Two different Buffet baris: Both with some serious body image and function issues
I’m not even sure how I ended up finding these two sad examples of antique baris, but a couple of days ago I happened across two examples of horns that not only have seen better days, but better centuries.
We all know that the bigger the instrument, the more abuse it takes. It is more likely to get knocked into things. More likely to get banged around during shipping. Even while in a shop getting repaired, the larger an instrument is the more likely it is to leave with a scratch or two more than it came in with.
As baritone players, when looking for a good, used, pro level horn, we know that more often than not we are going to end up with something that shows that has been play A LOT, rather than something that looks truly clean and pristine.
This is where today’s two Buffet Crampon Evette & Schaeffer baris come in. If we had a saxophone show, like they have dog shows, neither of these would ever take home a Best In Show. Hell, these two would be disqualified because of their limping. 😉
Now before you think I’m being too hard on either the sellers or the baris that they’re selling, just try to keep an open mind, and read this article to its conclusion. I promise you it is salient to today’s reality of the saxophone market.
Antique vs. vintage in sax land
Before we go any further, let’s refresh our memory and differentiate between vintage and antique. In collector’s circles, an antique is generally regarded as an object made 100 years ago or older. Vintage is a bit more slippery. In saxophone land, vintage generally means a pro horn made pre-1980s.
To help you make sense of when these Buffet baris were made, you can use Mike Duchstein’s serial number chart.
Buffet Bari #1
Enter Buffet Crampon Evette Schaeffer bari 10XXX. It is being sold by a music store in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The store describes the bari this way:
This listing is for a Eb baritone sax made by the Buffet Company of France. It is the famous “Evette-Scaeffer” model. The serial number is in the 10XXX series placing production in 1894. This saxophone is being sold “AS IS”. It needs a complete restoration including removal of dents, refitting of keys, cleaning, replacement of pads and corks, etc. Most parts are original. Has double octave key and plays up to Eb. This work would need to be done by a professional tech. This instrument could also be used for parts. . This sax will NOT play as is. No case. Fast and Free USA shipping with insurance and tracking. Contact us with any questions.
Well, I did try to contact them to ask them some questions. Sadly though their eBay account is set up to not accept any queries. Really?
Had I been able to ask them any questions, I would have asked them things like:
- What is up with that neck? You write in the ad: “Most parts are original.” The neck is clearly not. Whatever kind of horn it comes from, the brace is on the side, not the bottom. Also, what kind of sax has that kind of long, straight neck that could have been cannibalized? I can think of a few, but I’m curious to hear their thoughts, and perhaps the dimensions.
- Any evidence of buffing anywhere? Horns from 1893 were not lacquered I believe. IIRC, the brochures I have come across show the finishes available as silver plate or bare brass.
- What is the length of this horn from the top of the upper bow, to the bottom of the bottom bow? This will tell us if this is a LP or a HP horn.
Buffet Bari # 2
Moving on to Buffet Crampon Evette & Schaeffer bari 29029. Here we have a slightly newer instrument, but it too raises some questions in my mind.
The seller describes this rough-looking bari like this:
RARE Buffet Crampon Evette & Schaeffer baritone saxophoneYou find many altos and tenors of this guy, but rarely does a Bari come along.
Serial number dates to 1926
Horn is sold “as-is”
Original lacquer at roughly 60%, a beautiful honey bronze.
Many spots where the copper in the brass is coming through.
I recommend a complete overhaul to make this baby sing properly again.
I have used this horn on recordings last year, and the sound is not obtainable by any modern horn.
Massive fat sound. They don’t make metal like this anymore.
Still may have the original pads from the 20’s. They are long in need of replacement.
Many ugly solder points, some posts are off, and the soldered tone holes probably have a few leaks.
Dings abound, two big ones about mid way down the horn, and the other at the bottom, but those can be removed.
A good technician can restore this horn.
The only work I ever had done on it was to move the neck strap loop down to a more balanced position. This was performed by an expert technician.
Also had the neck cork redone a few years ago, and it’s still in great shape.
Yes, I played it in this condition.
But the bigger the horn, the more forgiving it is to get a sound, so I was able to get it to cook for the last 10 years.
Many people wondered how I was able to play it. I guess I’m just used to playing old horns from the 20’s.
A spring popped on the top stack recently (Bb key), and I’ve rigged an elastic hair tie to make it functional again,
as I needed the horn on a gig this week, so you can play it out of the box.
No mouthpiece, no strap / harness
Comes with the ProTec case in the photos. It’s in super shape and retails for $400+
The guy I bought this from was selling it because he was shifting into tango dancing.
“I’d rather dance with the ladies than play for them.”
If you’re ready for the big sound, this baby is ready for you.
new lowered price. Priced to go!
This seller was open to receiving questions, and was good enough to answer the ones I posed to them. Again, my questions were around the pitch of the horn.
If you take a look at the photo of the bari in the ProTech case, you’ll notice that there is quite a bit of space that has to be filled with spacers. When I put any of my 3 baris in my ProTech case, I do have to use a bit of a spacer, but nothing like this. This tells me that the horn is really short compared to modern horns.
This is what I asked:
Hi there. I was wondering, is this bari actually a low pitch (LP) horn (A=440) like we use today? Or is it a high pitch horn?
