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SYOS

Saxophones Grassi Saxophones


Foreword

This guide was compiled mostly out of personal curiosity on these saxes and hopefully it will also serve to all those trying to identify the different models produced by this famous Italian manufacturer.

It is somewhat peculiar that although Grassi was one of the largest producers of wind instruments in Italy, very little is known about the company and its products.

There is much confusion around Grassi saxophones and it is easy to understand why:

• There are no known details about its production
• Grassi produced saxophones from the 60s to the 90s with similar model names, however with very different designs
• There seems to be no real chronology to the models
• Different models were produced around the same time which makes mapping models to serial numbers impossible
• Many years after the “Made in Italy” production ceased for good, Proel (an Italian importer of musical instruments and equipment) bought the rights to the I.M. Grassi logo and started producing saxes in the Far East with model names identical to the defunct Italian production.
An easy way to recognise these saxes is to check the logo printed on the bell: it is no hand engraved, but laser engraved and it now shows “Ida Maria Grassi – Italy” instead of the old “Ida Maria Grassi – Made in Italy” logo.

It was my intention to provide some details around the Grassi production (exact production years, rationale behind the models, etc.) and around its history, but so far found very little.

So what follows is simply a guide to recognising the different models produced in Italy. I should also add, that what follows is purely based on mechanical differences and will limit itself only to the Made in Italy production.
It would be very difficult (and maybe unfair) to give my opinion of the qualities of these instruments, as, like any other make, it depends so much on individual samples, their playing conditions, mouthpiece setup, the player, etc.
Like any other make, sound quality can vary whichever the model tested.

All the models contained in this guide have been either spotted on various internet sites, owned by SAXFORUM.IT and Café Saxophone users (a big Thank You!) and the very few owned by myself.
If I have missed any models (like the Concertino!), please get in touch and I’ll add to this document, prior photographic proof!

Please note: I have no financial gain in reporting the info and photos below, it would have been very difficult (if not impossible!) to quote every source. I have removed the last 2 sometimes 3 digits from all the serial numbers quoted to prevent this info being used by Internet scammers, however if you recognise a photo which belongs to your instrument and you feel strongly about it appearing here, please get in touch and I’ll remove it from this document.

Second hand value

I couldn’t give precise indication of the value of any instrument, it depends so much on the condition and playability of the instrument itself.
Prices vary greatly, this year (2011) I have seen them ranging from 150 euros for a “Standard” alto to 1500 euros for a “Prestige” Tenor. I suggest checking a well known online auction site and other online ads to get a rough idea of value.

Stencils

Grassi did produce saxes under other names, mostly for the US market. So far I have found the following to have very striking resemblance to the Grassi instruments: Mogar (unconfirmed), Martin Busine (unconfirmed), Majestic and “La Marque” (the La Marque saxes are Jade Rollers with the “La Marque” logon engraved just above the “I.M. Grassi” logo on the side of the bell).

Serial Numbers

Following is the only known source of serial numbers: this list will allow you to find out when your sax was produced.

The Grassi saxophone production starts in the 1960s with serial number 1000.

From 1000 to 27395 serials produced between 1960 and 1974

From 27395 to 30266 1974 / 1975
From 30267 to 34880 1976
From 34881 to 37478 1977
From 37479 to 39871 1978
From 39872 to 41835 1979
From 41836 to 43836 1980
From 43837 to 45619 1981
From 45620 to 47344 1982

Production and serial numbers become more approximate

From 47345 to 53420 1983 / 84/ 85/ 86
From 53421 to 60885 1987 /88 /89 /90
From 60886 to 65645 1990 /91 /92 /93 /94


At first I tried to keep some chronological order on the models, however I soon realised that production was very erratic: for example the “no name” models (which I will call “Standard” from now on. NB.: this is just a personal definition for the purposes of this document and one which cannot be found engraved on any Grassi sax!) start from the beginning of the saxophone production in the 60s, but they were also produced in parallel with other models until the end of the 70s.

The Models

Standard Mk I


The first model I found is in the 1600 serial numbers: note the old Grassi logo, quite different from the one we know:



This model has a different left hand little finger cluster keys:


Also you will notice that the body to bell brace is a simple ‘L’ shaped rod:



The rest of the keywork will remain unchanged until the 70s.
As far as I know, all Standard models had an engraved bell.



