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Martin made Lyon & Healy "Perfect Curved" sop

Gandalfe

Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
Administrator

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
The intonation sucks, according to Paul Cohen.

There were two models that were produced: one by Holton and the one by Martin. The Holton one sucks more (again, according to Paul Cohen) and that's why Martin was contracted, but it's rarer to find the Holton one. They're easy enough to tell apart, though, even if you can't see the Martin beveled toneholes: the altissimo RH keywork is very different.

Dr. C did write a long piece on these horns in his "Vintage Saxophones Revisited" column for The Saxophone Journal mag. I don't remember the date or issue, off the top of my head, tho.

I occasionally search eBay to look for Lyon and Healy to just see if someone's trying to sell "a weird alto" or "an odd soprano" just in case ....
 
Made by Martin, or by Couturier? Lots of L&H saxes (not the Buescher-made horns) get lumped in as Martin stencils when they're actually Couturiers, given the bevelled tone holes.

Also, since Holton acquired Couturier around 1928, maybe these are the same horn with just some evolutionary key changes--possibly both Couturiers.

The one in the link above looks to have the odd Couturier G# on the table too.

I'd like to see that article concerning.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Made by Martin, or by Couturier? Lots of L&H saxes (not the Buescher-made horns) get lumped in as Martin stencils when they're actually Couturiers, given the bevelled tone holes.

Also, since Holton acquired Couturier around 1928, maybe these are the same horn with just some evolutionary key changes--possibly both Couturiers.

The one in the link above looks to have the odd Couturier G# on the table too.

I'd like to see that article concerning.
Mmmm. There are two reasons why I call the L&H Perfect Curved a Martin-made horn: you've got the beveled toneholes and Paul Cohen said it was Martin-made.

I did remember that one of the pictures that I had archived had a piece of the Cohen article: http://www.saxpics.com/the_gallery/.../semi_curved/lh-semicurved/lyonandhealy-4.jpg. Clearly says "Martin-made."

Here are some "howevers" for you:

* I've got some pics of a couple horns with the name "Courturier" that are presented as Martin stencils.
* I've not connected the Courturier name to anything before -- in other words, I said, "Stencil. Not pro-line. Not really interested." So, I've done no research on that name whatsoever and/or compare the features of a Courturier to a Holton or Martin.
* It does sound moderately logical that if Holton made the Perfect Curved for L&H, they might have been offered the chance to "improve" it with a second go-round, but that sounds a little ... overly complex.

I like the path of least resistance: beveled tone holes + American made = Martin (or one of the very uncommon Buescher True Tones that had beveled tone holes).

Now, I did read over http://forum.saxontheweb.net/showth...ade-by-Frank-Holton-The-early-years-1928-1938 and http://cgi.ebay.ca/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?VISuperSize&item=120537540811. It's an interesting theory that there's a "forgotten" American sax manufacturer, but there were lots of companies that stenciled saxophones and said that the stencils were "their" horns. The only "forgotten" company that I have knowledge of is York.

What I would like to do is take a look at some comparison pics and see what I come up with.

In any event, I found my copy of PC's Topical Index and found the article that talked about the Perfect Curved: May/June 1989, pages 8-10. The quote you'd want is "The original 1/2 curved soprano was made by the Holton company of Elkhorn, Wisconsin. The 'improved' model was produced by Martin."

In any event, one thing isn't in question: the Perfect Curved models aren't good player's horns :).

===========

Answering SOTSDO, no, I haven't heard from Dr. C in a long while. I think it was at least two years ago, when I asked him for a copy of one of his CDs that had some absolutely fabulous Conn-O-Sax work on it. His publishing-house website, http://totheforepublishers.com, was recently updated, tho.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Hmmm. Interesting reading.

I did find an article that says, quite specifically, that someone toured the LaPorte plant for Courturier, on the occasion of them getting new machinery for producing saxophones. So, that's definitely a sign that the Couturier is an actual manufacturer, geaux and a sign that Dr. C and I are wrong.

I want to do a bit of research on the instruments and see them for myself. Looks like Courturier was only around as a sax manufacturer for a year or two before being bought by Holton, so that might take a bit.

I shoulda been from Missouri: Show Me :).
 
Hmmm. Interesting reading.

I did find an article that says, quite specifically, that someone toured the LaPorte plant for Courturier, on the occasion of them getting new machinery for producing saxophones. So, that's definitely a sign that the Couturier is an actual manufacturer, geaux and a sign that Dr. C and I are wrong.

I want to do a bit of research on the instruments and see them for myself. Looks like Courturier was only around as a sax manufacturer for a year or two before being bought by Holton, so that might take a bit.

