Conn Artist 6M Naked Lady Alto (1956)

The Story

I bought this from my saxophone technician a couple of years ago. He knows my collection very well, and wondered if I wanted to add a classic alto. There was a time when Selmer, Conn and King fought it out to be considered the best instrument for modern jazz. Specifically the Mark VI, 6M and Super 20 were the specific horns to pick. Each has their adherents and key features. For me this is in second place to my Mark VI of all the altos I have. It was made at a time before manufacturing moved from Elkhart Indiana. I’ve started playing it in concerts and am beginning to understand its many values.

I count Conn as the greatest of all American saxophone manufactures. The company – set up by colonel C G Conn – designed and manufactured great instruments. After the colonel was forced to sell the company in 1915 it became a massively successful band instrument maker, producing over 100,000 saxes a year in the late 1920s. It also innovated, introducing the first musical instrument research studio, experimenting with electronic organs. Back in the colonel’s day it invented the Sousaphone for John Philip Sousa and his marching band, including a ‘rain catcher’ model with a bell that pointed upwards. Afterwards it manufacture the Immensaphone – a gigantic 30′ saxophone it put on the street outside its shop in New York.

The Instrument

The 6M Artist was the main alto produced by Conn during a period between 1935 and 1971 and underwent a number of modifications during that time. By 1956 (by which the 647162 serial number dates it according to Dr Dick), it has lost its micro-tuner neck – a device for changing the distance between the mouthpiece and horn slightly and thereby of tuning the instrument. It had also lost its rolled tone holes (see my post on the ‘1914’ patent on the 4M I reviewed earlier). It still has the lower keys on the left, demonstrating the origins of the model at an earlier date.

My example has a combination of lightish gold lacquer and silver nickel keywork. It is totally unplayed condition and even still has its guarantee card (see pictures). The octave mechanism is placed on the bottom of the neck, which is very unusual. The key guards are tubular and straight – more masculine than the rounded ones on the Selmer mark VI, which makes up for the stylised (and slightly topless) woman engraved on the bell, which gives these instruments the ‘Naked Lady’ name.

The left hand ‘pinky’ cluster is flat and feels fine under the little finger. Otherwise it is a thoroughly modern saxophone complete with a high F# key, although the metal actually feels physically colder than the Mark VI.

The Player

This is a great blowing saxophone. In the video clip I used my usual Bobby Dukoff LD 7 metal mouthpiece. You would certainly get a more mellow tone with a Meyer, or other ebonite ones. It has great ‘facility’, although it definitely doesn’t become part of you in the way that the Mark VI does. On the other hand I find good Conn saxes better for playing loud across electric instruments. This one has a shrill – though not strident – sound. It is well balanced, although the bottom keys require more pressure than they do on the Mark VI.

Saxifications

  • Make – Conn
  • Model – Artist 6M ‘naked lady’ alto
  • Serial Number – 647,162
  • Date of Manufacture – 1956
  • Place of Manufacture – Elkhart, Indiana, USA
  • Finish – Gold lacquer body with silver nickel keywork
  • Weight – 5lbs 2oz
  • Sound – Shrill, but not strident, balanced volume across the horn
  • Ease of Blowing – Open and controllable
  • Ease of Fingering – Good balance, but more resistance on bottom keys

Excellent information about Conn saxophones can be found at Saxpics as usual. I working on a biography of the colonel and his company and I’ll provide references to that when finished.

Have you played Selmer, Conn and King saxes from the 1950s. Which do you prefer? As always please let me know by commenting on this post.

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One Response

  1. Hi-
    I have a 6 M Viii with the same nickel keys as shown in these photos, but the serial number starts with 295XXX and it says that this is a 1941-42 model with the microtuner on the neck. Unless, someone matched an older neck with a new body? It says 6 M Viii patented for A (serial number) then L beneath the serial number. It has the same design Naked Lady as this. It couldn’t be from the 1950’s, could it? thanks.

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