Kohlert VKS Popular Tenor Sax

Kohlert horns have a special spot in my in my heart. I am especially fond of the VKS model horns—arguably the highest quality of horns ever made by Kohlert. This morning I noticed a Kohlert VKS Popular tenor sax on eBay, and it is definitely a beauty of a horn.

tenor saxophone, tenor sax, Kohlert VKS Popular tenor saxophone, silver plated sax,

Source: sentimood on eBay.com

This silver plated tenor saxophone looks to be in remarkably good shape, and not have been abused. Given that these horns were produced in the mid to late 1930s, it is not unusual to see the horns showing the signs of heavy use. While this Kohlert VKS Popular does have some finish wear, it doesn’t immediately show signs of damage and/or repairs.

The seller simply describes this VKS Popular tenor as follows:

Vintage Kohlert “Popular” Silver tenor saxophone
Well built and stunning looking nickel silver plated
Has rolled tone holes and micro-tuner neck, Caged key guards
These are I believe their top line horns
It plays great up and down the scales
Hard case included in sale

The Kohlert VKS Popular was not the top line horn that the company produced. That distinction was held by the “Unser feinstes Modell”, which when exported, was sold under the “Highclass” name. The VKS Popular was in fact the mid level saxophone that Kohlert advertised in a 1939 catalogue.1

This particular eBay horn has/is:

  • Finish 3: highly polished, heavy nickel plating with mother of pearl key rollers.
  • Drawn and rolled tone holes.
  • A microtuner.
  • A G# trill key.
  • Keyed from low Bb to high F.

If a buyer wanted to upgrade their Popular, he/she could order mother of pearl key touches on the remaining keys.

If you’re like me and love the vintage Kohlerts, then this VKS Popular tenor might just be your next tenor sax. If so, you’ve got a couple of weeks to get your bid in. The auction for this Kohlert VKS Popular tenor is scheduled to end on November 12. That said, the seller does have a Buy It Now price of £745.00 on the horn. eBay currently estimates that to be $1,201.91 US.

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1 Source: Saxophone: Ein Kompendium by Uwe Ladwig

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

German Saxophones & The Nazi Party

For years now the Internet has been rife with statements, rumours, supposed “facts”, and half-truths about what the German Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’s (Nazi party’s) view on the saxophone was. The majority of things I’ve read indicate that the saxophone was banned in Nazi Germany, yet the Swastika-engraved saxophones produced in Germany, by German saxophone manufacturers, for German military bands would suggest that at least some form of saxophone playing was allowed and/or tolerated.

Swastika engraving on saxophone bell, saxophone, German saxophone, German eagle, silver sax

G.H. Hüller tenor sax, # 37316 Source: Lowboy on warrelics.eu/forum

Zer vill be no sax playing here… Unless it does not sving

A couple of weeks ago I happened across an article in the October 7, 1933 edition of The Milwaukee Journal, which would indicate that the Nazi party was OK with the saxophone.

Nazi Views on the Saxophone, Oct. 7, 1933, The Milwaukee Journel, newspaper article, saxophones in Germany, OK, so someone got a key element of the story wrong. Adolphe Sax was not German, but in fact Belgian. Nonetheless, this article made me very curious, and I began to do some research to see if I could find something that explained this article in The Milwaukee Journal.

Rather than relying on any Internet sources, I went to a couple of books I have on the history of the saxophone. The first is a title most readers are likely familiar with: The Devil’s Horn, by Michael Segell. Although Segall mentioned the saxophone’s history in 1930s-40s Germany, unfortunately he offered nothing that could explain this 1933 article.

The second book I consulted is titled The Saxophone, and was written by former professional saxophone player, turned Professor of Music at City University of London, Stephen Cottrell. Success!

Cottrell has written quite a lot about Nazi/saxophone relations. Furthermore, being an academic, Cottrell has so many end notes in his book that I could be chasing them down for months to come.

