Antique and Vintage Saxophones

As a guitarplayer I was allways interested in the saxophone. Not only as a musical instrument but just being an art object as well. The various chatgroups about the different marks and sometimes obscure builders helped me a lot! For contact:

Friday, August 11, 2006



By clearing away the attic I was surprised with an old case
and a saxophone of an unknown brand to me. As I'm a
guitar player that is no big surprise of course and a few years
ago I already did some investigations concerning this brand.
Luthiervents is a France based saxophone repairer who
helped me in finding the origin of this instrument. At first
he was surprised as well but the address on this instrument
cleared up the mystery. Charles Grass had a factory on the
Chaussee d' Antin 12 in Paris so it has to be from that
factory. This is an Alto saxophone that didn't surprise me
by its' looks but the sound is professional in every way!

A fairly straightforward built horn but built with a lot of 
experience and taste but Ch. Grass was a very good player
in his own right. As can be seen this instrument has a small
bore as most French saxes have from that period. This
instrument can be dated around 1930.

This particular model has been marked "PRIMA" which
was their most successful and best sounding saxophone.
In spite of the small bore the tone is sooo big! With
lots of lower end and a beautiful rounded middle and
upper register. This was simple to conclude even for
a guitar player like me! I compared it with my Buescher
Aristocrat from 1933 and this saxophone, I have to
admit, out roars the Aristocrat while the Buescher is
a great sax as well. I tried this one out with my standard
Selmer mouthpiece and a 1,5 reed (I didn't have a better 
suited one at that time) that in fact makes a saxophone 
sound too thin. Not with this one!

Of course this saxophone has a single octave key and the next
investigation was if it was a low or high pitch instrument as the
high pitched instruments are non usable with other instruments.
That was again a nice surprise: It plays well on A = 440 Hz.

The extra's on a saxophone regarding extra keys I'm
not familiar with as I can play the standard notes but
no more than that. In spite of the older pads that in fact
better can be replaced it already played down to the
lowest notes so it can only grow better!

The GARDET is a very sturdy built instrument and not
a light one. By hearing a saxophone like this I can only 
wonder how it can be possible that this brand ever disappeared
but it counts for more French (and German) brands as most
of the time they did little effort to conquer the international
market what resulted in a too small market for France
alone. These Gras labeled saxophones are the ones
to look after. Hearing is Believing!

A brochure from 1933 in which the address at the
Boulevard Chaussee d' Antin 12 is mentioned.
You are able to enlarge by clicking on the pics.


Although Grassi is most known for their mediocre instruments
it is in fact sad that the better instruments were produced and the
end of their production when it was already clear the factory
had to shut down.

On this picture you can clearly see the two coloured
combination that was very popular in the sixties.


Blogger Unknown said...

Hi there and thank you for the great web page,
My experience with Grassi has been a little different than yours. I just wanted to mention that all of the Grassi tenor saxophones I've come across were very, very similar to a Selmer Super Action/SBA in sound. Grassi ergonomics are definitely not as comfortable as Selmer and the Mother of Pearl's are too convex for my liking, but their sound is actually similar or better than most SBA or Mark VI models- Very rich, lush with powerful projection and great intonation. I'm speaking of any Grassi with a ring/Selmer-style bell to body brace. Late 1960's though mid 1980's Grassi tenors are very, very hard to beat in sound. Ergos are not great though.

7:39 AM  

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