I shoulda been from Missouri: Show Me :).
Hey Pete,
From the pictures I've seen (admittedly not many) of the "Perfect Curved" sop, two things really stand out as different from Martin, and more in keeping with Couturier manufacture:

The very distinctive and odd "L-shaped" G# on the LH table, as seen on Couturier/L&H horns,

The alt F# key. Just looking at available pics of Martin sops online, all that I saw had the simple straight inline "teeter-totter" key (pivoting perpindicular to the length of the horn--not like the Perfect Curved horn has (it has the offset lever style, pivoting around the curvature of the body of the sax). I know Martin used both styles of keys on other size horns, such as tenors, but I couldn't find commonality between Martin sops and the Perfect Curved horn regarding this.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
You may be absolutely correct. Here are a few "howevers":

* It is very, very difficult to find pictures of the "Couturier" horns. That makes it very hard to get a comparison going. I think I've found a few -- beveled tone holes, Mercedes-Benz-ish (i.e. "Conn-like") low C keyguard -- but the horns are so beat, it's a bit hard to make out the details. Add to that the possibility of York design -- and true York-made horns are even harder to find -- and/or Holton designs, you can see the problem.

* When I was running saxpics.com, I only paid cursory glances toward Holton, primarily because 90% of anything I read about them was negative. The other 10% was essentially praising the gold-plated straight sopranos. That means I'm at a bit of a disadvantage trying to say that feature X is a Holton design.

* There is another argument in Martin's favor: the Perfect Curved might have been designed by Lyon and Healy or made to their specifications. I can say that the G# cluster I've seen on the Couturier horns I've seen looks an awful like the one on some Buescher True Tones. I can also say that Lyon and Healy doesn't have any information on their saxophones.

I did note that the poster "LaPorte" is the expert on the Holtons and Couturiers on SOTW. He mentioned a bit that the Holton Beaufort was made by Couturier. The ones I've seen are stencils from Evette-Schaeffer. There might have been another model or something with a similar name.

As the saying goes, research will continue. It is exciting to find a different manufacturer out there that I haven't heard of!
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Old thread and some old info, the main point being that I have very little difficulty now saying that the Lyon & Healy Perfect Curved horns were made by Holton and Couturier. As far as intonation goes, I have not played one of these horns and I do not own one. Paul Cohen owns a couple and if he says that the intonation sucks, I believe him. I've heard him play, I've talked with him via e-mail, I've read his articles and he's played and/or owned a full Sagan's Worth of vintage horns. While he has made some errors in who produced a certain instrument and some company names (e.g. "N.H. White"), I think he knows how to play vintage horns quite well.

Now, I have seen the other thread on SOTW. There's not much discussion regarding the playability of the instrument. I can say that if the rest of your horn is as in nice condition as the bell, it's probably the nicest condition Perfect Curved horn that I've seen. It is *possible* that Dr. Cohen based his observations about the intonation on horns that were in considerably worse condition than yours, but I tend to think that he'd make allowances for that. Additionally, I really can't say that, "If King Curtis played it, it must be good." It's probably more of, "King Curtis is so good, he can make even a piece of junk sound good."

I haven't gotten back to writing about Couturier for several reasons, the main one being ... there's not that much interest. On my blog, I have traffic counters for every page. Not much traffic on Couturier. (Oddly, lots of traffic on my page about the Laurent flutes. I'm happy about that!) I might get back to it, in the future. What I've really been wanting and waiting for is for Laporte on SOTW to get all of his info together and publish it in one place. He's made some revisions (as have I) and I'd like to see more of the final project, rather than the research. Hey, that's why I'm happy that Helen (one of the CEs here) is concentrating more on the Germanic saxophones: one thing less that I have to do!

A final comment is related to all the King Curtis stuff on SOTW: you'll note that King Curtis' horn is identified as a "saxello." The pictures obviously contradict that, but it does demonstrate how misinformation can be spread. I wonder how many folks have said, "Hey. King Curtis played a Saxello and sounded great! I must buy one!"
 
I really can't say that, "If King Curtis played it, it must be good." It's probably more of, "King Curtis is so good, he can make even a piece of junk sound good."
I would agree with the first part of your statement, but not the second - at least when it comes to this horn. Curtis obviously used this as his regular horn for some time. Curtis was an established, famous professional at the time in question. It's only when a person's regular horn is not available (either lost at the airport, at the repair shop, or a junkie's pawn a la Charlie Parker) that your second statement comes into play. That's not the case here.
 

pete

Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Administrator
Well,

I can certainly accept the argument that King Curtis played the L&H because he wanted to, rather than because he had an advertising obligation (e.g. if you're sponsored by Selmer, you have to show up at your gigs and play a Selmer -- provided, of course, that Selmer makes the pitch you need to play), because L&H was out of the sax business for a few years before King Curtis was born. However, I could also point out that Charlie Parker played the Grafton primarily because it was cheap, not because it was the best available instrument.

