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Saxophones malerne-ing curve

peterpick

Member
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505
I have recently bought 3 malernes. One malerne is a rarity and 3 is clearly excessive, but then I suffer a terrible curiosity when it comes to obscure French saxophones, or saxophones in general I suppose, and it seems to me that the best way of finding out about them is to play them. All these malernes are different, 2 are altoes and one is a tenor, and they are also called different things.

The first is called an ‘acme artist’ (just like a loonytunes cartoon saxophone) and doesn’t say ‘malerne’ on it anywhere. It is an alto and plays with a sweet, vintage tone. Judging by the serial number (4089) and the general design, especially including the bell-body brace this is the oldest of the three, and it certainly sounds like it. It’s well built with simple, strong square profile wire keyguards. The engraving is very sparse, amounting only to the name ‘acme artist’ on the bell. It’s finished in a honey-gold lacquer which has worn well, it’s slightly mottled but intact. The bell brace is a square profile wire bar which curves upwards to the bell. The posts are individually mounted. The bell keys are on the left. It has the 2 typical distinguishing features of malernes, the shape of the left-hand little-finger table and the extended ‘low c’ (sounding E flat on the alto) key. If it reminds me of anything it is a conn, not that it has a conn’s centred tone, but it has the compact, purposeful look of one. Its own tone is very sweet and soft. I think it dates from the 1940’s, but reliable information seems hard to find.

The second is marked malerne ‘artist’ and is also an alto. This also has a curved square-profile wire bell brace and although the keywork is in nickel it is largely similar, apart from the fact that the bell keys have moved to the right hand side. This one plays beautifully, especially with a selmer soloist style mouthpiece (I don’t usually use one of these but it suits this sax really well). It has slightly more engraving on the bell where it has some foliage with the text “r malerne paris ‘artist’” below a sort of crown. The lacquer has not fared so well on this example, but that might be due to storage issues. The serial number of this model is 10309 and I would estimate it to be from the 1950’s. the little finger table for the left hand and the extended right hand ‘c’ key are identical to the previous model. Neither of these altoes has a brace below the curve of the neck. The keyguards are flat metal, not wire, and have pearl buttons as decoration. The bell keys are covered by one guard which has a tulip or campanula cut out of it for further decoration. This is a really good sax! It plays beautifully with an even tone, more focussed than a selmer mk VI or a beaugnier but not hard like a keilwerth, conn or buescher.

The third one is the tenor, named simply as ‘artist’. It’s different in many ways and seems to me to resemble saxes of Italian design and manufacture such as rampone and cazzani. I am far from an expert in Italian saxes however, and there seems to be a good deal of confusion about whether malerne had these saxes made in Italy or used Italian parts or whether Italians copied features of malerne’s design. The bell-brace is a flat metal piece with 2 segments cut out of it and resembles something Italian in my hazy recollection. The octave key on the neck is flat metal rather than wire. The keyguards are also flat metal and have pearl buttons like the ‘artist’ alto, but they are more crudely made, the ‘tulip’ shaped cut out now resembling a bell. The lacquer is far paler in colour than that of the 2 altoes and the keywork is nickel plated. Both little-finger arrangements are similar to the altoes, but some of the keywork differs, in particular the linkage from the left hand little-finger table to the bell keys which run closer together. The engraving is thin and weak. Instead of a large post with a pearl button the octave key thumbrest is black plastic and the lower thumbrest once had a plastic covering which has fallen off. Despite all this slightly negative reporting the sax is a beast, the tone much brighter and harder than the altoes, a big brash noise it makes indeed and I think this is a more modern sax altogether in tone and approach, I would date it to the 60’s or 70’s. the serial number is 15575. In reference to the serial numbers I should state that the altoes have the number stamped laterally along the body of the sax just below the thumbhook, whereas the tenor has the number stamped horizontally in the same place and also on the back of the g# key. The last 3 numbers are stamped on the tenon of the neck too. It’s possible that this means parts were sourced more widely for this model of malerne, but it could mean nothing. My example has 2 bare dots on the left hand side of the main tube indicating to me that it has lost a keilwerth type guard at some time in its history.


All 3 of these saxes are ‘professional’ quality, whatever that means to you. To me it means that they are carefully made out of good materials and their intonation is good. I could not say that there is a particular malerne sound – each of these saxes sounds significantly different from the others.
 

Tomasz

Member
Messages
543
I have recently bought 3 malernes. One malerne is a rarity and 3 is clearly excessive, but then I suffer a terrible curiosity when it comes to obscure French saxophones, or saxophones in general I suppose, and it seems to me that the best way of finding out about them is to play them. All these malernes are different, 2 are altoes and one is a tenor, and they are also called different things.

The first is called an ‘acme artist’ (just like a loonytunes cartoon saxophone) and doesn’t say ‘malerne’ on it anywhere. It is an alto and plays with a sweet, vintage tone. Judging by the serial number (4089) and

[Snip...]

