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Saxophones Grassi Saxophones

grassi-logo.jpg

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:

grassi-2.jpg


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

grassi-3.jpg

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

grassi-4.jpg


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

grassi-5.jpg


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!

grassi-6.jpg


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

grassi-7b.jpg


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.

grassi-8.jpg


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:

grassi-9.jpg


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!

grassi-10.jpg


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:

grassi-11.jpg


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

grassi-12.jpg


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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jthole

jthole

Member
Messages
262
I've joined the Grassi tenor club :) with a Grassi Professional 2000. Not a looker, because the lacquer is in pretty bad condition, but an excellent player. Definitely a French sound, very different from my American tenors. Or actually tenor, because the only one I have left is a Martin "The Martin".

The instrument was setup by a well-known tech here in the Netherlands. The only thing that needs to be fixed is the thumb rest; the way it is shaped now, it digs into the top of my knuckle. But it feels like a very versatile horn, with excellent intonation, and great response from bottom to top. And for those who claim that Grassis have a small sound; this is not one of them! ;)
 
MMM

MMM

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Congratulations: I've not had the opportunity to try one of these yet.

The thumb hook is easy enough to fix, either have it moved or replace it with an adjustable one. Since the sax is not pristine, you don't have to worry about hurting the lacquer.
Happy honking!
 
jthole

jthole

Member
Messages
262
Congratulations: I've not had the opportunity to try one of these yet.

The thumb hook is easy enough to fix, either have it moved or replace it with an adjustable one. Since the sax is not pristine, you don't have to worry about hurting the lacquer.
Happy honking!

The thumb hook is fixed already. And it's a real player! Completely different from the American (Martin, Buescher) and Taiwanese tenors I played so far.

I think that with the Martin Committee III and the Grassi Professional 2000, I have a great combination. The Martin is an American cruiser while the Grassi is an Italian sports car ;)
 
D

Dannysax85

New Member
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Hi there,
Thanks for all your Grassi info, it's great and really useful. One of my new sax students came to his first lesson with a Grassi tenor so I thought I would do some reading and came across your thread.

I have been trying to ascertain the saxes worth so he can insure it. Being a woodwind repairer I was really interested when he got it out of the case as Grassi aren't something I come across very often and when he told me he purchased it from a local second hand shop I needed to find out more.

After reading your site it looks like a Tenor Standard very early as the serial number is only 1223. From your threat I can only see one sax, an alto, with a lower number.

Do these saxes have much of a following? And how much should he be insuring it for?

Any info greatly welcomed, thanks in advance!

Daniel, Hull, England
 
ProfJames

ProfJames

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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
Cannot disagree with those comments
 
D

Dannysax85

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Cannot disagree with those comments
Hi there,

I'm guessing the one I have here isn't part of the wonderful range? From the info above I'm guessing it's a standard original Tenor? L shaped Bell brace and original Ida Grassi engraving. As the serial is 1223 I think this would be too early for the Wonderful?

Many thanks

Daniel
 
DavidUK

DavidUK

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Having had a 2000 Pro tenor, I'd say insure for £500 for a standard one.
 
MMM

MMM

Senior Member
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Hi there,

I'm guessing the one I have here isn't part of the wonderful range? From the info above I'm guessing it's a standard original Tenor? L shaped Bell brace and original Ida Grassi engraving. As the serial is 1223 I think this would be too early for the Wonderful?

Many thanks

Daniel
Hi Daniel, it should be insured for an amount equal or more than a new (equivalent level) replacement. See what a student Yamaha sells for and set it at that. This way if it a total loss, your student will be able to afford a new instrument.
Hope this helps, M.
 
S

sizzzzler

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London
The Grassi tenor and Martin alto was my first combination back in my gigging days. I got some great reviews. We all know about Martins.
The Grassi was a very flexible blues, soul and rock instrument that loved playing in to a mic, with a far wider sound than the over schooled perfection of whiny gutless Yamahas and pretty boredom Yanis.
Entranced by the reputation, I swapped over to a Selmer tenor which has a lovely rounded sound particularly when practicing, and could scream and wail. But gigging, when the adrenalin kicks in, the dance floor is jumping, the audience are crowded round the stage, the selmer couldn’t do the grit, the drama of the Grassi.
The Grassi is not a jazz, big or wedding band instrument. Its not for the musicals pit. It’s a dancehall live performer, a rasping crying screaming lusting drama king diva.
 
apinter

apinter

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Milan, Italy
I play a standard Grassi tenor and am very happy of it :)
 
ProfJames

ProfJames

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I tried one some time back and was pleasantly surprised at the noise it allowed me to make! Not sure why I never bought it to be honest......
 
apinter

apinter

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Milan, Italy
Up of my Grassi of 1980 (my student saxophone of those days, pre all the named Grassi like “Professional”, but very similar in mechanic) are: very nice voice, imho.

Mechanic is not as firm and solid as some other pro saxes I tried but also not bad at all. Ergomically it fits me very well (opposite of a chinese Gear 4music I reviewed here) and also the pad of bell notes, altough not articulated as in more modern saxes works well to me (maybe at the next check I could try to let it make a bit lighter).

Down to me is that nowadays in Italy Grassi of this age are not cheap at all. Maybe even too much.

