Martin ‘The Martin’ Alto (1944)

The Story

My friend Tony H brough this round the other day. He’s owned the horn for about 3 months. Unlike me he’s a transient collector, preferring to own just one tenor and one alto at any particular time.
He associates Martin horns with Art Pepper – a player he remembers from the 1950s. He had a melodic and light innovative sound – very different from Charlie Parker and his many imitators who were all the rage at the time. I definitely agree, having many Art Pepper albums. The poor man’s personal life was unfortunately in stark contrast to his beautiful horn playing. He also noted that a number of British dance band players used Martins in the post war years.
Tony believes horns from the late 1940s are the best. Of course this was a time before the Selmer Mark VI was introduced and Martin, King, Conn and Buescher were competing hard for the rapidly developing professional Jazz market. By the 1960s Selmer had won, with King Super 20s left as the only US-made horn of note. We talked about how sad it is that today professional horns are only being made in Paris and Japan, now that the German Keilwerth factory has closed.

The Instrument

The name ‘The Martin’ is inscribed on the bell, with the serial number indicating a manufacturing date of 1944. It’s exquisitely made with soldered tone holes. Unlike earlier Martin’s the tone holes themselves are not bevelled, although the larger ones have a slight roundness. Tony noted that soldered tone holes can only be added by hand: they also lead to better intonation than the more usual process of extruding them from the body by machine, which is bound to distort the bore of the horn slightly. You can’t make thick tone holes like this either by extruding them. The horn also has an interesting method of connecting the neck – with a screw on the front. The octave key on the neck appears as three lines. It’s also unusually in having an adjustable thumb rest.

The Player

The instrument is dark sounding – partially because it weighs more than most altos. The fingering is extremely light and well balanced, reminding me somewhat of the Conn 28M. Comparisons aside, this is a fantastic instrument and coul easily be used as a first line horn.

Saxifications

  • Make – Martin
  • Model – ‘The Martin’ (Committee III) alto
  • Serial Number – 150,XXX
  • Date of Manufacture – 1944
  • Place of Manufacture – 431-433 Baldwin Street, Elkhart, Indiana
  • Finish – Gold lacquer
  • Weight – 5lb 6oz
  • Sound – Strong and clear
  • Ease of Blowing – Open – a fully modern saxophone
  • Ease of Fingering – Very light and well balanced

More about Martin saxophones can be read on Edwin Van Drutten’s excellent The Martin Story site, which is an excellent research resource for these great instruments.
Whichever saxophone you play don’t forget to tell us about it and we’ll feature it on this site if you like.

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5 Responses

  1. Hi Martin,
    Sorry for using this as a point of contact, but I don’t have your e-mail address.
    As a point of interest, I once owned this horn but found it too muddy-sounding. I was chasing the Art Pepper dream too, at the time.
    I am contacting you because I have some pictures of the Kohlert Modell 1927 alto which I mentioned a while back. I will send them on if you tell me the procedure, also do you want some text about the instrument? If so let me know the content you require.

  2. Pete
    I’ve added contact detaills to the About page.
    Best
    Martin

  3. My “The Martin” alto has serial numbers beginning with 163— on the backside under the thumb rest…any idea when this horn was made?
    Bought for me in grade school around 1958.

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