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Conn F Mezzo Propaganda

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Are you referring to in the propaganda piece or if one was made at all? In the latter case, I've heard people getting a F Mezzo or Conn-O-Sax with a mouthpiece designed for F instruments. I think that there's at least one company you can custom order one through, as well.

As a bit of interesting trivia, many years ago, someone contacted me with a list of all known F Mezzos and Conn-O-Saxes. I believe there were about 50 of each. I do know that most of the horns I found for saxpics.com weren't on the list.

Note that, at least in the case of a "standard" F alto, Conn wasn't the only company making 'em: A. Sax made at least one (owned by Paul Brodie) and Kohlert listed them in a pre-WWII catalog. I think it's probable that WA Stowachesser (Helen can correct my spelling) made some: they made contrabasses and were competitors of Kohlert.
 

Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
Babbitt makes a mouthpiece specifically for the F Mezzo and Conn-O-Sax. They are hard to find but pop up on ebay from time to time, sold by Kermit Welch in California. Dimensions are the same as the original Conn F mouthpiece. They play a little brighter, but they are pretty good.
Alto mouthpieces usually don't work on Conn F saxes. Dimensions are too large and they play below A=440, even pushed on as far as possible.
I got a Lakey alto piece to work on Conn F saxes by grinding a "bullet" shaped throat on the back of the baffle. Intonation is a little iffy, but playable. Trouble is, the F mezzo or Conn-O-Sax starts to sound like an alto with an alto mouthpiece.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
It's also a bit of how you play the horn.

I've heard Rob Verdi play his Conn-O-Sax on a couple of his albums and he makes it sound like any old alto. I've heard Paul Cohen play his Conn-O-Sax on one of his CDs (unreleased) and it sounds considerably different than his Eb alto playing. I, myself, can make a C Melody tenor sound nice and reedy and considerably different from a Bb tenor.

However, there's a school of thought that the sax should have a generic "sax sound" through the entire sax range, from Bb sopranissimo to Bb contrabass (or Eb subcontrabass, if you prefer). I mentioned this when I heard Jay Easton's So Low CD. It's not "wrong" to play this way. To my ear, though, it's just not as interesting.

As another example, take most jazz Bb soprano players: there's an awful lotta bending of notes, much more than when $player plays alto. Contrast that with a classical player playing in a xtet: he generally plays with a tone quality that's closer to "vocal."
 

Paulc135

Professor Sax
Distinguished Member
Pete said:
Note that, at least in the case of a "standard" F alto, Conn wasn't the only company making 'em: A. Sax made at least one (owned by Paul Brodie) and Kohlert listed them in a pre-WWII catalog. I think it's probable that WA Stowachesser (Helen can correct my spelling) made some: they made contrabasses and were competitors of Kohlert.
There is a distinction between the Conn F instruments and the 19th century F instruments (I have some of both).

The 19th century F altos are truly altos in the key of F. They have a depth of sound and tone quality clearly of an alto nature. Conn was very specific in calling their F instruments "F-Mezzo"s. The bore is more related to the soprano, but the key is more related to the alto. The result is a tone quality of a higher, leaner nature than the alto. A real mezzo-soprano register, which was their marketing intent as a means to interest players in acquiring a literally new voice to the saxophone family. The Conn F-Mezzos look different, play different and sound different compared to the 19th century F altos.

The different acoustical properties of the Conn-0-Sax (same bore dimensions as the F mezzo, but of course straight, and with the added low A bulb/bulge at the bottom and a high F# and G key) complicates and changes the sound considerably, and gives it more of a deeper, english horn quality. Using the original mouthpiece, that is the sound I try to capture in my Conn-0-Sax performances, (knowing full well that I am playing a saxophone). So far it has found acceptance among my non-saxophone peers in combination with organ, string quartet, piano, and a chamber setting with flute and guitar.

Paul Cohen
 
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pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
So far it has found acceptance among my non-saxophone peers in combination with organ, string quartet, piano, and a chamber setting with flute and guitar.
I've written about that, to reinforce the point:

A few weeks ago, I came across a thread on SOTW where they were discussing Quinntheeskimo trying to sell a Conn-O-Sax for $100K on eBay (as mentioned, more power to him -- and I'm not going to discuss the pricepoint).

Interestingly, Dr. Paul Cohen decided to participate in that thread. He's one of the 50 or so folks I know of that actually own a Conn-O-Sax, so I was kinda hoping he'd pop in there. Even more interesting was the fact that he said he'd make available some of his Conn-O-Sax recordings if folks just sent him a self-addressed-stamped envelope and a couple burnable CDs.

I did, primarily because he said he'd include a cut of the tremendous "Variations on Amazing Grace" for Conn-O-Sax (really, French Horn) and organ by Calvin Hampton (it's excerpted on Dr. Cohen's Vintage Saxophones Revisited CD -- and that excerpt was the *best* recording I've evar heard of the Conn-O-Sax).

I just got the CD back, today.

I'm NOT disappointed. I haven't finished it, yet.

These are all live recordings. A couple are with string quartet, a couple with organ and I'm listening to a duet with flute, right now. All the recordings showcase the Conn-O-Sax's rather unique color.

Now, Rob Verdi also made an excellent CD of jazz standards on the Conn-O-Sax called Prose and Connversations, but the Conn-O-Sax was really supposed to be an orchestral instrument and the recordings on Dr. Cohen's CD are definitely in the "orchestral" vein.

