The Winter Blues

The Winter Blues 2017: A viral bug no one wants, but everybody around here seems to have

cartoon virus, blue virus, winter bluesWell this has been a hell of a month. I generally don’t get sick, but when I do it knocks me flat on my ass for weeks. Every 3 to 5 years I seem to come down with a virus that makes it impossible for me to do anything other than lay around and sleep half of the day away.

Just over 3 years ago I ended up with pneumonia after a really bad cold. February 2017 will be the remembered (by me anyway) as the month that I spent lying around on the couch with the sinus cold that was running as rampant as rats aboard container ships.

It’s been over 2½ weeks since I first came down with this bug. During this time I have been out of the house exactly 3cartoon virus, times. Where did I go? Nah, it wasn’t the doctor’s office, since I really only had a bad cold. If you guessed rehearsals you would be correct.

About 10 days after I first got sick I had my first rehearsal. I couldn’t really miss it, since I was subbing for the bari player in the Big Band I normally play tenor in. It was a tough go. I did fine, but the next two days I really paid for it.

A couple of later I played bass clarinet with others for the first time since university in the 80s. Wow! This was not how I expected to get my own bass clarinet out and playing in a band for the first time. That being said, perhaps it was the best way to do it. Being in the process of getting over a really bad cold gave me an excuse if things were a bit off—which surprisingly they weren’t. (I will write a full review on the bass clarinet in the next couple days.)

Finally on Saturday, I played tenor sax for nearly 3 hours with a jazz combo that a friend has put together. By the time we were done at just after 8pm, I was done. I could barely get myself home to have a late dinner.

cartoon virus, blue eys, scary teeth, winter bluesYesterday I spent the day back on the couch: I suspect it now is permanently contoured to fit my body.

I am not a couch person. I don’t spend hours upon hours watching TV. However, that’s literally all I was capable of doing. I was not able to concentrate on a computer, tablet, or phone. This cold virus kicked my neurological fatigue into overdrive, and I was not able to function at all. ADL’s? Forget about them…

So for the last 2½ weeks I spent much of that time watching or napping through all 8 seasons of Dexter. I have about 6 episodes left. I suspect by the time I finally kick the this cold entirely, I will have finished watching the entire series.

I don’t normally suffer the winter blues, but this year being as sick as I have been has disturbed the natural order of things for me. My day to day activities have been disrupted, and I haven’t been myself. Now I am hoping that things right themselves within the week, so what has become my new normal will become normal again. Hey, I just want to be able to do something as simple as shower on a daily basis. Is that too much to ask?

…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!

Saxophones Can Be Family Heirlooms

From working instruments to meaningful heirlooms: How saxophones can be a meaningful part of a family’s history

family heirloom, saxophone bell engraving, Jubilee, JK tenor saxophoneOn Tuesday night I was at rehearsal with the Moonliters—the Big Band I play with—and we had a substitute tenor player sitting in. Jeff (not his real name) mentioned to me that the first tenor he ever owned was the sax that had belonged to his father. It was a JK-stencilled Jubilee that his father had bought new in 1964 at Empire Music in Vancouver.

Jeff had played the tenor in school, but then after school it went back to his dad. Somehow the saxophone was seemingly misplaced, and Jeff never knew what happened to it. Then a while ago he was talking with another family member, when that person said: Oh, I’ve got your father’s tenor sax in my attic.

Funny thing that. Now Jeff has his father’s sax back in his possession. It’s a nice thing too, because just a couple of weeks ago Jeff’s father passed away, so it’s fitting that the saxophone player now again has his father’s saxophone back.

Two very different family heirloom saxophones

family heirloom, Buescher True Tone, alto saxophone, alto sax, vintage saxophone accessories

Buescher True Tone alto #193XXX

This reminds me of another friend and musical colleague who I played with, whose grandmother had a Buescher True Tone alto since new. She played it throughout her life. Now that saxophone resides with her non-sax playing son (my friend’s dad). I had the opportunity to see, play, and photograph this family heirloom a couple of years ago.

It is really something to hold a saxophone like this in my hands, and to look at the accessories that are still in the accessory tray. This instrument and its accoutrements are alive with familial history. It fills me with a quiet awe, as I hold these nearly antique items in my hands, and think of the 90+ years of history that they’ve been a part of. This to me is the epitome of a family heirloom.

The story of the Buescher alto above, is similar to another saxophone I had the opportunity to play and photograph back in 2012. That horn too belonged to a friend, and it was also a family heirloom—only not as old as the True Tone alto.