Sequentially, the next model I came across was in the 9000 range: you will now notice that the bell to brace “ring” has replaced the “L” shaped one, the left hand keys remain the same as the model above:




Around the 22000 serial, the bell keys on baritones move from left to the right
hand side of the bell.

Standard MK III and “Jade Rollers”

Up to this serial all models are Standard (or no name, just a serial number engraved) models. There are some minor aesthetic changes, such as the Jade coloured low C/Eb and low B/C#/Bb little finger key rollers (see photo below). Apparently even the pads on these models were in green coloured leather!



The G#/B/Bb/C# little finger cluster has taken a more contemporary shape:



Wonderful Model

The first non Standard model I came across has been the “Wonderful Model” (28900).
This is a very interesting model and it would seem Grassi’s attempt at creating a more sophisticated instrument.

This model sports many mechanical improvements not found in previous Standard models:
• Plastic adjustable thumb hook
• High F# key on request
• F / G# / Bb with adjustable screws
• Bell keys now “balanced” with no linkage between keys and keycups.



This improvement (first seen on the Selmer “Balanced Action” in the 1940s) makes the action of the low notes much lighter and precise.

Another new detail is that of the bell to brace “two point” ring: the ring is no longer directly soldered to the bell.

The photo below on the left shows the “Wonderful” “two point” ring brace, the photo to the right shows the brace on a Standard model:



A nice addition to all the above improvements were the rectangular mother of pearl key touches (as opposed to the more traditional round pearls) offered as an option: this option cost an extra £30,000 Italian Lira in the early 70s!



Above you can see a beautiful example with rectangular key touches, so far I have only come across two such “custom” models (one in England and one in Italy).

[Correction: after finding yet another of these custom keywork saxes on the web, I can only conclude that the rectangular key touches were offered also on the Standard model.]

So an altogether more refined instrument exuding a more “professional” feel, not only in the slickness of the keywork but also in the rich gold lacquer finish.
I believe the “Wonderful” was only produced in alto and tenor.

Stangely, after producing the “Wonderful”, I.M. Grassi will continue to make the Standard model (as well as the Concertino, Professional and Prestige) with none of the technical improvements of the “Wonderful” until the mid 80s.
We will never know why Grassi decided to end the “Wonderful Model” production, maybe it was due to manufacturing costs or maybe the model wasn’t well received.


Concertino, Professional and Prestige


Approximately to serial number 50000, we can find the following models being produced: Standard , “Concertino”, “Professional” and “Prestige” (these last three model names are actually engraved on the sax, below the serial number).

The “Concertino” model was the student model, with bell keys on the left hand side and probably no front F key (unfortunately I have yet to find photos of this model). The “Professional” and “Prestige” look to me to have the same keywork as the Standard models.
The majority of the models above are finished in clear gold lacquer and nickel plated keywork.

Grassi also made an “Export” model (the name Export does not appear engraved on the body) which was entirely silver plated.


“Export” model alto (34000) in silver plate:



Model 2000

After the models mentioned above, Grassi will produce the “Model 2000” (NOT to be confused with the “Professional 2000”!). This is somewhat a transitional model, with most of the characteriscs of the older models but with some updated aesthetic touches, such as the wider more comfortable little finger key touches (the low C/Eb keys are now elongated Selmer SA80 style and no longer round).


Leader , Professional 2000 and Prestige

Around the mid 80s, Ida Maria Grassi revamps the whole production and at last focuses production on three models: “Leader”, “Professional 2000” and “Prestige” (also known as “Prestige 80”)

This last production seems to be the most consistent and finally provides a definitive range of instruments: from student “Leader” to Intermediate “Professional 2000” to professional “Prestige”.

[My personal take on this is that the “Professional 2000” was aimed more at the Jazz/Pop market, whereas the “Prestige” was aimed at the Classical market, so rather than two instruments differing in quality, I would say they provided a choice of sound. Of course, the “Prestige” was the most expensive model.]