But I have it already, and am very happy with it.

Back in 1980 I paid eur 250 for it, with a substantial discount. Way more than basic chinese from Thomanm, Gear 4music or similar costs today. At that time it was not regarded as a very good sax, everybody wanted to play Selmer as soon they could afford it.

Today Grassi of that age (or even better of some years younger but still italian) gained a much better reputation, and with some reasons, to me.
 
moxie

moxie

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McHenry County, Illinois, USA
Hello, after reading on your site from time to time, I registered so I could say thanks for the Grassi information, and ask a question. I own a baritone saxophone that has every "tell" of a Grassi horn that I have read about on any and every site, the laurel joining bands, the ring body to bell brace, the last three digits of the serial number (124xx) on the underside of the F rh palm key, just to name few, it matches the "export" pic in the 1975 catalog, just a "standard"....but the logo is a bit unusual...it's like the guy who inscribes the upper and lower arcs of wreaths was sick that day. "Grassi" in the usual spot, "Ida Maria" in the top arc, "Made In Italy" in the bottom arc. I have seen this on a very few altos and I think a tenor in Ebay pics----any ideas? It bugs me!

Also, the article says bari bell keys move from left to right side around 22,000, mine has RH bell keys at mid- twelves.
 
MMM

MMM

Senior Member
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Hello, after reading on your site from time to time, I registered so I could say thanks for the Grassi information, and ask a question. I own a baritone saxophone that has every "tell" of a Grassi horn that I have read about on any and every site, the laurel joining bands, the ring body to bell brace, the last three digits of the serial number (124xx) on the underside of the F rh palm key, just to name few, it matches the "export" pic in the 1975 catalog, just a "standard"....but the logo is a bit unusual...it's like the guy who inscribes the upper and lower arcs of wreaths was sick that day. "Grassi" in the usual spot, "Ida Maria" in the top arc, "Made In Italy" in the bottom arc. I have seen this on a very few altos and I think a tenor in Ebay pics----any ideas? It bugs me!

Also, the article says bari bell keys move from left to right side around 22,000, mine has RH bell keys at mid- twelves.
Hi Moxie, welcome to the Cafe'!
Thank you for your note of appreciation, I certainly had fun putting all the info together.
I have seen several variations of Grassi saxes so I guess the best thing to do is post some photos of your instrument in your gallery and point us to it, that way we can see what you mean and give you our version!

Regards,
Manlio
 
JayeNM

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
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Well if it has other aspects of a Grassi, it is probably a Grassi. But indeed, post photos of the logo, both sides of the sax, and perhaps the pinky table.
 
moxie

moxie

New Member
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McHenry County, Illinois, USA
Sorry, I knew youse guys would ask for a photo. I couldn't figure out how to include one, as the one I have is on my flip-phone, but I just found out how to take a photo with this laptop, then I can probably figure it out. I'm not computer-stupid, but I'm not the best for sure, let's see----.Well it turns out the camera must be to see me when skyping, etc., making the taking of a precise photo, holding it still, risking damage to the laptop AND the sax, very hard. ---OK, got the logo in question, and, because I can only show two pics, one taken with a different camera (very clear, can be expanded and still look very clear). You can see the logo on the horn on the right.

Why no wreaths top or bottom (seems early ones sometimes had bottom only), and as I said before, I have seen but a few like this on Ebay, anyone else have this logo? Could it have been used only for a short time? Did the wreath guy call in sick?? Will post LH table with another post if needed, but like JayeNM said, I'm pretty darn sure its a Grassi, this logo just won't let me be. And, yes, it IS hard to be me. Probably should let it go and go practice!!
WIN 20200303 20 13 43 Pro
Twins little closer
 
lissa

lissa

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That's really informative article @MMM
 
DavidUK

DavidUK

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I've done some research...

I assume you refer to the Export model here: http://www.saxforum.it/dati/case/grassi/catalogograssi.pdf
- keep scrolling down, 5th page from the end.

I found it from SOTW thread, post #15, here: Ida Maria Grassi Brochure... dated 1975!!

Here's yours and the one in the catalogue:



Right hand pinky keys a little different in shape? Otherwise looks the same.

I also found photos of the same bell engraving: My Martin Busine bari --IS-- a Grassi

You have to read post #4 to understand the photos in the opening post. Might your sax, otherwise there's at least one more like yours. Right hand pinkies on this may be different to yours too. Yours look semi circular whereas this and the catalogue look elongated.

But... the real clincher to prove yours is a Grassi can be found elsewhere in the Grassi Catalogue.
Have a look at the alto photo two pages down from the Export Bari. The logo is not the same as the others in the catalogue...



No laurel wreath, and it looks like your one to me...?

Hope that helps.
 
DavidUK

DavidUK

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NB. The logo appears to have "MILAN" under, not MADE IN ITALY.

Your engraving is likely "transitional" between MILAN and the laurel wreathed MADE IN ITALY.
 
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JayeNM

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
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New Mexico, US
Interesting...good sleuthing, David.

The pinky table on yours would be interesting to see, @moxie, only because from your other pic it looks a bit different from what I would have expected to be a
Jade" type table.

It is an odd engraving, I had never seen that style before. But indeed as David pointed to, they did apparently use it.
 

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