Posted on April 25, 2013
Black Pearls on Wartime SML Coleman Hawkins Special Tenor
This is a closeup of the pearls on the upper stack of a 1943 Strasser-Marigaux-Lemaire (SML) Coleman Hawkins Special.
The Coleman Hawkins Special is a fantastically rare instrument in itself, but what makes this one even more interesting is that it was made while France was occupied by Germany in World War II. Saxophone production in France slowed to a trickle during the occupation, as the brass and other materials used in instrument manufacture as well as manpower and machinery were diverted to the war or unable to be imported in the first place. Nonetheless, a very few saxophones were made, and some bear witness to the strained conditions under which they were produced. If you are lucky enough to come across a French saxophone made during the occupation, you may see black pearls on the keywork- and sometimes even bakelite pearls, as the pure white mother of pearl became difficult to obtain. Sometimes only a few are black, sometimes all are black, or sometimes it will be a fairly even mix. On this horn, all pearls but the bis, front F, and chromatic f# are black pearls.