René Guenot Tenor Saxophone (1935)

The Story

We’d like to thank both Helen and Pete for their advice in identifying this instrument (see comments below), which we had previous described as being made by Pierret. As a result we firmly believe it is a René Guenot.

One of my favourite saxophone shops is Johnny Roadhouse in Manchester, England. I was up there shopping with my family and stopped by in the early afternoon to have a look at their secondhand instruments and found this going for a song. It wasn’t really in playable condition, although I did manage to get a few notes out of it down to about G or G#. They have a great repair shop there but had a lot on, so reduced the price on this to get it moving on. Luckily I have a fantastic saxophone fixer-upper, who managed to repad, replace a couple of missing pearls and renovate it. It is now playable and great fun.

The Instrument

I start my site with a bit of an enigma. I’d guessed that this was a Pierret, although there’s no proof on the horn itself. On the bell it’s marked ‘Doré’, ‘Paris’, ‘228’ and ‘Made in France’. Having read the excellent article on Saxpics I came to the conclusion that it must be a Pierret mainly because the serial number is too low to be anything other than one based on the number of the particular model made and because it’s clearly not a Selmer or SML. By the way ‘doré’ in French means guilded and probably just refers to the finish. In this case the horn has been relacquered, possibly in the 1960s. The keys end in nickel/silver, although whether this was true when new or not it’s impossible to tell. My repairer has seen thousands of saxophones in his career, but never one of these. He does remember seeing adverts for Pierrets in the Melody Maker in the 1950s however. I’ve included a video clip so you can hear what the Pierret sounds like played with a Bobby Dukoff D 7 metal mouthpiece. I bow to the superior knowledge of Pete, who clearly identifies the manufacturer as René Guenot.

The instrument looks as if it dates from the 1930s. I has a Selmer ‘cigar cutter’ octave mechanism and ‘nailfile’ G# and lower F# trill keys – a bit like Conn New Wonder transitional model. I rather like the idea that Pierret was borrowing design features without permission and leaving their name off the horn in case they got in trouble – but that’s probably too much of a conspiracy theory. The bell is comparatively small and the bottom B and Bb keys are on the left. It has no high F# key.

The Player

You’ll need strong lungs and jaws to play this one. It makes the loudest noise I ever heard from a tenor… and that just with a standard Keilwerth Jazz 6* mouthpiece. The fingering is hard and certainly less balanced than a modern instrument. The bottom B and Bb keys are on the left, but there’s a good metal key guard, so they shouldn’t get closed off by your thigh when you’re sitting and reading in a band. I’m going to use it in loud pop bands to get across the guitars, as long as the music isn’t too complicated. I also intend to use it as a rehearsal horn, since an hour with this will make playing my other instruments easier – just as a guitar with heavy strings and a high action will make a guitarist’s fingers stronger!

Saxifications

  • Make – René Guenot
  • Model – (unknown) tenor
  • Serial Number – 228
  • Date of Manufacture – 1935
  • Place of Manufacture – Paris, France
  • Finish – Gold Lacquer (relacquered)
  • Weight – 5lbs 0oz
  • Sound – Loud and uncompromising
  • Ease of Blowing – Hard with a standard mouthpiece
  • Ease of Fingering – Tough, especially on ‘pinky keys’

More about Pierret saxophones can be found currently on the Web from Saxpics, Bassic Sax and Shwoodwind, although none of the models referred to looks much like mine.

Do you own a Pierret that looks like this? Or perhaps you think this was made by another maker. Please let me know by commenting on this post.

Advertisements

12 Responses

  1. While this horn certainly has some features that appear to be Pierret-like, there are many more that suggest that its pedigree is something altogether different. I’m thinking of the chromatic F# key for example. No Pierret I’ve seen to date ever had that design. Also, the low C key assembly is very un-Pierret in appearance. You’ve already mentioned the key guards on the bell keys I believe, but they’re Conn in appearance. The posts are shaped like those of the German-made Hammerschmidt and Dörfler & Jörka saxophones of the the 1950s & 60s.

    Pierret also had the habit of putting their name on virtually everything they manufactured… Especially in the early days. If they made it, they most likely would have stamped their name somewhere.

    I’m wondering if this wasn’t a horn from a small shop somewhere that bought parts from multiple suppliers, and then assembled them together themselves. It’s almost too odd looking to be anything else.

    By the way, I’ve recently redesigned my site, and have included galleries of a variety of unusual vintage horns, including Pierrets. The index for the Pierret gallery can be found at: http://bassic-sax.ca/version5/vintage-saxes/european-made-saxes/pierret/pierret-galleries

    BTW, I just happened across your site my accident. It looks interesting. I haven’t had a chance to check out the videos, or any of your other horns. I’ll have to do that a bit later. Glad to see someone else who appreciates the old timers!

    Regards,

    Helen

  2. Thanks Helen
    I agree it may not be a Pierret and you’re certainly a world expert. My conclusion was based on the word ‘Paris’ in part. I can’t think it was made by either Selmer or SML. Also the low serial number and the idea that Pierret numbered models rather than the whole output.
    If it was built from parts by a small maker then it was put together really well.
    I’ll look up Hammerschmidt and Dörfler & Jörka as you suggest and modify the post accordingly.
    I had a look at your site, which is really excellent. I’ve also got lots of other interesting instruments that I’ll be reviewing in due course – so plaes stay tuned.
    Best Regards
    Martin

  3. I wouldn’t call myself a world’s expert. Blush… I’m just quite informed about this rather obscure French brand. I think there might be some real experts out there. I have a funny feeling they’re in France though.