Details of features are as follows:

Leader (alto and tenor):
• Range to top F (F# optional),
• Clear lacquer and nickel plated keys.
• Fixed thumb hook

Professional 2000 (Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone):
• Range to top F (F# optional),
• Baritone range to low Bb or low A,
• Clear gold lacquer and nickel plated keys (gold lacquered keys instruments seem more popular for export models, ie outside Italy)
• Plastic, adjustable thumb hook

Prestige (Soprano, Alto and Tenor):
• Range to top F# as standard
Finishes available:
• Gold lacquered body and keys
• Gold lacquered body and silver plated keys
• Silver plated body and neck with gold lacquered keys.
• A German website mentions a gold PLATED 24K model, but I have no proof this finish was available.
• Plastic, adjustable thumb hook
• Low C#/B/Bb touch key linkage (see photo below) for faster fingering of low notes



All three models have “balanced” style bell keys and “Wonderful Model” body to bell “two point” ring brace (see “Wonderful Model” above for details).

These will be the last of the “Made in Italy” production. Production stopped not because of financial failure on I.M. Grassi’s part, but it is thought because of mounting pressure from the Far East on cheaper and comparable products. It is not by accident that of the other three remaining saxophone manufacturers, one stopped saxophone production to concentrate on clarinets and oboes (Orsi) and two stepped up a gear and decided to move away from mass produced products and instead focus on high end professional ranges (Borgani and Rampone & Cazzani).

In conclusion it is a shame that the first Italian (and at the time the best) maker of professional saxophones should no longer be around: their name will always remind me of my first forays into the saxophone world!

Some more serial numbers!

What follows is a list of Grassi I have come across while trawling the net. I initially thought of producing a list which would conclusively show when each model started and ended production, but what I ended up with was only a rough indication of model production around certain serial numbers… still I hope it will be useful for someone!


Alto Standard
1088

Tenor Standard
1690

Tenor Standard
9000

Baritone Standard (left hand bell keys, to low Bb)
22000

Baritone Standard (right hand bell keys, to low Bb)
22200

Jade Roller Tenor (Standard)
27600

Wonderful Model alto
28900
49700 (with F#)

Soprano Standard
29 500

Alto Standard (Silver plated, Export)
34300

Baritone Standard
33700

Jade Roller Alto (Standard)
26300
35800

Tenor Standard
39100


Professional alto
44900

Professional tenor
50400

Model 2000 baritone (to low A)
58324

Model 2000 soprano
60058

Leader alto
63000
65800

Leader Tenor
63376



Professional 2000 Tenor

50600
53900
59300

Professional 2000 Alto

53800
59200
61900
65600
68200
68300
69300

Professional 2000 Bari
62100

Prestige 80 alto
44300

Prestige 80 Tenor
51800
 
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Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
14,526
Fantastic, let us know what you think... I nearly went for that too!

The pads weren't quite as good as I thought, a couple were ripped/worn so the setup is going to be over £100. There was a bit of readjustment of octave mech and G#, possibly due to transit trauma. But I could tell it's an A1 stonker of a horn!

Possibly a bit of a luxury for me what with the Rampone and Conn tenors, plus now that I just bought a SBA alto. Not like me to have so much GAS!
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
943
I think that what lets the Grassi saxes down is that you will seldom find one well setup and adjusted, because they are not highly regarded (in Italy if it's not a Selmer it's worthless!), people are reluctant to spend any money on them. I picked up my "Wonderful" alto and it still has it's original pads (40 years on), once overhauled it will be very nice indeed. They are so rare: yours makes only the third Wonderful tenor I've ever seen for sale!
Enjoy and keep the Cafe updated on its progress!
Manlio
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
14,526
I think that what lets the Grassi saxes down is that you will seldom find one well setup and adjusted, because they are not highly regarded (in Italy if it's not a Selmer it's worthless!), people are reluctant to spend any money on them. I picked up my "Wonderful" alto and it still has it's original pads (40 years on), once overhauled it will be very nice indeed. They are so rare: yours makes only the third Wonderful tenor I've ever seen for sale!
Enjoy and keep the Cafe updated on its progress!
Manlio

Will do, it's in good hands at the moment, over with Stephen Howard who is going to do a review of it
 

Greg Strange

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,095
The pads weren't quite as good as I thought, a couple were ripped/worn so the setup is going to be over £100. There was a bit of readjustment of octave mech and G#, possibly due to transit trauma. But I could tell it's an A1 stonker of a horn!

