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Mark VI, Mark VII and Super Action 80. Interview with one of the designers and testers

Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
CE/Moderator
Several years ago a fellow clarinetist located in France forwarded me a string of articles for Clarinet and Saxophone. These were a blog of music archives. Originally they were all in French. Since my french was shaky to non-existent at best I ignored those links. Well today I revisited and did a google translate on them.
==> http://rp-archivesmusiquefacteurs.blogspot.fr/2012/07/zoom-sur-trois-saxophones-de-legende.html

What a treasure trove of information. Below are some excerpt from that page, but I invite you to read the entire articles and explore the Blog site even more. Not everything is perfectly translated but the historical information from people that were there and helped make the decisions and testing is a good bit of knowledge to gain.

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Mark VI, Mark VII and Super Action 80 of Selmer.
Interview with one of the designers and testers Gérard Badini

Our objective is a duty of memory, to fix elements that belong to the history of saxophone and jazz by one of its protagonists.
Our thread is technical and we will try to answer these questions:
Through the development of saxophones Selmer manufactured between the years 50-80 Mark VI , Mark VII and Superaction 80

..
RP: Since the arrival of the bebop, the king of the saxos was the Mark VI and the biggest ones played with, but which saxophones had the preference of the jazz musicians, before the arrival of the famous Mark VI. ? The American or French saxos for example the balanced action?

GB: In the 40s, most jazz musicians played the model Balanced Action .
Then, in the mid-1950s, the majority opted for a new, fairer, lighter model that will be the benchmark for jazz musicians: the Mark VI.
..
RP: What were the main competitors of Mark VI:
In jazz: King, Conn
In classic: Couesnon, Buffet Crampon
What were the main strengths of the Mark VI and its main shortcomings?

GB: In jazz, the major US competitors Selmer Mark VI were firstly King who had a powerful sound but with a heavy mechanism and secondly Conn was the opposite with a light mechanism and a flexible sound.
In France under the leadership of Alix Combelle brand Dolnet tried to impose with mixed success in the 50s.
Classic Buffet crampon with its impeccable finish and its reputation was favored sax students of the Conservatory of Paris and its professor Michel Deffayet .
In spite of everything, the Mark VI remained the sax chosen by the jazzmen.
An anecdote: the great Marcel Mule had chosen Phil Woods a Mark VI alto.
Accuracy, flexibility and light weight but lack of power for its detractors.
..
If you want to try a sax for Dexter Gordon, Phil Woods, Sonny Stitt, Johnny Griffin, Benny Carter, Lee Konitz and hundreds of other lesser known is different than choosing saxophones for classic and variety .

GB: It is necessary to understand this paradox: thousands of saxos come out of the workshops, they are impeccable, stamped, adjusted ... Selmer is only high-end, (this is his strong point and may be currently his weak point) They all look alike.
Yet no instrument is the same nor does it possess the same qualities. In addition, the instrument will evolve differently depending on its use and potential.
Choosing a sax for a jazzman requires a specific skill.
..
RP: Can you describe the manufacturing process sax Mark VII and the technical points you discussed and modified.
What were the main differences between the two Mark? Why a new model? Was it a technical innovation or a marketing blow?
Sincerely what are the strengths and advances but also the weaknesses of Mark VII, now that they have become instruments of legend?
What were the main reasons for the relative failure of Mark VII and to what audience? Classical, jazz, variety.
GB: The "Mark VII" includes improvements:
First a new octave key mechanism then a group of small finger left hand spatulas, allowing more flexible passages over the entire tray.
The Mark VI had this problem of pulling out the bass with a little finger. It had to be muscular! The Mark VII sax is often criticized for its bass tray of the left hand too heavy, because it is true that the handling of the bass is complex.
The keys are wider to improve the grip of the instrument with a particular ergonomics.
The body-flag ring evolves towards a three-point anchor ring.
Note also the return to the plastic resonator on the pads, which made it possible to better plug.
It is an instrument in phase with its era with a powerful sound, rich in harmonics acute, corresponding to the needs of the moment and the advent of rock, pop and music of varieties with a warm and powerful sound.
Only the alto and tenor saxophones are born. There was no soprano or baritone Mark VII but these prototypes will serve as the basis for the versions of the Super Action 80.
The Mark VII is equipped with a new form of the F # F # key and acute oval side. We had reached a qualitative threshold and it was thought that Mark VII was going to replace the Mark VI and the competitors. But the expected success was more timid, many jazzmen preferring their old sax!
..
GB: Selmer used my skills and professionalism (if one is nice) or my perfectionist character fussy (unsatisfied eternal piper say others) and so the adventure of Superaction 80 began.
The Mark VII was a magnificent, expensive sax, but the technical evolution and the constant improvement of quality of all the instruments showed more and more its small defects.
Hence the demand to make a new sax: Superaction 80: more balanced in the different tessitas, with a wider, more homogeneous emission, with better plugging of the pads avoiding micro-leaks and giving basses easier and fair .
The more timbre sound made it easier to find suitable reeds.

