On the bench this week is an extremely rare original burnished gold plate Selmer Super Action tenor from 1953/54. Amazingly, this horn spent most of its life nearby to my shop in semi-rural North Carolina, being owned by a player in Hillsborough who had ties to a local music store here. This history makes sense, as it was both extensively played and well-cared for. It had a lot of miles, but it was loved.
The overhaul was an in-depth affair, with a full mechanical rebuild of the keywork. Over 50 hours was spent on the horn, straightening out various dings and dimples and replacing worn rods with new ones before the keywork was tightening down around the rods and between the posts, which were faced flat after years of playing left them dished out and uneven. The keywork ended up being tight, effortless, and quiet.
Prior to this horn, I had gone on a run of Conn saxophones (known for having the absolute HUGEST tone, bar none, and I will go to court and win the case that this is true) through the shop, and perhaps due to this, the first playing impressions were of a horn that was a little more restrained than I expected, but with a striking beauty of tone I have only encountered once before- also on a Selmer, a Dorsey Special alto. It was easy to get lost in the sound, to be sort of washed away by it, and forget I was supposed to be giving it a critical playtest. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get flushed, and tears probably would not be off the table if I had not snapped out of it and resumed an analytical approach to what I was hearing. The intonation was excellent, and this was one of the few times where I didn’t really find any adjustments I wanted to do to my work as far as key heights, spring tensions, etc. after I was done. It was just so much fun to play, and although the overhaul was a ton of work, the horn led me to a place where it played beautifully and it was a joy to play as well as appreciate as a work of art. I am lucky to not just get to see instruments like this, but to renew them to a second lifetime of music-making where they can be appreciated, operating to a standard I hope would make their designers proud.