    You know, looking at the posts again, I’m seeing something different yet again. I need to stop looking at these pictures on my laptop. I just finished a really long afternoon & evening show, so my eyes and everything else is really tired. I can’t even find the post pics that I saw this AM that reminded me of those of the Hammerschmidt and D&J horns. I’ll take another look tomorrow when I’m actually awake, and to see what I can on a monitor that’s a decent size.

    We do know that it can’t be a Selmer, Paris horn, since they never stenciled any saxophones.

    Thanks for the kind words about my site. It has been, and continues to be a lot of work. There is still so much to do. I can’t believe I ever thought I was going to get it all done before I relaunched it. What was I thinking?

  4. After looking at the pics again with less-tired eyes, and on a bigger screen, I would say there’s only 1 photo (pierret-10) that has any posts that resemble those found on either D&J or Hammerschmidt horns. And even those, weren’ t really truly pear-shaped, like you would find on these German horns. I can only surmise that it must have been the that photo I saw on my laptop originally. False alarm. Sorry about that.

    In any event, it still doesn’t look like a true Pierret for the reasons I originally outlined. If you’ve had a chance to look at the Pierret galleries on my site, you’ll see what I mean.

    Having an enigma of a horn can be very interesting. I had one for more than 3 years. I had pretty much given up, and then out of the blue someone wrote to me one day, and told me what I had. I couldn’t have been more surprised. It turned out to be a brand of horn that was virtually unknown in North America, and even had saxophone historians baffled.

  5. Thanks again Helen
    You’re right – owning a mystery horn is fun. You’re right that Selmer Paris didn’t do sencils. I have four Keithwerths – two of which are Selmer Pennsylvania stencils, which found their way to my collection via the US of course. Keilthwerth always stamped their diamond logo on the back anyway. My ‘Pierret’ is clearly not a Keithwerth.
    I’ll check out the other lesser European brands to see if I can find some equivalence. I’ll also add a few extra pictures of posts and other possible identifying features and see if we can find someone who might be able to widen the search.
    Best Regards
    Martin

  6. Howdy. Yes, I’m the guy formerly known as Saxpics.

    The horn was made by Rene Guenot. It’s a tad difficult to find Rene Guenot horns with single-side bell keys, much less good pics online.

    One of the fun things is that they did make stencils for SML (example at http://www.saxpics.com/the_gallery/sml/reva/prototypes/alto/silver/no_sn/). The tip off is the T-shaped “nailfile” F# and the “nailfile” G#.

    I’d assume your horn to be around 1935 vintage, possibly a bit newer.

    There’s some good info (in French, tho) at http://luthiervents.blogspot.com/search/label/Gu%C3%A9not-Douchet.El%C3%A9ments%20d%27archives.

    I’ve gotta say, I love that keywork. Reminds me of the Conn 26M and 30M Connstellation horns. I don’t know if it’s original, but it’s pretty!

  7. Pete
    Many thanks for your comments. Your knowledge is fantastic and I’ve modified the post accordingly. I had a read of ‘Luthier Vents’, which has some excellent info about René Guenot and his ‘successor’ Albert Douchet (also about Lyrist – a make we featured recently).
    Your saxpics picture example is marked as a prototype – do you think the low serial number, unusual keywork and lack of maker’s name might suggest this tenor might be one as well?
    Your enthusiasm makes me want to get it out and play, although it’s not going to sing like my Buescher.
    Best Wishes
    Martin

  8. Bonjour, j’ai acheté le même saxophone. C’est un René Guenot. Vous devez voir 2 numéros sur votre saxophone, (voyez mes photos). Je dois le réparer avant de dire s’il joue bien

    .https://www.box.com/s/7af8e50ad5d48de0b4f4
    (menu next” en haut à droite)

    • Merci bien pur votre comment.
      Pardonez-moi – je parle Francais comme une vache Espaniole.
      Le sax a assez bon – mais pas le meme chose comme un Selmer ou Conn. Pert-etre un peur ‘clunky’.
      Pas de accents ici!
      Bon chance.
      Martin

    • I wanted to explain:

      I bought a Tenor René Guenot. I place links towards the photos of reparation.

      On my saxophone I have two serial numbers, maybe on your also ?

      I also have a number ” 432 ” in the neck. (See photo) I don’t now if it’s the pitch ?

      I can place a link towards all the information which I find on this saxophone. (Fabulous French Forum)

      http://www.saxofan.fr/topic13231.html

      Bye

  9. hi ..dr john..woodwind repair tech and sax player here..from – bendigo – central victoria – australia …i have a lovely mint condition dore alto – gold laquered..in original case..looks a lot like my 1937 conn “naked lady” alto…never knew anything about my dore…it has lovely art neveau slyle engraving – with “dore paris” in design…very interesting to read something about dore…

  10. Dr John
    Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from Australia – could we feature you Dore here? Send a few pictures if you can to martin_hingley@yahoo.co.uk.
    On the cheaper side – I have a Codor alto and thought it might be Ozzie. Have you ever heard of them?
    Best – Martin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: