As far as one Saxophone being the greatest Saxophone ever made, the debate amongst players continues.  However, over the years, one particular kind of sax has consistently taken the lead as far as a favorite among both Tenor Sax and Alto Sax players.

The Selmer Saxophone, particularly the Mark Six (or Mark VI) has dominated the field of players since the 1940s and is still one of the most desired of all vintage saxophones.  The Selmer company stopped making the legendary Mark Vl saxophones in 1975, ending an era of saxophone making.

Selmer Saxophone Factory

The Selmer company began the production of the Balanced Action model in early 1936 and began with serial number 22,000.  This marked a new age of modern saxophones as Selmer had streamlined much of the keywork, making it one of the most, if not, the most responsive and easy to play of all the saxophones made.

After that came the “Super Balanced Action” Selmer which started production in 1948 with the serial numbers in the 35,000 range and up until around 46,000 which ushered in the super legendary Mark Vl saxophone.  The Mark Vl began production around January of 1955 with serial number 57,000.  Selmer continued to make Mark VI saxophones all the way up to serial numbers in the 243,000 range and stopped around January of 1976, when they introduced the Mark VII.

All the while, in between transitions from Super Balanced Action to Mark VI and so forth, the Selmer company would make slight changes, like modifications to the thumb hook size and placement to the move from a metal thumb rest to a black plastic one.

While some players like the deep, dark and rich tone of the Balanced Action models, other players preferred the fast action and responsiveness and bold sound of the Mark VI.

Selmer Mark VI Tenor Sax

Some of the multitude of players who always stayed with Selmer saxophones include such master sax players as Dexter Gordon, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Sonny Stitt, George Coleman, Phil Woods, Lou Donaldson, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Clifford Jordan, Frank Foster, Hank Mobley, Michael Brecker and many others.

Even players like Johnny Griffin and Cannonball Adderley, and Yusef Lateef, who had played on King Super 20 horns for much of the time, eventually ended up playing Selmers.  For whatever reason, they switched to playing Mark Vl Saxophones later in their careers.

There is also quite a number of different views on which are the best Selmers made.  Even within the category of Mark Vl Tenor Saxophones, some players prefer playing on 60,000 – 70,000 series horns and other guys really dig the sound and feel of the later instruments of the late 1950s and early 1960s such as the 80,000 – 95,000 serial number horns.

Although there are generalizations about period horns from certain times and serial number ranges, each and every saxophone instrument is very unique and different.  Like snowflakes or pieces of art work, no two are exactly alike and some horns from the same period made within days or weeks apart are very different.  When choosing a vintage or a new horn, for that matter, it is always good to try to play as many different horns as possible before you make a final choice on which one is right for you.

Often players swapped horns or occasionally went to shops that had used Selmers on consignment and tried a bunch of Altos or Tenors out just to see the difference.   After a while, we tend to adapt to a certain horn and although it may have been right for us at a certain time, we can change and our playing can change over the years.  So, it may be a good idea to just sample what is out there.  George Coleman told me many years ago, that you owe it to yourself to find the best of what is out there to play on.

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