|Models & Finish Options||Alto||Tenor||Baritone||Finish Options|
|Improvements Over the Production Run||– IV –||Adjustable Palm Keys||Strathmann Non-stick G# Key||B&S Non-stick G# Key|
It was with the newly designed, pro-model Series 2001 that VMI made its début onto the world stage as a quality saxophone manufacturer. The 2001 was not your father’s B&S saxophone, and had shed any vestiges of the B&S blue label or Weltklang horns.
The Series 2001 made its début in 1991, just two years after Germany’s reunification, and the company’s transition from state-owned VEB Blechblas- und Signal-Instrumented-Fabrik (B&S), to Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik GmbH Markneukirchen (VMI). B&S continued making, and improving, the model until it ceased all saxophone production in 2005.1
Yes, you read that correctly. Many people seem to think that when the Medusa came along that the Series 2001 production was halted. That is in fact incorrect. These horns were still made all throughout the Medusa’s production run. We might not have seen them through dealers in North America2, but there is a big old world out there, and B&S obviously sold them to countries outside this continent.
Series 2001 models and finish options
The information on the Series 2001 is quite limited, and I have come across virtually nothing from dealers, or other reputable sources, that outline the features of these instruments. The information in the following sections was cobbled together through the very generous help of Dave Kessler, who provided me with his B&S materials and images, as well as German saxophonist, author, and sax historian, Uwe Ladwig3. It was with their assistance that I was able gather some of they key information about what made the Series 2001 such a pivotal saxophone for B&S.
The Series 2001 by B&S was available in alto, tenor, and baritone versions.
N.b. It should be noted here that the new B&S did not make any professional model soprano saxophones. You can argue amongst yourselves if the old B&S models (blue label or Weltklang) were pro model horns or not.
- Model: 3257
- I have not actually seen a Series 2001 bari, nor have I found images of any despite my advanced Googling efforts. If you have one, and you’d care to share some photos, please let me know. Thanks!
- In the meantime, these anonymous masks will have to do as a stand-in. Hell, they even come in different finishes symbolic of those the 3257 was available in. 🙂
The Series 2001 came in a variety of finish options. Unfortunately however, I have not come across a complete list of factory offered finishes. Were they the same as on the other B&S offerings? I don’t know. These are the only finishes I have run across to date:
The Series 2001 was built for 14 years, so it would make sense that as the company refined its saxophone designs, it would introduce some of those improvements into their staple series. Besides the cosmetic changes illustrated below, a key area that was improved upon in the Series 2001 was its bore.
It was coincidentally the year 2001, when B&S introduced this new bore in both their Series 2001, and the then-new 2006 (Medusa) Series saxophones. While scouring through the Net I was able to find the following (which reads like a copy and paste job from a press release) on Pro Music.com’s Brass and Woodwinds News index page. (The company is based in The Netherlands.)
In 2001 VMI (Vogtländische Musikinstrumentenfabrik) announced developing a new B&S alto saxophone which finally was showing at Musikmesse Frankfurt 2002. The new alto reflects the tradition of 100 years of saxophone making in the Markneukirchen area. For the first time ever laser measurng [sic] tools were used to completely design the body of the instrument. The new measuring technique made it possible to optimize the tubing and provide a very even intonation scale with a dark, colorful sound and fast response. The new body is used for the series 2001 and 2006. [emphasis added]
In addition to the standard 2001 series VMI also launched the 2006 Artist Line of alto-, tenor- and baritone saxophones based on their pro line series 2001. The instruments sport a hand made artificial [sic? likely supposed to be artistic] full body engraving. A finish combining the advantages of silver plating and VMI’s unique sand blasting ( FS/L) is optional. The model 2006 Medusa (pictured) features a unique engraving with the medusa’s head on the bell while the 2006 arist [sic] models show the traditional engraving.
The following are some of the more obvious design changes that I have noticed the Series 2001 sport at one time or another.
N.b. Unfortunately at present my collection of Series 2001 images is rather limited. Therefore it is impossible for me to draw conclusions during approximately which serial number range the following changes may have occurred.
What’s up with the – IV – anyway?
Why are some of the late-model Series 2001 saxophones engraved with the Roman numeral IV? Simply put, I don’t know, and nothing in any of the scant amount of literature that I have come across sheds any light on it either. However, if you compare this bell engraving to that of the first ones, you see that those don’t have a – IV – engraved on the bell.
Why is there no II or III? I can’t you that either. But I can tell you that later editions of the Series 1000 had – III – engraved.
At first I believed that these Roman numerals may well refer to the evolution in bore design, since they don’t correspond to obvious improvements like the ones noted below. (Both the adjustable left palm keys and anti-stick G# key were found in horns without the – IV- engraving.) However, I have since come to discover that the new bore was introduced in 2001, and that in October 2004, Kessler and Sons was selling the Series 2001 saxophones as identical in bore to the Medusa, without the former having the IV engraving.
FWIW, to date the earliest horn that I have seen with the -IV- engraving is alto 012660, but tenor 011466 doesn’t have it.
Adjustable left palm keys
At some point in the Series 2001’s evolution the model included adjustable left palm keys. That said, I have not seen this feature on any altos—even alto 012660—which is the one with the highest confirmed serial number that I have seen.
The Strathmann non-stick G# key4
Even if you can’t read German, take a look at the date in the italicized line above: April 14, 1968. It was on that date that the man who invented a non-stick G# key, Arnfred Strathmann, wrote a letter to Julius Keilwerth. Herr Strathmann let them know that through a conversation with Mr. Dörfler—who came to work for Keilwerth in January 1968—he was made aware that JK was interested in his invention. However, for unknown reasons this device was not implemented on Keilwerth saxophones at the time. It would take three decades before JK used a similar design—such as the one on this CX 90 tenor. (Note that the original was intended to go all the way to the F key, but Keilwerth stopped theirs at the F#.)
Getting back to the B&S Series 2001…
B&S used a variation of this type of anti-stick G# key on their Codera and some of the Medusa models. At some point the Series 2001 began sporting this feature as well.
The following is alto 000502. It could be considered a first generation Series 2001 horn. The G# key is conventional is its appearance.
This is alto #012660 with the rocking mechanism that was used to prevent the G# from sticking. Notice that like JK, B&S also had their lever end at the F# key, rather than extend to the F. However, their design differed somewhat from JK’s. Not only is the B&S spring obvious from the front, I’m guessing the two companies used totally different types of springs.
At this point I don’t have enough images in my Series 2001 gallery to know at what serial number range this non-stick G# feature may have been introduced. FWIW—quite frankly, not much I don’t think—at present the horn with the lowest confirmed serial number sporting this feature is tenor #011466.
1 Saxophone: Ein Kompendium, by Uwe Ladwig. Second edition 2012, p. 150.
2 Based on informed contained on the archived website pages of authorized B&S dealer Kessler & Sons Music.
3 The source of information for this page is mainly from Uwe Ladwig, in der deutschen Fachzeitschrift—German music journal—SONIC sax & brass. I would like to thank Uwe for so generously allowing me to use his research, and very much appreciate the trust he has shown by allowing me to do my own translation.
4 Saxophone: Ein Kompendium, by Uwe Ladwig. Second edition 2012, p. 160.