Long and detailed discussion of a kind of common strawman overly hyped discussion of the “The MK VI” saxophone based on years of experience.
This was initially made in response to a video that is posted in the description
( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puApTzibuHM ) . Many hunters of such vintage Selmers, students and just those wanting to learn more may find this helpful.
I was very luck to be able to purchase this amazing instrument from the estate of Yusef Lateef, along with the paperwork of provenence. I have some friends in the repair biz who were also around Rayburn’s music (in Boston) years back and remembered Lateef bringing this horn around for service more than 30 years ago as well, so we know he kept it for a long time.
This project spanned about two years as some parts of it were slow and time consuming and I was also busy with a move and some family obligations during that time.
It was in a bit of disrepair when I got it, with some kind of odd insults and injuries, but structurally it was in very fine shape. Somehow, somewhere, the neck receiver had been sheared into three pieces two of which were broken clean off the horn. The strangest part is that this break, did not effect the body tube in any way, in any area. It was very straight with only some minor dings, very odd. I have yet to understand how that happened and never will I guess. The pads were old and crusty of course, it was not playing. Some screws were missing or mismatched and it was at least as far as proper saxophone service is concerned, just rather insulted.
In my imagination, I can see Yusef Lateef buying this horn in Europe while on tour and either it already had the broken neck receiver or that happened while in his possession. I can imagine him thinking “this is one of those special horns that ‘Trane was bugging Wayne Shorter to get” (see the interview with Shorter where he tells this story about Trane’s insistence on him getting just such an early SBA.) and him keeping it until he can find the right person who could handle the weird repair.
Maybe he knew what a great horn it was, generally I would trust the judgement of instrument quality to Yuself Lateef above almost anyone. I imagine he had to know what a special horn this was to keep it for so many years.
Anyhow with a lot of specific work and time I have finally restored this to very nice working order, it feels like a Ferrari now, set up with rather hard-ish pads and a set of original American-market Tone-X metal SBA resos from the 1950’s that I had here. It just blew my mind as I just played fresh one day after the overhaul, while ti is still settling in. It is very compact and aggressive in tone, barks, is very powerful and has an otherworldly biting bright ring to the sound that makes it sound like it is amplified. This is what the rare and great SBA’s do. I was a little rusty on the video but at least it was fresh and surprised me more than you who will watch it I believe.
This here is a very special mouthpiece. It came to me a somewhat worn FL no USA 7 Otto Link. It was obviously a phenomenal player. Some of these, the great ones you can tell they are the special ones because they have been just played so much that the tip rail has no longer any definition, worn right into the baffle. These are the pieces that old time roots players played into the dirt. These folks KNEW when they had a good one.
When I saw the worn baffle on this piece I knew it was one of those; a certain type of Otto Link that plays effortlessly with a complexity and range that most others cannot approach. This type of FL Link is not so easily found. I’ve played a few over the years, a friend of mine has an original 10 that feels as easy as a 7 to play and it is the same model as this with the same kind of dedicated playing wear.
In this case this was so worn it needed a reset. The biteplate had a massive valley worn into it. I’ve replaced that with a new and beautiful hard rubber biteplate. The table, facing, tip, rails, baffle have all been recreated from zero in specifically the authentic style and finish of this model period of Otto Link. There are many people who can reface a mouthpiece, but not too many taking this approach. This piece is a very good example of how good they can be.
I have not bothered to address the outer cosmetic wear on the mouthpiece. If that is more important to you it is not hard to have it done, I have put my efforts into the function of the mouthpiece. In that area it excels with a very complex sound, a lot of warmth and a rare smoothness and definition throughout the range of the horn.
Tip opening is exactly .100 on my tools. It plays with the original character it should have but a LOT easier to play than most originals will. This piece is for the real player, or the one who wants to up their game with a hand crafted prime vintage universe of tone.
This here is a wonderful restored 1963 Selmer MK VI tenor, #108xxx in original lacquer finish, assembled and engraved in USA. The response is very loud and powerful, probably a step louder than my daily 87xxx tenor. The tone is balanced, neither extremely bright nor dark, but the edge on the tone is slightly darker while the core sound is slightly brighter. I know that seems confusing, but it is the best way I can think of to write about it. It is easy to blow and is has a great deal of presence and clarity.
It has received a complete overhaul with treated pads, all toneholes leveled, large brass resonators, all keys fitted etc. It is very tight and comfortable player. It has had some brass work done in the past, a number of very minor dings, the bell rim straightened. The neck had some some straightening and a few dents burnished out of the side. One corner of the upper G rib was tacked back down by a bit of solder. Everything is in the proper shape, roundness and angle now and it plays really excellently, just a lot of fun and really has a hard bop kind of power.