I owned a Malerne stencil within the past 5 years called the "Evette Schaeffer", and like most Malernes it had the classic, square shaped wire bell-brace etc. It was identical to this one, although the lacquer wasn't so nice:-

Evette-Schaeffer Alto Sax

Here's someone playing that same model:-

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxxA8H7Tp7M


It was certainly better than average, but nothing truly special. It played well enough - but didn't come to life and "sing" like a Conn 'New Wonder' Series II or 6M does. The odd thing is Malerne stencils tend to be fairly common in the USA (and quite inexpensive) but somewhat thin on the ground over in Europe.The bell flare on Malernes is usually very distinctive, as much of a "signature" feature as a Keilwerth's.

Of course, I freely admit to having very limited experience with Malernes - so I don't want to damn them with faint praise. The one alto I owned might have been an exception to the rule that Malernes are excellent. For all I know others might well be superb. Let's face it, a sample of one isn't much to base an opinion on. After all, "one swallow does not a summer make." So, I'm definitely not rubbishing the original poster's view. But then that's the thing about saxophones. It's a bit like educating yourself regarding fine wines: buy what you like, enjoy it, and ignore what the critics say.
 
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peterpick

Member
Messages
505
that's definitely the same sax, or at least it looks like it from the keyguards. i have had 2 6m conns, or one 6m and a transitional. i much prefer the (middle) malerne. i've heard people play beautifully on conns, but they don't suit me.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,927
I think the group businessmen that owned the SML brand took over the Marlene plant 1975. Maybe Marlene saxes were built after that as well?
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
505
hi thom, yes i heard that too. apparently SML liked the tools and the management, which was malerne's niece. the management, that is..... nevertheless they still went bust soon afterwards. i like SML's best of all my saxophones, that's what i play under normal circumstances.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,927
A sax tech a worked with was trained at SML , 144-146 Boulevard de la Villette, Paris. He was there for four years in the late 60's and early 70's. He was making new saxes "on the line", doing guarantee repairs and factory overhauls. Robert Malerne bought the Swedish Eric Pettersson "EP" clarinette (brand, importer and manufactor) company in 1974. One year later "SML" took over Malerne. I have a Dörler & Jörka stencil tenor that Eric Pettersson imported. That horn is very close to a Malerna made sax.

diamond id.jpg
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
505
that's very interesting thom, thanks. i had a dorfler and jorka tenor which was a keilwerth body with their own keywork. it sounded great but i found the keys hard to get to grips with. i use a king marigaux SML stencil these days for tenor, but i do have this malerne which looks italian....
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
505
santoni, that's another thought. most people have mentioned rampone and cazzani. i'm not familiar with santoni, but then i am far from an expert on italian-made saxes. perhaps if i live long enough....
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,927
that's very interesting thom, thanks. i had a dorfler and jorka tenor which was a keilwerth body with their own keywork. it sounded great but i found the keys hard to get to grips with. i use a king marigaux SML stencil these days for tenor, but i do have this malerne which looks italian....

My Dörfler & Jörka (c -62-63) is a sax with Keilwerth made body (they made thier tubes as well). The keys and necks (?) were made by Dörfler und Jörka. After leveling some toneholes (rolled) it's playing ok. I bought for around £140.00. These Keilwerth are not with the wide bows. They came later in the 60's. I have also seen Malernes that looked like an Italian made sax. I think the saxophone manufactoring world in the 70's was mixed-up and not easy to undertand. But that's my personal opinion.
 

thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,927
i agree with you there, thom. everybody was trying not to go out of business, i suppose. i blame the beatles!

... and Yamaha knocked out lots of smaller manufactors. They just couldn't compete. Yamaha sat a new standard. I worked in a music store in the late 70's. The beginner/student sax line up use to be: YAS 21, Conn or Armstrong, Louis Robert or Powertone (Amati Denak) and Weltklang and blue label "B&S" (B&S). The YAS 21 was #1. But the best selling sax was a B&S. Half the price compared to a YAS 21. And a good player as well. American student saxes were not selling at all. Higher price compared to YAS 21 and old constructions as well.
 

Tomasz

Member
Messages
543
... and Yamaha knocked out lots of smaller manufactors. They just couldn't compete. Yamaha sat a new standard. I worked in a music store in the late 70's. The beginner/student sax line up use to be: YAS 21, Conn or Armstrong, Louis Robert or Powertone (Amati Denak) and Weltklang and blue label "B&S" (B&S). The YAS 21 was #1. But the best selling sax was a B&S. Half the price compared to a YAS 21. And a good player as well. American student saxes were not selling at all. Higher price compared to YAS 21 and old constructions as well.