I ask because I have seen a number of Buffet Evette & Schaeffer baris that are HP, and there seems to be a fair amount of space that you’ve had to fill with a spacer in your ProTech case with a block.
I have 2 baris that I put in a ProTech case–a Mark VI and a Martin–and while there is some space in the case, neither requires a space as big as the one your horn does.
Would you be able to measure the instrument from the top of the top bow, to the bottom of the bottom bow? That would answer the question with 100% certainty.
And this is the reply that I got:
Thanks for the interest.
I’ll gladly measure when I get back In town on the 23rd.
I’m thinking low pitch, just because I have used the horn with many different projects over the past few years, and I’m pushing the mouthpiece in all the way to get Iain tune. If she was hi pitch, wouldn’t that make her even more sharp than she already was supposed to be? Maybe someone put in a longer neck? Who knows? Evette was supposedly good about stamping low or high, so I’ll definitely get back …
Mmm… Interesting. We know one thing, you CANNOT fix HP saxophones by adding a longer neck. Period. Full stop.
Changing the length of the neck changes the length of bore, and whole bunch of other things that I can’t begin to describe—since I’m neither a saxophone designer nor a tech, and really don’t begin to understand all the physics that go into the conical bore. I will leave that to the experts to explain.
My limitations however, don’t change the science. I wish they did.
What is the actual difference in length between a HP and LP baritone?
This is a question I can easily answer, since I just happen to have have a HP Buffet bari from 1886. My Buffet Crampon (Evette Schaeffer) bari is a HP horn, and I knew it from the day I saw its first photos. I bought it to give it a home, since its previous caretaker was at a stage in his life where he was looking to find it a good home while he still could.
My HP bari is 95cm from the top of its upper bow to the bottom of its lower bow.
I then measured my Selmer Mark VI bari:
My Mark VI is 100 cm from the top of its upper bow to the bottom of its lower bow.
This means that the difference in length between a HP Buffet bari and a modern LP horn is approx. 5 cm. And as I pointed out already, just because you add a 5 cm longer neck doesn’t mean you’re suddenly going to be able to play with a modern orchestra or band.
So what’s the point here?
I am first and foremost a baritone saxophone player, and understand the financial realities that bari players face in everything from buying reeds, stands, harnesses and other sundry accessories, to the cash outlay for their horns. The fact is being a baritone player costs more than being an alto, tenor, or even soprano player. It’s the economies of scale playing themselves out, and hitting sax players right in their wallets.
The chances that any of us started as bari sax players is pretty small. More likely than not we started on either alto or tenor, and then at some point transitioned to bari, or added bari to our horn stable.
When we went about looking for our first bari, who reading this article wasn’t rather shocked by their prices? Who here wasn’t tempted by a beater horn, and thought: I could get my tech to fix it up a bit short of an overhaul. Or maybe: I could fix it myself with some stuff from Music Medic.
The problem of course is that there are few really good baris available at any given time, and really good ones cost some serious coin. So your options are:
- Save up money and buy a good, solid, baritone from a reputable dealer like PM Woodwind, Get A Sax, World Wide Sax, et al. That is always the safest way to go. Reputable shops also have return policies in case you don’t love your “new to you” horn.
- Wait for a horn to come up locally that you can play-test first. Yah, good luck with that. Good baris are scarce as hen’s teeth, so you might be in for a really long wait. That being said, I found one of mine that way. Right place/right time and all that…
- Buy a new POS Chinese bari through an online site for just over $1,000 US. All I can say is: I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re a serious bari player, you will not be happy. Perhaps the very occasional doubler on bari won’t notice all its faults, but over time you’ll have spent more on adjustments and repairs than you spent on the horn itself.
- Take your chances and buy a well-used, or beater bari through an online auction, and either get it professionally overhauled, or attempt to fix it yourself.
If you opt for #4, that’s fair enough. Not everyone has the cash to get a primo baritone sax from a dealer. There are however, some serious pitfalls to look out for.
These two Buffet baris are a good reminder of arguably the biggest pitfall to be aware of: making sure that whatever horn you buy is eventually playable with a modern band, and is tuned to A=440, AKA, LP.
Probably a decade ago now, I got an email from a fellow who sent me photos of a stunningly beautiful Pierret Super Artiste bari sax he bought online, only to discover it was indeed a HP horn. This to date, is the only HP Pierret I have ever heard of.
Wrapping this all up then
If you’re looking for a bari sax to play, only one of these Buffet baris shows any promise. That is of course bari # 2, #29029 circa 1926. The seller has set opening bids to start at $899.99 US—which is why this bari has been on eBay for a few auction cycles already. The current auction is scheduled to end in 6 days.
Is Buffet bari #29029 a LP horn? Possibly. Whoever is seriously interested needs to get the seller to measure it to confirm the length to be sure. Once that’s been confirmed, then a whole bunch of other questions need to be answered as well.
I have written an extensive article on used saxophone shopping, and that might be helpful as well.
The good new is, if you’re open to buying a beater, vintage bari, there are far more out there than there are pristine examples. This means that this nearly-antique Buffet has lots of competition.
© 2019, Helen. All rights reserved.