Possibly a bit of a luxury for me what with the Rampone and Conn tenors, plus now that I just bought a SBA alto. Not like me to have so much GAS!

Looks like the old Beuscher T & C 400 alto is getting the heave ho as well Pete?

Greg S
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
14,526
No, I will probably still be using the Buescher. Though I use a Bauhaus neck with it for better intonation and sound.
 

Pete Thomas

Well-Known Member
Commercial Supporter
Messages
14,526
How much does a typical "Wonderful" cost?
I was talking to Stephen Howard, he was thinking they would be about £500 - £750 in good nick, but based on how good they are the price should be at the top end of that plus.

IMO they are the sort of horn like SML used to be, people would turn their noses up at them until they actually tried one. The build quailty is, er "Italian" if you know what I mean.

Mind you, it seems most of the other Grassi models are not so good, but @MMM and @milandro would know more.
 

ProfJames

Elementary member
Messages
12,086
At the moment MMM I have my eyes on a couple of other horns. However I love Italian design and style. Maybe one day but that will be after Mr Howard's review. Keep us informed Pete, it sounds like a great project
 

Ads

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Messages
4,316
Steve's got a few reviews pending (the YAS62 MkIII and TJ RAW XS Alto) which have been pending for months so I`d not worry about timescale, the Grassi review maybe up by Christmas :rolleyes: .. I love to read his reviews too but if he`s got horns to fettle then all the better for him (and the Horns !!) . I need to get the Silver-Lady 62 over there at some stage for a service, it`s getting on for a year old (4 Months with Davey, 6 months with me)
 

Greg Strange

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,095
Steve's got a few reviews pending (the YAS62 MkIII and TJ RAW XS Alto) which have been pending for months so I`d not worry about timescale, the Grassi review maybe up by Christmas :rolleyes: .. I love to read his reviews too but if he`s got horns to fettle then all the better for him (and the Horns !!) . I need to get the Silver-Lady 62 over there at some stage for a service, it`s getting on for a year old (4 Months with Davey, 6 months with me)

I've noticed Steve hasn't updated his web-site for over a year - I thought he may be working on a secret project like the Haynes Flute Manual perhaps...
:headscratch:

Greg S.
 

Greg Strange

Well-Known Member
Messages
2,095
No, I will probably still be using the Buescher. Though I use a Bauhaus neck with it for better intonation and sound.

Interesting combination - a modern Asian sax neck on a vintage American horn, - it's good to know you're not ditching the Buescher, the Top Hat and Cane alto always sounded great on your albums.

Greg S.
 

Ads

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,316
I've noticed Steve hasn't updated his web-site for over a year - I thought he may be working on a secret project like the Haynes Flute Manual perhaps...
.

Been Fixing Horns probably - no doubt Jericho ones from SMS take up a lot of time ... He was after doing the review on the YAS62 Mk3 5 months ago and the RAW XS Alto about the same time , neither have appeared yet so don`t holdya breath on a Grassi review appearing in the near future (It`s less important a review than a horn you can actually walk, into a shop and Buy like a Yam-Mk3 or a TJ RAW XS) ........ he`s got his priorities right IMO, keeping horns on the road is far more important .
 

Ads

Well-Known Member
Messages
4,316
Interesting combination - a modern Asian sax neck on a vintage American horn, - it's good to know you're not ditching the Buescher, the Top Hat and Cane alto always sounded great on your albums.

Greg S.

I think Pete may start a new craze here, Pepping up old Yanks with Chinese necks , Wonder if one will fit the 14M ........ Hmmmmm
 

MontyMac

Member
Messages
114
If you have the urge, I would get one before Stephen Howard's review comes out !!!
I do hope he doesn't go on too much about them. I still need a Jade Sop and Tenor before everyone gets wind of how good they actually are. {{sigh}}
 

rhysonsax

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Subscriber
Messages
4,594
I do hope he doesn't go on too much about them. I still need a Jade Sop and Tenor before everyone gets wind of how good they actually are. {{sigh}}

I hope he does, and then I can sell my Grassi alto and put the money into a retirement fund.

Rhys
 
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