Conn 28M Alto (1950)

The Story 

I was travelling for business in Phoenix, Texas, a few years ago and went searching for saxophones. At the time the British Pound was at a very high exchange rate against the dollar, so I had been buying quite a few horns from America. I remember visiting three or four pawn brokers (savings and loan shops). This particular one sold mainly guitars and had several hundred on show around a pretty big store. There was a glass display cabinet with six or seven saxophones in it and I had a look to see what was inside. This stood out as unusual at the bottom left hand side. The shop assistant got it out for me. I was immediately surprised that it had a plastic keyguard and was made by Conn. It didn’t look like any of the others I had or had seen. Continue reading

Evette and Schaeffer Baritone (1915)

The Story

I bought this in 1982 from a second hand shop in Walton Street, Oxford. I was a student at the time, living in Welligton Square and studying Classics. I didn’t have much money, but had to buy it – making it the third saxophone I ever acquired. It came without a case, so I made one for it. Continue reading

Hawkes And Son XX Century Alto (1932)

The Story

A Couple of years ago I was looking to add a good English saxophone to my collection. Hawkes and Son made saxophones in their factory in Edgeware near London. I saw this in an eBay auction and put a bid on it.
I never took much interest in the instrument when it arrived, because it was immediately evidently that it was a ‘high C’ and unplayable in tune. Although I collect saxophones, I’m really not interested in them if they’re unplayable with other musicians, which is true of all ‘high C’ instruments. For those of you who don’t know, concert pitch was not always the standard 440Hz in is today. Many instrument manufacturers from the nineteenth onwards made high and low pitched instruments. While pitch is possible to adjust for stringed instruments, it can’t be changed for brass and saxophones, where the length of the tube dictates the frequency of the notes. Looking at the pictures now I realise that I completely failed to see that this horn had a solid silver bell and neck – like a King Silversonic. If I had I might have been more tempted to keep it.

I had some trouble getting a refund for this sax, but took some photos, which I think are useful for those thinking of owning a Hawkes XX Century horn. Oh… and to avoid purchasing a high-pitched Hawkes look for the ‘#’ or ‘H’ (bad) and ‘b’ or ‘L’ (good) markings by the serial number. I’m not personally against owning ‘high C’ horns, but I’m not going to pay proper saxophone prices for them.

My advice to those selling them is to make sure the fact that it’s a ‘high C’ is listed right at the top of the advert. Sell the instrument on its historical importance, but not on its playability.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Selmer Mark VI Alto (1962)

The Story

I’ve owned this since I was 13 when a school boy at Abingdon School. I managed to get a term’s free lessons because I ‘looked like a saxophonist’ according to the head of music, Antony Le Fleming. I was very lucky to be taught by Pat Crumley, who was a fine musician. He used to borrow this horn to play with Johnny Dankworth. Alas neither are with us any more. Continue reading

Yanigisawa S6 Soprano (1978)

The Story

In the mid-1980s I was playing in a local cabaret band in the UK called ‘White Satin’. It wasn’t the sort of band I play in now – disco and pop with two girl singers. My pal Alan Jones played drums, but it was about the only time I strayed away from playing with the musicians (Tim, George, Colin, Kenny, Squirel) I’ve hang around with before and after. Not that they weren’t good folks.

In any case I was earning reasonable money as a semi-professional musician, so I decide to splash out on a soprano. I bought this from Michael White‘s saxophone shop in Ealing. It was just round the corner from Chiswick, where I worked for 23 years (with the great yawn of commuting 100 miles a day). It was always fun to go and see the second hand instruments there and I have bought a couple over the years. Michael is also very well stocked with accessories –  a good place to buy mouthpieces (including C Melody models for instance). I strongly recommend giving him a visit. Continue reading

Conn 4M New Wonder Bb Soprano (1925)

The Story

I bought this beautiful silver-plated curved soprano saxophone from my friend Tony of Magginisupplies. I’d already bought a couple of horns from him and he’d asked me about other instruments I was looking for. Well he rang me up and said he had this. After looking at the photos he emailed to me I decided it was well worth acquiring. He charged me a very reasonable price – well under normal shop, or even eBay levels, at the time. As usual I had it checked over by my local sax fixer-upper. Continue reading

Hawkes and Son C Soprano (1934)

The Story

I acquired this unusual saxophone from Johnny Roadhouse in Manchester. Having looked at all of their vintage instruments on the wall, I eventually turned to look at this one which was standing on the top of the counter. I already had a couple of C Melody saxes, but had never seen a C Soprano. I also liked the idea of having a good English make in my collection.

As usual the staff at the shop gave me great service, throwing in some reeds, a pad saver to go along with the two mouthpieces in the case. When I forgot to take the reeds home they were quick to post them on to me – all good reasons to count this as one of the best places to shop for vintage saxophones. Oh – and this time the sax was in good playing order, an excellent tribute to the repairers there. Continue reading

Lyon And Healy ‘Artist’ Alto (1920)

The Story

I bought this alto from Magginisupplies, who are based in the West Country. Over the years I have acquired a number of fine instruments from Tony, who is a keen on sailing, so we sometimes meet in the car park of a local reservoir when something interesting comes up. This was one of a couple I bought at the time. What a grand tribute to capitalism it is – to be buying ancient saxophones on a Sunday morning from the back of Tony’s estate car. He has a lot of different instruments for sale, although I believe violins are perhaps his main thing. Continue reading

René Guénot 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. Continue reading