For anyone that's interested, check out his post in http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showpost.p ... stcount=37. I can't say if Dr. Cohen will still do the, "Send me a CD-R and an SASE and you'll get a CD with recordings back!" But if he is, you need to get it.

Dr. Cohen's website is at http://www.totheforepublishers.com/ and his contact information is there.

Now if I can only get Dr. Cohen to buy a G Mezzo Soprano ....
There are a couple other things I wanted to mention, too:

* I've not seen the Kohlert F alto, even in line drawing. However, it's quite obviously listed in the Kohlert catalog from the late 1930s I've got. The reason why I can call it a "F Mezzo" is because Kohlert's horns are quite obviously Conn copies.

* I do understand that Conn said that the F Mezzo Soprano was an offshoot into their research and development of their newer Bb soprano model -- which, as both Dr. C and I have noted -- is often mistaken for an "A" soprano. However, because the Conn-O and F Mezzo have the same bore, I've heard that they sound very simular. (I think I've heard that from more than one person.) Of course, the Conn-O does have the extra keywork and interesting "bell," but the question is, "Does that make a significant difference in the tone?"

* If we go back to the A. Sax instruments, someone will bring up the subject of the mythical parabolic bore and whether that makes the difference in sound. My opinion, based on hearing A. Sax instruments in comparison with modern instruments is, "Probably not." However, I've not heard and not played that A. Sax F alto.

I think I may have mentioned it someplace, but I'll do it again, just to be sure: I'm very happy and thankful that Rob Verdi gavve me the opportunity to at least touch a Conn-O and original Evette & Schaeffer Eb contrabass sax, even though I didn't get to play 'em. Not that I blame him. Hey, I wouldn't let me play with horns that are worth north of $20K apiece.
 

Paulc135

Professor Sax
Distinguished Member
Pete said:
* I do understand that Conn said that the F Mezzo Soprano was an offshoot into their research and development of their newer Bb soprano model -- which, as both Dr. C and I have noted -- is often mistaken for an "A" soprano. However, because the Conn-O and F Mezzo have the same bore, I've heard that they sound very simular. (I think I've heard that from more than one person.) Of course, the Conn-O does have the extra keywork and interesting "bell," but the question is, "Does that make a significant difference in the tone?"

* If we go back to the A. Sax instruments, someone will bring up the subject of the mythical parabolic bore and whether that makes the difference in sound. My opinion, based on hearing A. Sax instruments in comparison with modern instruments is, "Probably not." However, I've not heard and not played that A. Sax F alto.
I own 2 F mezzos and 2 Connosaxes, and concertize on one of each. They do sound very different (using the same original F mouthpiece). Whether the difference is inherent in the different shapes and lengths, or if those elements makes it easier for a player to direct in one direction or another is open to debate. I do demonstrate both on my CD "Vintage Saxophones Revisited".

For what it is worth, I am of the opinion that the parabolic bore is somewhat of an urban myth. If if existed in 19th century saxes, it was eliminated with the more automated manufacturing at the beginning of the 20th century. I was told years ago by a retired worker at the Conn company that the entire sax tube creation, drawing, tone hole extrusion process and fitting segments together (bow and bell) completely precluded the finesse needed for the parabolic cone in practical manufacturing.
And, given the size of the saxophone bore (compared to other woodwinds), I think that the effect of the theoretical parabolic shape would be negligible compared to the many variables we can impart through mouthpiece, reed, embouchure, voicing, etc.

Paul Cohen
 
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Groovekiller

Distinguished Member
Distinguished Member
I agree with Paul Cohen that the "Parabolic bore," at least as described by Jaap Kool, is a myth. I think that Kool's "secondary parabolic curves" are bulges in the bore caused by heavy handed repairmen. I'm a repairman, and I see lots of "secondary parabolic curves" in saxophone bores, all of which were caused by earlier repairs.

It has been suggested, however, that the earliest Adolphe Sax saxophones (pre-1867 or so - the saxes with the larger bells) exhibit a parabolic curve in the bore near the bell. These early saxes have a bore that increases in diameter at a faster rate, beginning somewhere around the bottom bow. If the saxophone were to be straightened out, the OUTSIDE curve from bow to bell rim approximates one side of a parabola.

Adolphe Sax's later horns, after 1867, are much closer to a perfect cone near the bell, except for the bell flare (no parabola). I wonder if, in 1867, anyone was remarking, "Boy, they sure don't make 'em like they used to!"
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
They were also talking about how the A. Sax horns with four digit serial numbers were MUCH better than the five digit ones. And how plating negatively impacts tone color: bare brass and only bare brass!

My opinion on the difference in tone color between the Conn-O and F Mezzo was always, "Why shouldn't there be a difference? They're pretty different in shape, even though a lot of the bore is the same." Then I had all the F Mezzo owners telling me that the bore is to simular 'n' stuff.

Paul also commented once that with the straight altos, what you're standing on can make a difference in the tone. I'd think that would even be moreso with the Conn-O, as the horn points more straight down than out a bit. While I know that a lot of your sound is coming from the open toneholes, some of it is still coming out of the bell.

Regarding the "parabolic" bore, the question of, "Who cares?" is answered by, "Buescher Aristocrat owners, primarily." In the sense of, "What's the difference between these and these?" These Buescher Aristocrats, while separated by a few years are practically identical. The engraving is the only obvious difference. The model numbers are even the same. But what if the real difference is that the "Big B" Bueschers had that mythical parabolic bore and the later horns didn't?

Anyhow, it just wraps around back to my point of, "You can make the horns sound like they have their own tone color or you can just make them sound like parts of a huge saxophone with a huge range."
 
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