All profit supporting special needs music education and Help Musicians
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
 
Last edited by a moderator:

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
943
Never spotted that on the catalogue! It's definitely a Grassi (almost identical to my bari, without the low A).

Who knows why the different logo, maybe they were trying out a new logo or maybe the engraver tried his own thing and got the sack... we'll never know.

Just out of curiosity: what's the other bari in the photo? Looks identical apart from the bell-body ring (it looks Orsi to me!).
 

DavidUK

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,073
...the other Bari's r/h pinky keys look more like Grassi than the Grassi's.

Bell brace does look Orsi but not quite right. Also the key guards don't have the usual shape for Orsi (this a stencil):

 

moxie

New Member
Messages
10
Well, I'll be dipped, you've done it, DavidUK!!! I'm freed!! I've done so much research, I often think that if I had spent half that time practicing I'd be an impresario. I was, of course, aware of that catalog, but never studying altos, I missed that logo. And, seeing it in the holy Grassi catalog (as Grassi-holy as MMM's article), lets me rest about this stupid LOGO! As always, though, with Grassi, questions (but per MMM:--we may never know)--I've always read that the earliest Grassi saxophone production may have been in Milano, or at least the corporate offices, but my mid 12k serial is not really that early (and, mine DOES have "Made In Italy"), but the rest of that logo is exactly what I have.

Also, articles have been written about "internet knowledge", and when you have little to go on in the first place, circular paths can happen. DavidUk mentions the "Martin Busine" article on SOTW, which oddly enough, is mine! As a matter of fact, the horn on the left in my photo IS "Marty", my beloved horn I bought to come full circle back to bari after 48 years "off". Even though I loved it, it
WIN_20200304_09_46_09_Pro.jpg
had had had some intonation woes that I have since learned it was my job to overcome , and I was pouting that some doubted his "Grassiness". When I saw "Ida" (the logo horn) for sale, I convinced myself that a backup horn was justifiable to this old Grandpa hobbyist, but if I really was forced to admit it, I wanted IN to the Grassi club. When she arrived, looking almost as stunning as "Marty" I was stunned by the odd logo, but, at least, having the two side by side, anyone with eyes could see they were identical, made by the same hands, and sounded identical, except for "Ida" being a little less flat in the middle A (playing it with the G# key depressed makes it perfect) (I use Ida in a concert band--do you say "wind orchestra" in Europe?!) and intonation on long held notes played with the bass clarinets make being very close important.

To MMM--Yes, the BTB brace IS different, but I wonder if either the stencil customer or Grassi may have wanted the differentiation, All Martin Busines have that brace, although not all are Grassi, especially the tenors. That brace, btw, is similar to that of Orsi, at least from what I've seen, but different. Theirs are shaped like a human eye opening, where the MB tapers on the bell side but is round on the body side. I sometimes wonder if we put too much stock in BTB braces, seems likes they could be very easily swapped.

To JayeNM, "previously JayePDX"---I've always been confused about you and "JayeLID" on SOTW, now I'm wondering if you had yet another username and are one and the same. Being a big Grassi fan and a big Beaugnier/Leblanc/Vito fan (my OTHER bari), you have responded kindly to several of my posts, especially my oddly constructed (trouble adding pics, again) "My Martin Busine--IS--A Grassi" post there awhile back. And, are you still lost in the desert? I'm also lost midway between Chicago and Milwaukee. And here is your LH pinky table pic:

Lastly, to all Grassi bari fans, they seem to be, to me, almost dead-bang copies of Conn 12m. Has anyone seen or played them side by side?? And, if you ever have seen or have considered a Yanigasawa (or probably also Vandoren) 'piece modified by Eric Greiffenhagen (sp?) to what he calls a "double chamber", DO IT. Best thing I ever did for Ida's intonation.

Well, I'm going to go back to the "DoorBell" and introduce myself the way I am supposed to, I like it here, I came here because it seems like there was more of a world-wide following (more Grassi knowledge??, more Beaugnier??), but I do "see" some of the same faces.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,987
...the other Bari's r/h pinky keys look more like Grassi than the Grassi's.

Bell brace does look Orsi but not quite right. Also the key guards don't have the usual shape for Orsi (this a stencil):
The keyguard and brace do look like straight-up Orsi details to me.