But my role as a Mark VII tester evolved into the role of technical advisor when we were involved in designing the Superaction 80 model.
The demand was to play rock, rhythm and blues, pop etc ... music that percussed, saxos that played with amplifications and maximum sound systems and it was necessary to create a suitable sax.
Variety studios and classics also demanded more and more perfect instruments with regard to accuracy.
..
RP: Let's clarify your role for the Super Action 80
What are the reasons for the creation of this new saxophone by Selmer?
How did you propose the project and what were the objectives that Selmer had set for you? How did you work?
What was the reception? What the musicians liked and what displeased them?

GB: Given the gradual disappearance of the Mark VII and of course for commercial reasons as it is saxophones like cars, it was necessary to leave absolutely a new model, which took place in 1981.
Our role with Michel Nouaux was centered more on the regularity of the manufacture of saxos of quality and the good adjustments that on the design.
The reception of the newcomer was favorable but often the great American jazzmen preferred to keep their old model to which they were accustomed, some even as Michael Brecker was not convinced. Besides he had told me "I would like to play with the new models but that does not correspond to what I am looking for from his point of view. I'm happier with my old Mark VI. "
The " Super Action 80 Series II " produced from 1986 still brings innovations: Control Spatula acute left hand Fa, new key F sharp right hand, tipped screws with backlash spring pads improved texture with Resonators with rivets, ferrule of assembly body / cylinder head with O-ring. It is offered with a key harmonic option.
..
Lee Konitz and Paul Desmond had a great influence on this clean and precise play.
The speakers, actors and singers follow this trend and they no longer need to force their voices to be heard without the necessary effects!
The microphones are there. Mark VII suffered from this development.
What is certain is that 6 months of treatment between a rocker who plays all fortissimo and a classic that works his spun sounds, your new sax is not the same ... metal plays and the timbre will be different (beak and reed Of course).
..
RP: What is your opinion on the French bill of saxophones?
What do you think of the other saxes the S1, S2 and S3 of Buffet Crampon, American and Japanese saxes?
What are the best saxos for you now for a jazzman?

GB: The French bill was long the best with plenty copied: Selmer , Buffet Crampon , Leblanc , Couesnon , Dolnet fought with US King , Conn. Now the Japanese Yamaha and Yanagisawa are excellent.
Global competition is getting harder and performance sax.
When the best saxos are purely subjective and every musician has his idea on the question. I do not know the last saxos, being retired, but the whole thing is to try and find the one that suits you.
But the Mark VI then VII and the Superaction 80 since this is our main subject are always played even if they have taken wrinkles and know competitors even better than them. Moreover, the prices of these models remain supported by an ever-present demand.
They were an important step in improving the saxophone and I am proud to have made my modest contribution.
..
 
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Steve

Clarinet CE/Moderator
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