The horn in question was bought new by my friend’s cousin in the early 1960s for approximately $100.00 Cdn. When I saw the horn it was still downright minty, and it too had many of its original accessories. It is a Pierret-stencilled Ambassador, which had been ordered by F.E. Olds & Son.

family heirloom, F.E. Olds & Son, Ambassador, Pierret, alto saxophone, alto sax, vintage saxophone accessories

F. E. Olds & Son Ambassador, Made by Pierret. Serial #312XX

After years of sitting in its case, the Pierret-made Ambassador was going to see life again as it was going to be used by young student in the family who was going to start playing saxophone in school. My friend had just re-padded the horn and was readying it to send off to his young 2nd, 3rd, or whatever cousin. This was in 2012. I wonder if this kid is still playing the horn? I wonder if the horn still has its original accessories, and looks as good now as it did back then?

What do vintage ceramic flamingos and saxophones have in common?

I realize not all people are wired like I am. I am rather sentimental, and do place value on things that are older. (Which might explain my love for not only vintage saxophones, but also Volvos. ;)  )  This is why our house is filled with quite a few vintage things like art glass, flamingos, and yes, of course our own family heirlooms such as fine china and silverware, cameras, and jewellery.

When it comes to vintage saxophones though, I don’t have a familial history with the horns in my stable. They did not come from either side of my family, so they are not family heirlooms to me. However, when I open up their cases and look at them, I wonder when play them at shows, or take them to rehearsals, what kind of history I am adding to.

My vintage saxophones range from 40 to 131 years old, and some of them will have seen A LOT of musical activity. And although my musical commitments are quite tame these days, in the past my horns have been part of some very interesting experiences, and played been for a great many people in a wide variety of musical and other venues.

I am also a big believer in keeping all the original accessories with any instrument intact. Not because I believe it adds value, but because it belongs to the horn, and is a part of the saxophone’s history. Thus original MPs, mutes, neck straps, screwdriver sets, and yes, even cork grease, stay with the horn. I do however draw the line at used reeds.  ;)   Those I toss in the garbage.

A few months ago I came across this apropos article in The Republic. I filed it away at the time because I knew I wanted to write an article about this one day. Talking with Jeff the other night at rehearsal about how he got his family heirloom back, reminded me that not everyone is so lucky.

Doug Showalter’s article, Saxophone gone, memories remain, made me look at my vintage saxophones in a new light. I wonder if any of them are a family’s vanished heirloom?

…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!

Meinel & Herold: Vintage German Saxophones

There is a curious little alto on eBay ATM. This Meinel & Herold alto saxophone may be bordering on the antique range of the vintage spectrum. (Meaning that it might be close to 100 years old. It’s hard to say.)

Meinel & Herold alto sax, vintage saxophone, old German saxohone, G.H. Hüller saxophone, stencil saxophone

Source: Freddys-Trodelshop on eBay.com

This Meinel & Herold alto saxophone is a very, very simple horn. Not only does it lack MOP key touches and any kind of rollers, but it also has a very limited key range, as well as none of the extra keys that give saxophonists alternative fingerings.

This alto resembles some of the new altos made for children today, to get them used to playing saxophone. Another horn it reminds me of is the Buescher Academy.

Regardless of how far removed it might be from a modern, or even a vintage pro model saxophone, this Meinel & Herold alto is an interesting snapshot into the history of German saxophone manufacturing during the first few decades of the 20th century. Even Oscar Adler’s most basic Ocu and Relda models were more advanced than this alto.

In order to better understand where this sax comes from, a bit of background into Meinel & Herold Musikinstr. Fabrik Klingenthal would be helpful. Fortunately, I have some vintage catalogue pages that will help with this understanding.

Inside cover page of Meinel & Herold Musikinstrumente-, Sprechapparate-, Harmonikafabrik und -Verand Klingenthal Catalogue Issue XXVIII

This is the inside cover page of the 28th issue of the Meinel & Herold catalogue. Unfortunately, the catalogue is not dated. What we do know from this catalogue however, is that the company was founded in 1893. We also know that they specialized in the mail order sales (Versand) of musical instruments (Musikinstrumente), gramophones (Sprechapparate), and that they were a harmonica factory (Harmonikafabrik).

Just a note about the German word “Sprechapparate”: This is an antiquated term, and if you were to try to find it through a translation program, you would likely not find it. (At least not an accurate one.) ;)  Much like what I seem to write about, it is on the vintage side of the spectrum. ;)  Googling it though, you’ll find some images, and even a German website dedicated to Sprechapparate from days gone by.

