Saturday, June 25, 2011

My Really Ugly Tenor Sax...

I've received a few comments over the years from well meaning people that try to inform me about the look of my treasured Tenor Sax...

Usually, it's something like..."Uh, you might do a little better or get more gigs if you had a Tenor Sax that looked really nice, you know, like those really shiny colored ones that all the hip sax players play."

As soon as I hear a comment like that from someone in the music "Biz" I know right away that though well meaning, folks that offer a comment like that don't know a lick about Saxophones and are really, just showing their ignorance when it comes to musical instruments.

You see, my Tenor Sax is a vintage King Super 20 with a silver plated neck that probably dates to the late 1950s.
The King Super 20s, particularly the ones with silver plated necks and bells as well as certain mother of pearl pearl keys are highly sought after by collectors and players and command thousands on the vintage sax market.

My "Super 20" as they are affectionately known by horn collectors and players is rather used looking. In fact, most of the lacquer is rubbed off and the glossy plating is 90% gone.
It's one rather ugly looking Tenor Sax.

But here's what people that make uninformed comments to me about the look of my Tenor Sax don't know is that not only are the King Super 20 Sax's from the 1940's and 50's sought after for their known value, they are still some of the best SOUNDING Saxophones ever made.
The 1940s and 50s King Saxophones were played by the greatest saxophone players ever known like Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Wilton Felder just to name a few.
In fact, many Modern Sax manufacturers are currently producing new horns with no lacquer on them at all in an attempt to imitate the look and sound of these classic horns.

Several sax manufacturers are putting out horns that look and feel somewhat akin to the vintage saxophones by King, Selmer (Mk IV) and a few others, but the metal work on vintage horns is rather difficult to duplicate. is the sound of these instruments hard to duplicate.

When I listen to comments from folks that don't know anything about saxophones criticize my Tenor I know right away that those comments come from well meaning individuals that are more enamored with the way a horn "looks" rather than the way a sax "sounds".

We live in an age of constant "Image". Since the early 1980s Image, or how things "appear" has replaced real substance or how things really "are". Televisions throw fast paced and beautiful images that are edited and directed to sell a product or someone's agenda with flashy and attractive scenes and beautiful models.
Movies with one hundred million dollar budgets throw up scenes of beautiful actors and actresses at us with ever louder soundtracks and super sharp 3D images meant to thrill us with the spectacle.
Computers and gaming consoles now compete with the big screen and in fact are overtaking sales numbers of movies with incredibly life like video games, some that are so incredibly violent that studies show these games can numb the senses and feelings of people that play them if not moderated.
Pornographic Images proliferate the world wide web with altered images of the human body that are digitally enhanced and modified to make them as attractive as possible to those addicted to pornography, ruining marriages and lives along the way.
While I am a very big movie fan and no prude, I've become increasingly concerned about how many people cannot seem to discern the difference between the "Image" that's projected on T.V., Movie, and computer screens and what's really real.

My Tenor Sax is called the King Super 20 and is one of the ugliest looking Tenors saxes you may come across. It's aged and sort of beat up just like it's player, but when you hear it either live or on a recording you will immediately know that what it looks like has nothing in common with the gorgeous, nuanced, colorful, huge sound it produces. And also how highly prized it is by those educated and discerning enough to know it's real worth.

I'll take real substance over glittery looks every time...and yes, I am the sax player.

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