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La Monte Tenor

La Monte Tenor

La Monte tenor, saxophone bell, gold, black background
Photo by H. Kahlke Copyright 2009

This La Monte tenor (serial # D83XX) is the first saxophone I ever owned. My parents bought it for me in the late seventies. At the time, the horn was likely at least about 10 years old.

Until recently, my horn looked like no other student model sax that I’d ever come across. It is made in Italy and is quite heavy. It has a fairly large bell, left-sided bell keys, and lacks an articulated G# key.

Until 2005, I had never found any information about the makers of the sax. No one seemed to know anything definite about the horns. However, another SOTW member had a Henri Lavelle that looked the same as my La Monte.

Pete, the man formerly known as saxpics, believes that La Monte is a name that was used by different manufacturers at different times. He says that he has seen at least one Martin stencil with the La Monte name.

Yet another member of SOTW also has a La Monte tenor, that is approximately the same vintage as mine. He sent enquiries to the Borgani, Rampone & Cazzani, and Orsi companies. The manager of Borgani replied that he had never heard of the La Monte brand. It took a bit of time, but eventually Orsi confirmed that they were indeed the makers of the La Monte saxophone. They did not have more information than that however, but at least we now know that the Italian-made La Monte saxes were actually Orsi stencils.

In early spring 2005, I took my horn off the wall and played it for about 15 minutes. For a horn that has endured 2 cross country moves in a poorly fitting case, and has been hanging on a wall for almost 15 years, it played amazingly well. It has a big sound with an even scale.

It is a decent student model horn: one that would very easily hold its own against its contemporaries. I wouldn’t play it over my Mark VI, or even my Martin Handcraft, but if I needed a back-up horn because both my tenors had been run over by a truck, I would certainly use it.

Here are some detailed pictures of my Orsi-stencilled La Monte tenor.

Because certain Henri Lavelle models appear to be identical to my La Monte, I have been contacted by a number of owners of Henri Lavelle saxophones over the years. This prompted me to write an article about the brand for my blog. If you are interested in vintage Orsi stencil horns, or Henri Lavelle saxophones, you might find the blog post an interesting read.

In spring of 2009, I was contacted by a fellow in Europe who happened to stumble across my blog, and noticed that I had written several articles about vintage Orsi stencil horns. He was kind enough to send me PDF copies of the saxophone pages of a vintage Orsi catalogue. From those pages, I was able to figure out that my La Monte appears similar to the Orsi 110-C Concertino student model tenor sax, pictured below.

old catalogue page, Orsi, student models, alto, tenor, saxophones,

Since we don’t know for sure when this catalogue was published, I can’t say for certainty that the La Monte is a stencil of the Concertino, but looking at the drawing, and comparing it to my horn, they are pretty darn close. On the alto model you can see the left pinkie cluster of the Concertino model, and there you can see one of the main differences. The Concertino has a nail file G# key, something my La Monte does not have. My La Monte also has a bis Bb, something that that the student model Orsi is missing. Whether these difference are because the La Monte is based on a different model, or is of a different vintage, or because it is a stencil horn, we’ll likely never know. However, these Orsi have an overall older appearance than my La Monte, and the lack of a bis Bb tends to support this hypothesis.

In any event, looking at the photos of both my La Monte, as well as the Henri Lavelle, we can definitely see the Orsi pedigree in these old-timers.

Over the years I have come to discover that most “vintage” student model horns, like the La Monte, King Cleveland, and so on, have a fuller sound than today’s student model horns. The older horns seem to be heavier, and are capable of producing a more “professional” type sound compared to their contemporaries.

If you have any more information about the La Monte brand, please contact me.

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