Meinel & Herold vintage catalogue, vintage musical instrument catalogue, German catalogue,

Looking at the saxophone pages from this Meinel & Herold catalogue is a rather confusing exercise. What we see are drawings of saxophones that seem to bear no relation to each other. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that they were perhaps made by different German manufacturers.

Meinel & Herold was quite opinionated in their descriptions and advice. A couple of things to remember here: Yes, Germans can be somewhat more assertive than other cultures. ;)

However, the other thing going on here is that this was the early days of catalogues and print advertisements. Consumers were not used to catalogues, and didn’t have access to information like we have today, thus needed a lot of information to make an informed choice. This is not unique to German catalogues. Looking through North American catalogues of the same vintage you will see similar images and descriptions.

Seite 23 (page 23)

Saxophones

These instruments have introduced themselves very well over the past few years. Saxophones are not only found in jazz bands. World renowned symphony orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony and the Boston Symphony Orchestra utilize saxophones. Unfortunately even these instruments are offered by some musically ignorant parties in such a quality that it defies description: unclean tone, shoddy workmanship, and with regards to quality, relatively expensive. Saxophones especially must be built with special love and expertise, and it is those people that we avail ourselves of.

Our saxophones’ build, ease of play, and cleanliness of tone

Until now has been praised by almost all purchasers, and it is this customer satisfaction that has urged us on to provide excellence. It is always advisable when purchasing a saxophone, to buy the ideal model, since the better instruments are capable of producing a much better tone. We’ve often found that customers, after they’ve played a simpler instrument a number of months, approached us because they wanted to trade their horn for a better one. Naturally we could not trade a used instrument for a better one.

No risk buying

We provide each saxophone with an 8 day trial period. If you find during this time that the instrument in question does not work for your purposes, we are prepared to take back the instrument and refund your money. The return must be done within the 8 days of the receipt of the undamaged instrument.

Our saxophones are top quality German master workmanship

We have interviewed various qualified musicians and found out that in no way should our instruments be made by foreign manufacturers. However, our saxophones are significantly less expensive than foreign instruments. Try one of our saxophones. Unlike so many purchases, you will not regret this one.

Meinel & Herold vintage catalogue, vintage musical instrument catalogue, German catalogue, saxophone descriptions in German,

Saxophones with a simple design, simple mechanics, with Bb trill key [bis Bb?], alto and tenor with fork Eb, wooden mouthpiece, complete with neck strap, lyre, etc., nickel plated.

  • Model #: 1306 sopranino in Eb – straight
  • Model #: 1307: soprano in C or Bb – straight
  • Model #: 1307a: soprano in Bb – curved
  • Model #: 1308: alto in Eb
  • Model #: 1309: tenor in C (C melody)
  • Model #: 1310 tenor in Bb
  • Model #: 1311 baritone in Eb

To clarify: for some buyers it is unclear which saxophone would be the right one for their purposes. The descriptions below will make your choice easier.

The sopranino is used in larger wind orchestras beside the Eb piston, since the higher sounds of the saxophone carry better than those of the piston.

The C or Bb soprano is special to the saxophone orchestra, and are really only used if at least an alto and/or tenor are being utilized. In jazz band if there is only one saxophone, the player switches between alto and/or tenor.

The Eb alto is the most used instrument, and it is the first instrument in jazz bands. When newly acquiring a saxophone, the alto is always the right choice.

The tenor saxophone can be used in place of the alto, and in many cases one finds it being used as a household instrument. The tenor is larger than the alto, and therefore has a deeper tone.

The baritone and bass saxophones are only used in large saxophone orchestras.

Seite 24 (page 24)

Quality German workmanship! Astonishingly low prices.

Our saxophones have a guaranteed pure tone, evenness of scale, and comfortable and flawless key mechanisms.

100,000 instruments sold in the past year, as well as 20,000 unsolicited thank you letters from within the musical community, proves our competitiveness.

Information about even better saxophones, as well as accessory items, are available upon request.

Note:

Just a side note here. The saxophones shown here, with the exception of the bass, look quite different than those from page 23. The left palm keys of the soprano, alto, and tenor, as well as the bell to body brace on the alto and tenor, all look the same as those we see in the G.H. Hüller horns. The bass on the other hand, looks like a hybrid between the saxes on page 23 & 24.

Either G.H. Hüller did not build the less expensive horns, or if they did, they used a key guard design for the Meinel and Herold horns that was not seen on their regular production horns. The Mercedes-style key guards we see on the alto and tenor below, are typical of G.H. Hüller saxophones of a particular era.