Of course, the reason B&S saxophones were so inexpensive was because they were made in what was then East Germany. That meant their labour costs were so much lower than in the West. It was the same story with Russian goods e.g. the "Zenit E" 35mm SLR camera which was very popular with amateur photographers due to its high-quality optics. As with B&S saxophones, the Zenit E was a bit heavy & clunky compared to Japanese equivalents from Canon, Pentax or Nikon etc - though it was hard to beat in terms of sheer value for money. Pretty much every product exported to the West from behind the "Iron Curtain" gave good value for money when you compared the price of the Western equivalent which was typically double or even treble the cost. This was one of the ways that the communist regimes earned Western "hard currency". It's the same story now re. Chinese horns - they're good value for money, assuming that you choose wisely.
 
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thomsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,927
The shop owner drove down to Klingenthal/Marknuekirchen in his Volvo 245. I did that journey once. We sold a B&S blue label for around 1900.00 s e k back then. High F#, a modern sax construction, an ok metal mouthpiece B&S 230 .. . The YTS 21 was c 4000.000 s e k in 1978. No high F#, standard mouthpiece ... . Most parents bought a B&S and today you can see that are asking 6000.00-8000.00 s e k for a used blue label from the late 70's. Been lots of nice writings about blue label saxes on internet! B&S was a big stencil manufactor as well. Not only putting a fantasy-, dealer- .... names on the saxes. They were making saxes for other brands as well. Many saxes were made för XXX by B&S. And I think they still had some kind of "home industry" in 1978. They knew how to built saxes!
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
505
not only did yamaha mop up the student end of the market but the whole market contracted because the instrument of choice became the electric guitar. and selmer virtually monopolised the professional end of the market due not only to making a good product but also having superior distribution. under these pressures many good, small, hand-built saxophone manufacturers went to the wall. not only malerne and SML but pierret, beaugnier, dolnet, couesnon etc. even keilwerth were bought out at least twice. B&S made saxes for boosey and hawkes i think, thom, among many others.
 

Tomasz

Member
Messages
543
not only did yamaha mop up the student end of the market but the whole market contracted because the instrument of choice became the electric guitar. and selmer virtually monopolised the professional end of the market due not only to making a good product but also having superior distribution. under these pressures many good, small, hand-built saxophone manufacturers went to the wall. not only malerne and SML but pierret, beaugnier, dolnet, couesnon etc. even keilwerth were bought out at least twice. B&S made saxes for boosey and hawkes i think, thom, among many others.

I am particularly saddened by the demise of Beaugnier. I've got a few Beaugnier stencils in my collection - and every single one of them is either good or excellent. In my experience, Beaugnier never made a bad horn.
 

peterpick

Member
Messages
505
i've got a couple of beaugniers and they're both nice. they made the semi-rationelle for leblanc, which must have been an effort!
 

Tomasz

Member
Messages
543
i've got a couple of beaugniers and they're both nice. they made the semi-rationelle for leblanc, which must have been an effort!

I've got two "semi-rationales" aka the "Vito 35" like this. One is playable, the other needs a repad:-

Vito "Model 35" Alto Sax

I'm always wryly amused when I hear people complaining about the intonation on a particular saxophone, because the intonation on a Vito 35 is so spookily accurate it makes a Yamaha's (and their intonation is excellent) seem all over the place. With that said, there's no such thing as a free lunch. There's always a catch, eh? With the Vito 35 it's the fact that the key-action is "interesting" to adjust. You can have lots of frustration if you haven't got the schematic diagrams beside you. A Yamaha (with its screw-adjusters) is childsplay by comparison. Here are a couple of glimpses of the kind of fun & games I'm talking about with a Vito 35. Bear in mind that the schematic is for the "full" Leblanc Rationale sax with screw adjusters i.e. with the Vito 35 semi-rationale you're mostly shaving away tiny slices of cork to get things in sync which is more challenging. I think it's significant that Vito actually provided a "how to" leaflet, which is something you'd never see with another sax. Fortunately, adjustments are pretty straightforward if you've got the "how to" guide beside you:-

http://www.saxgourmet.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/service3.jpg

http://www.saxgourmet.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/service4.jpg

The first time you pick up a Vito 35, it feels a bit like getting into an early 1970s French car - some of the controls aren't quite where you expect them to be, plus there are a few other surprises. The good news is that once the key-action is regulated, it usually stays put for a good while, in my experience.

I do like Vito 35s. They are a top-quality, professional-grade instrument with extremely accurate intonation due to the extra tone-holes. Vito 35s actually cost a lot more to make than they actually sold for (which was financially suicidal) plus the neatness of soldering on them is superb - easily on a par with what you'd see on a Yani. You can play Vito 35s just like any bog-standard alto, or hit the "fun button" and start doing weird stuff, like dropping the pitch on the upper stack. It's unique, like no other sax you ever played. Here's a video explanation:-

View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU3MVYQASBs
 
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