I suppose if I asked @moxie to post a pic of that horn's pinky table, he might roll his eyes ;)

To JayeNM, "previously JayePDX"---I've always been confused about you and "JayeLID" on SOTW, now I'm wondering if you had yet another username and are one and the same. Being a big Grassi fan and a big Beaugnier/Leblanc/Vito fan (my OTHER bari), you have responded kindly to several of my posts, especially my oddly constructed (trouble adding pics, again) "My Martin Busine--IS--A Grassi" post there awhile back. And, are you still lost in the desert? I'm also lost midway between Chicago and Milwaukee. And here is your LH pinky table pic:
Both are me.
Thanks for the pic. yes that is the ubiquitous sort of "Malerne"-type pinky table which appears on a number of Italian and French stencils as well as early Grassis. If you note, the table on the catalogue horns David provided do NOT have your pinky table. I would posit that Grassi initially made their necks and bodies and subcontracted out the keywork (some or all) on their earlier horns. This seems to hold for all I have seen.
I think the Jade-type table which later appeared is all Grassi, as it doesn't quite match any other table I have seen on any non-Grassi horns, so I am assuming it wasn't a 'prefab' part purchased from a keywork source, as the earlier (your) table likely is.
 
Last edited:

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,987
Lastly, to all Grassi bari fans, they seem to be, to me, almost dead-bang copies of Conn 12m. Has anyone seen or played them side by side?? And, if you ever have seen or have considered a Yanigasawa (or probably also Vandoren) 'piece modified by Eric Greiffenhagen (sp?) to what he calls a "double chamber", DO IT. Best thing I ever did for Ida's intonation.
I have never worked on a Grassi baritone, myself....I don't think o_O. But I would doubt the company copied the 12M.

(ducking head) if you want to post a photo of the back-side of the lower stack, this would confirm this...because 12M's had a reverse-bench mechanism on the lower stack (meaning as the keys were pressed down, rather than engaging the F# bench upward (to force the F# downward), the bench was actually engaged in a downward motion with the bech 'bar' located on the same side as the keycups of the stack)....which I would doubt anyone would have 'copied' by the 70's. It was an archaic mechanism design, really....dunno why Conn never revised it. So basically, a pic of the stack from the thumbhook side.
 

moxie

New Member
Messages
10
Well, getting better at pics, and after losing Marty's pics just as I went to present my case about Marty's Grassiness (later added them) I have them firmly in hand now. However, I felt compelled to sell Marty when the horn I really wanted even before I even heard of Grassi, a Beaugnier-made Vito 38B Duke, presented itself. Keep in mind that the Martin Busine had a 27,800 ish serial, complete with the "made in Italy" with the much talked about "backwards y" stamped right below. And---neither had a letter prefix which I understand is very much an Orsi thing, and both fit very well into Grassi's numbers, although often stencils don't relate, but that 27.8k of Marty's seems to.. The only difference between the two not discussed is the inclusion of keyguards for the top loop keys in the later M/B, and, of course the very cool Pegasus flying horse bursting out of the clouds on the bell and an M/B logo on the B-Bb keyguard, . Please, now that I have become firm in my belief of Ida being a Grassi--please don't bring up Orsi--Both have every Grassi "tell" in the book,

The Martin Busine LH table:
MB Bari 22.jpg
MB Bari 26.jpg
As you can see, my insane anality (is that a word?) requires that ANY instrument in my collection be as pristine as can be. If you are a Beaugnier fan, my Vito Duke will make you pee in your pants. If only it had Ida's low B and Bb! But at least with its modern (Ha-ha--what, 1936) LH pinky table you can actually depress the C# key.,

Oh! Another hint to low Bb Grassi bari owners!!! Forget about heavy, scratchy-uppy PVC or whatever with foam surrounds as a low A extension tube.. If you live in the US in a state with a "Trader Joe's" grocery---Buy a fifth of "Lismore" Scotch in the tan tube. After popping off the end caps, it slams right in, tight, quick, no twist, no damage, and gives you one of the most in-tune notes on the horn. If you like Scotch, and don't let your guest see the name, and you don't care about it saying how many years its aged, at $19 a fifth its one of the best bargains in my retired life! If it gets lost of damaged--drink more Scotch. If no Trader Joe's let me know I have MANY spares. Always verbose, Thanks, Jay
 