In a nutshell Cottrell explains that:

  • Germany became intolerant of jazz after the Nazi party came to power in 1933, because correctly or not, jazz became associated with black musicians.
  • By extension therefore, the instrument that symbolized jazz—the saxophone—was also not tolerated anymore.
  • Many German sax players stopped playing altogether, and some even sold their horns.
  • It wasn’t uncommon for Nazi storm troopers to knock the mouthpieces out of the mouths of sax players playing at dances, and for some SS branches to ban the the use of the saxophone altogether.
  • In 1933 German saxophone manufacturers were already starting to feel the economic effects of the Nazi party’s anti-saxophonism. Saxophone sales were slumping, so manufacturers applied to the new government for help.
  • And there in lies the rub: This is where government ideology and the economic well-being of companies didn’t coincide, so the Nazi party had to figure out a compromise.

German saxophones get a reprieve

  • In September 1933 the following press release was circulated:

‘Rescuing the Honour of the Saxophone’

As a result of the petition of May 10, 1933, The Economics Ministry has been in contact with the Reich Administration in order to avoid a boycott of the saxophone, which could result from the ban on so-called Negro music. The Reichs Ministry for Education and Propaganda answered that the saxophone bears no responsibility for Negro music. It is an invention of Adolf Sax, born November 6, 1814, and is mainly used in military music […]. As with all other instruments, one can play good music with the saxophone. A ban on Negro music is no obstacle to continued use of the saxophone. A pertinent newspaper notice to this effect will be released.
Source: The Saxophone, Stephen Cottrell p. 324

It is worth noting how the press release spelled “Adolph”, this was not a typo. It was quite deliberate.

It should also be noted that the above quote was originally in German, and was translated into English as part of a 2004 dissertation about the saxophone in Germany.

The “pertinent newspaper notice” mentioned in the above quote from September 1933, must be what the October 7, 1933, Milwaukee Journal article is based on. It would be interesting to see if I could find the original German press release. I have not yet tried to check any German newspaper archives.

Given my interest in vintage German saxophones, I find this era of their existence quite fascinating. It would be easy to slap a simple, they were banned—as was swing/jazz music—label on that period of saxophones in Germany. On the other hand, that vintage G.H. Hüller, C.A. Wunderlich, et al. saxophone that you have in your closet, or that you play everyday, might just have had a very interesting past.

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!

The Mechanics Of The Music

One thing I love to do is check out what people are posting in Flickr under the tags: saxophone and sax. More often than not the photos are crap, or don’t contain saxophones at all. Every once in a while however, I happen across an incredible image, like today’s by Neil Moralee titled, The mechanics of the music.

The mechanics of the music.

Music Shop window shot, Cockermouth Cumbria, UK.

The mechanics of the music, saxophone, sax neck, octave key, alto sax

Photography by: Neil Moralee  Source: Flickr

Besides being a fantastic photo, what fascinated me about this shot was that it was taken through a store window. I am wondering how this was possible.

What’s even more intriguing to me is that this shot was taken with the same model camera that I use for my light box photography: a Panasonic Lumix LX-7. Obviously Moralee used a tripod, but I’m wondering what he did with his processing either in-camera, or with his Adobe Photoshop Lightroom software, to produce such an amazing image. (I’ve optimized it slightly for my website, so check it out on Flickr to see the true image.)

Sure my saxophone shots are nice enough, but my artsy sax shots are nothing like what Moralee shoots.

Neil Moralee’s, The mechanics of the music, reminds me of the kind of photos I’ve seen taken by my former keyboard player, multi-award winning photographer Jason Brown. Jason’s photos are some of the most brilliant photographs that I have ever seen. He can make a shot of gum stuck to the sidewalk look fantastically artistic—and that’s no hyperbole.

I know I will never have the photographic genius of Jason, but I would gladly settle for being able to take photos that are truly tack sharp. Maybe one day I’ll get there. It’s clearly still a work in progress.  :headbang:

…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info, you should check it out too.There’s lots there!