Vintage Orsi Contrabass

Well, when I was building a repair shop out of a 31 foot Airstream trailer, I have to admit I did not think of contrabass saxophones. I can comfortably work on everything up to baritone without any issues, and even basses are accounted for by moving my torch holder a foot to the right. Dentwork is possible thanks to a rotating and height adjustable vise stand with carefully considered placement. But the contrabass saxophone is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, weighs close to 50 pounds, and was a challenge to work on in the space. I could do regular work on my secondary bench, which is deep enough and long enough. But dentwork was a non-starter, not just because the metal on this instrument was incredibly thick and resilient, but because it literally wouldn’t fit in my work space.

I was not charged with overhauling this instrument, but only to get it from a state of “just came out of an attic where it lived for 50 years and shipped across the country” to “making saxophone noises”. There was a good deal of padwork, mechanical work (upper stack and octave mechanism in particular were really bound up and didn’t operate correctly) and adjustments and cleaning, and at the end I am happy to report that the instrument played down to low, low, lowwwww Bb. But an overhaul it was not, so I didn’t make a video since I didn’t get to know it as well as I would have if I had overhauled it.

What I did learn/my impressions might be worth sharing here, since there are not many of these around.
– Surprisingly well built
– Very sturdy keywork, very well thought out. Surprisingly comfortable given the size, and way less flexy than a Conn bass.
– Middle D just plays, again unlike a Conn bass where you either use an alternate fingering or do some work to voice it to get it to come out with the regular fingering. Every note on this contrabass just played with regular fingering, in fact. You can just… play it.
– Intonation was decent. I had a contrabass mouthpiece but a bass reed, and I think that was giving me a bit of issues down low, but without further data it is hard to know, so “intonation seems fine, further investigation warranted” is where I ended up.
– The body is made of incredibly thick metal. This is good for durability and stiffness given the size, but I am unsure how you would do dentwork on it besides just straight-up being incredibly strong.
– Playing it with a stand seems best.
– I personally found the difference between playing a baritone and playing a (vintage style) bass to be greater than the difference between playing a bass and playing this contrabass, which was a pleasant surprise. After maybe 5 minutes I felt fairly comfortable, given it was my first time playing a contrabass. Took me a lot longer to get comfortable on a bass. This also didn’t take too much more air.

This one is not for sale, but if you are looking for one (that goes to high F!) you can find one here.