moxie

New Member
Messages
10
JayeNM, you seem to be a few minutes ahead of me! The M/B pics I have were the original professionally taken pics from PM Woodwind (mentioned in an article: "14 sax shops you must visit before you die"), so they are very crisp and can be enlarged quite a bit and still be good, and, although Ida is laying here, trying to get that angle would be daunting, I checked, she is the same as this M/B pic--
MB Bari 25.jpg
MB Bari 21.jpg
I guess I got that idea as I once read about someone on a Grassi factory tour where a Conn bari bell laying on a bench was quickly whisked away (what? saxmakers copy?). Also when Conn and King were in the UMI era, they offered imported Grassis as an upper (??) level (albeit through the King channel) , so I thought there must have been some kind of connection. Also, the M/B came to me (have no idea if original or not) with a mouthpiece marked UMI that looked identical to pictures of a Conn Precision mp. Anyway, the upper stack keywork, keytouches and levers, anyway (players don't look at back bars), look VERY similar, as well as those goofy cast-looking LH palm keys, excepting an articulating High F palm rather than one piece, and the more modern looking low F# trill key. Of course, its the tube that matters most, and I have read in several places that the necks are interchangeable. The tube is visually noticeably less in diameter than my Beaugnier, until the bow, where that reverses dramatically, you don't even need a ruler to see that B and Bb keys are much larger on the Grassi and much further apart. Perhaps a Conn-sound influence?? Going to band tonight where one piece has my two favorite things in life itself--a long,low Bb with fff underneath, even the tubas are intimidated as the director rolls her eyes!!!

Let me know if these pics help with this, have others. No more today as I must practice and walk the dog before going to the local junior college for band. (I use "Vito" in a jazz ensemble, recently with a PPT Signature mp!)
 

moxie

New Member
Messages
10
I have never worked on a Grassi baritone, myself....I don't think o_O. But I would doubt the company copied the 12M.

(ducking head) if you want to post a photo of the back-side of the lower stack, this would confirm this...because 12M's had a reverse-bench mechanism on the lower stack (meaning as the keys were pressed down, rather than engaging the F# bench upward (to force the F# downward), the bench was actually engaged in a downward motion with the bech 'bar' located on the same side as the keycups of the stack)....which I would doubt anyone would have 'copied' by the 70's. It was an archaic mechanism design, really....dunno why Conn never revised it. So basically, a pic of the stack from the thumbhook side.
Well, I learned to use the quote function properly, so now perhaps JayeNM will get a note that I did post pictures as he requested to determine the similarity of the Grassi keywork to that of Conn--so does the picture in the post above help you see the back bars you talked about?

Also, a Grassi (actually he had it listed as a Grossi) bari appeared on Ebay, and it has the odd logo I have been learning about! (Thanks, all who helped). I PMed the seller and advised him of that, asking him to send me the first three digits of the serial so I can see if its close to mine.
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,987
I can see what you mean, as in some ways it appears Conn-esque, but in others not. The F# back bar or 'bench' as it is sometimes referred to, on your horn is conventional....meaning the F and E key feet 'kick up' when those keys are depressed and engage/lift up the F#bar/bench, pushing it upward as well.

The 12M maintained a very old school design on the stack whereby the F# had a bar/bench on the opposite side of the pivot rod...thus the F and E key engaged the 12M F# bench by 'pushing down' upon it (as opposed to lifting it up). IMHO it is actually a good thing nobody copied that into the later eras, it is a sluggish mechanism and although it was common on pre-war bighorns, it seems to have vanished on most horns after the 50's....

Also the 12M maintained the Eb fork key (bottom-most body tube keycup on a 12M) which no other baritones kept after around the 1940's. Your Italian doesn't have that mechanism.

So, some similarities here and there, but I would not call it a 'copy' myself.
 

moxie

New Member
Messages
10
Thanks to all who helped answer my silly worries over a logo. And to JayeNM for the keywork answers. I enjoy my horn immensely, especially after finding a mouthpiece that sounds great and is not hanging off the end of the cork.

BUT, I did mess up, and will try to edit what I said about the cardboard Scotch tube, as a Low A extension for the Grassi, it is my Beaugnier/Vito Duke 38B that it works so well with. As I said the Grassi's bell is much larger in diameter so I made the tube with foam surrounds and some cutting at an angle to make it fit, it still doesn't work as perfectly as it does on the Vito.

Thanks again
 

JayeNM

Formerly JayePDX
Messages
1,987
BUT, I did mess up, and will try to edit what I said about the cardboard Scotch tube, as a Low A extension for the Grassi, it is my Beaugnier/Vito Duke 38B that it works so well with. As I said the Grassi's bell is much larger in diameter so I made the tube with foam surrounds and some cutting at an angle to make it fit, it still doesn't work as perfectly as it does on the Vito.
Some folks use the large-size plastic mayonnaise jars, too.....
 

DavidUK

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,073
I've not noticed these new modern ones before, only the older modern post-Ida ones. Wonder what's gone on, and if they've improved?
 

MMM

Senior Member
Messages
943
It looks like they have refreshed the whole range, moving away from the older 200, 360 (Prestige) and 460 (Jazzy Line) models.
I have not heard much about these on the Italian forum, so cannot really comment.

The "old" Jazzy Line (made in Taiwan) were very well received, particularly the early ones with ceramic resonators.
 
Top Bottom