several are professionals who sit along side the students providing valuable experience. Alan Faque, the lead alto player in this ensemble, owns a very old and very valuable Selmer alto sax. He wanted a tenor that would stand up to the sound of his vintage horn and decided to try the Cannonball T 98 BG saxophone. First, the look of this horn is stunning! The BG is a black, nickel-plated body with gold keys with exquisite laser engraving. But the sound was the most impressive! Big, roaring tenor sounds came from this horn yet the blend with the section was perfect! Alan would have paid three times the price of a Cannonball for a horn from the makers of his alto but doesn't feel he sacrificed any thing at all.

I have a project-recording studio, covered in earlier issues of {{Christian Musician}}, and recording a horn is the real test! Christian artists, Jacob and Jeni, recorded their latest CD at our studio and Jacob played his Yamaha sax on several cuts. He also played a Cannonball T 98 with an unlacquered body and was surprised how well it matched his other horn! The sound was even from top to bottom and played as well on ballads as on up tempos screamers. Jacob now owns a Cannonball.

George Furlow has played with Pittsburgh Symphony, Benedum Theatre, Integrity Music, Maranatha Music, Promise Keepers, Bishop Joseph L. Garlington, {{Ron Kenoly}}, Paul Wilbur, Don Moen, and Three Rivers Saxophone Quartet. He does tons of freelance work with many artists, bands and orchestras. He also played saxophones made by that giant company in Japan and even was a clinician for them! George tried a 98 SGSL alto sax and now has ordered a soprano and a tenor! He uses the Cannonball horns when he plays with the Worship International team from Integrity music and also on his own recordings. He recently used the Cannonball sax on a live television date and was amazed by the response of the instrument. If you want to hear George play visit his web site: There are Real Audio clips from his releases and a place to order his recordings.

If you are a woodwind player don't just take the word of these musicians, listen to the sax section of "Tower Of Power," jazz legends Don Menza, Charles McPherson, and Tonight Show veteran Pete Christlieb. All of these players have chosen Cannonball saxophones. If you think that you can't afford a great horn contact Cannonball for the name of a dealer near you and you will be surprised! You can call them at 1-801-944-1860 or write to them at 10016 South Rockview Circle, Sandy, Utah 84092.

Ralph Sappington is a music minister and worship leader in Billings, Montana. Visit his web site at