Meinel & Herold vintage catalogue, vintage musical instrument catalogue, German catalogue, saxophone descriptions in German,

Orchester Saxophones

Bb and C trill keys, Bb can be played with either the left or right index finger, automatic octave mechanism, 4 rubber rollers, range to low B, alto and tenor keyed to high F with E key for right index finger, registered pad system, mother of pearl key touches, wooden mouthpiece, nickel plated.

  • Model #: 1312 soprano in Bb, C, or Eb – straight
  • Model #: 1312a soprano in Bb or C – curved
  • Model #: 1313 alto in Eb
  • Model #: 1314 tenor in C (C melody)
  • Model #: 1314 tenor in Bb
  • Model #: 1315 baritone in Eb
  • Model #: 1316 bass in Bb

Soloisten Saxophones

Of excellent quality, with the most common, modern improvements

Bb and C trill keys, Bb can be played with either the left or right index finger, automatic octave mechanism, 6 rollers, F# and G# trill keys, F# key, range to low Bb, soprano, alto, tenor, bass, and baritone keyed to high F, fork Eb, front F key, registered pad system, finely engraved bell, mother of pearl key touches.

Alto and tenor saxophones with microtuner.

  • Model #: 1317 soprano in Bb, C, or Eb – straight
  • Model #: 1317a soprano in Bb or C – curved
  • Model #: 1318 alto in Eb
  • Model #: 1319 tenor in C (C melody)
  • Model #: 1319a tenor in Bb
  • Model #: 1320 baritone in Eb
  • Model #: 1321 bass in Bb

Saxophone models 1317-1321 are excellent, and we highly recommend choosing one of these models. If you acquire a saxophone, it is a good idea to always buy the most complete or perfect one. You will never regret spending the extra money.

Solisten Saxophones 1317-1321 are available in the following qualities:

  • Quality III: Pristine workmanship, nickel plated, finely engraved bell.
  • Quality II: Superb master workmanship, matt silver plated, finely engraved bell.
  • Quality I: In all aspects perfection, matt silver plated, bell interior burnished gold plated, bell especially finely engraved.

Alrighty then, has anyone’s head exploded yet? Mine certainly did. Let’s let this soak in for a minute….

There were a number of things that immediately jumped out at me. In no particular order, they included:

  1. The cheapest saxophones that Meinel & Harold sold were keyed to low Bb, while the entry-level of the better level were only keyed to low B.
  2. Meinel & Harold sold 2 models of bass saxophones!
  3. Although the key guards of the bass saxophone (1321) more closely resemble those of the least expensive horns pictured (1308-1311), rather than the G.H. Hüller-style of its model contemporaries, the bow guard of the bass appears the same as those of the other Solisten model horns.
  4. The Solisten model bass saxophone was keyed to high F!
  5. Yes, there were curved C-pitched soprano saxophones available. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever seen one before.
  6. The alto currently for sale on eBay, has no rollers or MOP key touches, therefore I would hazard a guess that it predates this catalogue by a few years.
  7. This alto however, does have the Mercedes style key guards we do see on G.H. Hüller saxophones. Therefore, it is possible that this alto is a very early G.H. Hüller.

Getting back to the Meinel & Harold alto from eBay….

This little alto branded Meinel & Herold Musikinstr. Fabrik Klingenthal is an enigma for sure. Here are the rest of the pics of this quirky little horn…

The serial # (19949) of this Meinel & Herold alto sax currently on eBay does fit into the G.H. Hüller serial # conventions. Unfortunately, I have not come across any online or printed serial # charts for this vintage German brand, and the horns in my G.H. Hüller galleries don’t all have serial numbers.

That said, when comparing/contrasting the features of this Meinel & Herold alto sax to the altos in my G.H. Hüller gallery, the origins of this quirky little alto seem to become clear. This alto appears to be just a very stripped down version of a G.H. Hüller alto saxophone that Meinel & Herold ordered—presumably as an entry-level saxophone, since it was only keyed to low B.

This Meinel & Herold alto sax is in remarkably good shape, and still has a few of its original accessories. If owning such a piece of vintage (antique?) German saxophonia appeals to you, you’d better be living in Germany, or have friends or family who can buy or take delivery of it on your behalf. The seller seems pretty determined to only sell to someone in the country.

This rather impractical Meinel & Herold alto sax has a BIN price of €299.00, which eBay calculates to be approx. $321.32 US. The seller will entertain offers, so perhaps you might be lucky and get it for less.

…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!