Here is a mouthpiece demonstration I did with this horn, such a rich, clean and clear player.
Wow, this is a great one! I have also kept this one for some years as a personal player, extremely fun to play. The tip measures at .110 for me and it has quite a special tone. It’s a very warm and thick player with a very vocal tone. It also feels very easy to play and is not reed picky. This has a classic Link tone, not super bright, very rich and fills the horn with air. Serial numbered FL Links are some of the best Links ever made in my opinion and a 7* original is hard to find.
Here we have a very hard to find mouthpiece, Otto Link Florida with a serial number faced at 9*. It is in excellent condition and plays like a wild animal, very powerful, loud, huge and broad sound with enough focus. More than that though is the specific tone it can produce (with your help) that is like the idea of vintage Otto Link color and tone as far as I am concerned. It measures at .115 on my tools. It just happens to be a bit too big for my habits otherwise I would play it as a number one go-to piece.
This particular model and example has that really big FL baffle that people who know these pieces would be looking for. The facing, tup and baffle are original, I have very lightly polished the table a few years ago to remove some bubbled plating. If you can play this size, do-not-miss!
Next up, one of my own Early Babbitt Otto Links. This tenor piece is one I did for myself years back, never even wrote anything on it until yesterday. It was original a 6 but I’ve set it up at .097 so like a big 6* facing. There are few mouthpieces more satisfying to play on tenor than a well setup EB Link and this one shines. This has the appropriate longer and high baffle and it an early enough blank with the longer somewhat slim body and high cut above the beak. The quality of response, tone and feel and the precision are as expected with my work.
This is an old mouthpiece and someone lived for a long time before I even got it to restore, so there are of course scratches and wear to the surface as well as a bit of tooth wear, but I did not feel this was any kind of both in playing so I’ve left it as is.
The tone this piece can produce is very warm and rich. It has enough power, but is not among the shrill, more of a very lyrical and organic sound but in no way weak. I would say it produces a very traditional vibe, but not that generic buzzing one-dimensional sound of modern ‘please-all’ reproduction mouthpieces. This is not a reproduction, it is not a pretend piece. This is a real VINTAGE Otto Link with an older vibe, not simply a ‘point and shoot’ simple sound. It is actually a complex and deep sound that is hard to find in anything new. This is for someone serious about tone.
Selmer Balanced Action tenor saxophone, #27xxx. This is a wonderful horn that I found in a sad state and restored it. It is not a perfect museum piece, it has had some repairs and solders etc, but it actually looks really nice. It was probably relacquered at the Selmer factory many decades ago. It looks that way to me based on the gentle treatment of the engraving. It has had a full overhaul done on it, level tone holes, nice key fitting good quality pads and high quality metal resonators. It plays like a dream!
The key action is very light and the pads are really seated nicely, takes no finger pressure to get the richest of sounds out of it. It has an very nuanced, Continue reading →
This is a once in a lifetime horn, these kinds of horns do not come available very often or easily. I bought this tenor in maybe 1997 or thereabouts. It was the first MK VI I had ever played which could get me to sell the 54xxx SBA I had been playing for years. When I played this for first half a second I knew my love affair with the SBA was done. Continue reading →
1962, a great year for the MK VI! This one is an original finish European market MK VI with a serial number of 101xxx. It has a high F# key and has just had a wonderful overhaul, all new pads with a slightly oversized set of original 1960’s Selmer screw-back plastic resonators all the tone hole leveling and key fitting and all the good stuff. The result is probably THE LOUDEST and edgiest MK VI I have ever played. It is without a doubt LOUDER than my own horn, from 1959, and a fair bit brighter too (which I like).
The SCALE of the sound is also just huge, it is wide and omnipresent vibration, expands throughout the room, which I think you can kind of hear in the videos. I am still doing some final subtle regulation, and I’ve left the old neck cork because it works with my mouthpiece. I expect the new owner will change that to fit their piece specifically.
(With a hard rubber Berg Larsen)
(and with a hard rubber custom Babbitt Artist large chamber done by myself, which is now sold)
This is one of the most aggressive and broad sounding MK VI’s I have ever had. Several working pros have played this and immediately had to take a cold shower!
In terms of condition, it IS original Lacquer, of the light European color, and it has had a few very minor dents address and had a couple of very minor and nicely done resolders as well. It is obviously not a perfect “Sleeping Beauty” but it is one heck of a player in very good structural and functional condition.