We don't know the motivation.

It could also be something like what happens in my case: I suck on straight soprano, but I sound decent on a fully curved (1920's and earlier, that is) one. This doesn't mean that all straight sopranos suck -- and that's obvious because there are so many folks that play straight soprano. Maybe King Curtis was the same and he had difficulties with regular sopranos. Or maybe he had a sentimental attachment to the horn. In Cohen's case, though (and as I mentioned), he's played a vast quantity of horns. I doubt he said that the L&H had poor intonation because he, alone, couldn't get it to play well.

Recommendations:
* Paul Cohen is a member on SOTW and I think he's come here on occasion. His e-mail address is also listed in all those Saxophone Journal articles. Ask him to revisit his opinion. Please also note that I've never offered this as just my opinion, as far as I'm aware.
* Poll the audience and find out what they think. However, this idea is made far more difficult because of how few Perfect Curved horns are out there. I think one or two members here own them. Ask them to make a comparison of a minty L&H to a brand spankin' new Yani or just post their opinion of how they play, relative to contemporary 1920s saxophones.

Finally, it's pretty obvious that neither what I have posted or what Cohen has written has had much affect on the value of these horns, so no worries if you ever try to sell yours!
 
Recommendations:
* Paul Cohen is a member on SOTW and I think he's come here on occasion. His e-mail address is also listed in all those Saxophone Journal articles. Ask him to revisit his opinion. Please also note that I've never offered this as just my opinion, as far as I'm aware.
* Poll the audience and find out what they think. However, this idea is made far more difficult because of how few Perfect Curved horns are out there. I think one or two members here own them. Ask them to make a comparison of a minty L&H to a brand spankin' new Yani or just post their opinion of how they play, relative to contemporary 1920s saxophones.

Finally, it's pretty obvious that neither what I have posted or what Cohen has written has had much affect on the value of these horns, so no worries if you ever try to sell yours!
Thanks! I'll have to try to contact Mr. Cohen and see the basis of his opinion.

I've only been in contact with one other owner (via SOTW) and here's a quote from his email to me: "I keep in contact with other collectors and purveyors of vintage saxes. A fair few pros have played my L&H and told me that it is the best sounding sop they have ever played (I have about 25 or so vintage and modern sops)..... don't ever sell your horn……"
 

Paulc135

Professor Sax
Distinguished Member
Thanks! I'll have to try to contact Mr. Cohen and see the basis of his opinion.
My impressions of the intonation of these sopranos from 20 years ago have not changed since then, but dealing with intonation issues, and interpretation of their characteristics, is not always so straightforward. Intonation on the saxophone in particular is as much in the ear of the player as it is of the tone hole placement and mechanism.

One of my two performance soprano saxophones is a curved Buescher from 1925, and I have used it in orchestras, as soloist with band and orchestra, chamber music and on many saxophone quartet performances and recordings. To play it in tune to these performance standards, it is a delicate combination of appropriate mouthpiece, "severe" regulation of the instrument, (with some custom adjustments), a pallet of alternate tuning fingerings and a lot of practice. (It is much the same with my other performance soprano, an early Mark VI, though not as detailed).

My Lyon and Healy sopranos were in reasonable regulation when I play-tested them. In considering intonation, one does not test specific notes against a tuner, but pitch characteristics from register to register. Instruments that are consistent in pitch direction throughout the horn can often be regulated, (along with player voicing) to play acceptably in tune.
My recollections of the Lyon and Healy was that the very botton register (where the curvature starts) had tendencies incompatible with the rest of the horn, and the upper palm key register, especially with the in-line system (of uncommon impracticality except for high register slithering) were too far out of reach to be regulated to a common ground. The Lyon and Healy soprano with the traditional upper register palm keys were much closer, but still problematic in comparison with the lower octaves. I still do love these instruments, and one is on permanent display in my museum room.

But these pitch assessments are based on the mostly classical music I play, which requires note combinations, dynamics, blending and articulations that cover an enormous spectrum of musical demands. If one plays soprano more as an improvised solo instrument, or in situations at a consistently elevated dynamic level, as is often the case for jazz/rock and commercial ensembles, etc, then these instruments may very likely tune well enough for the performer. But still get them severely regulated!!

Paul Cohen
 
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But these pitch assessments are based on the mostly classical music I play, which requires note combinations, dynamics, blending and articulations that cover an enormous spectrum of musical demands.
Thank you for a very detailed and informative answer!
 
One of my two performance soprano saxophones is a curved Buescher from 1925, and I have used it in orchestras, as soloist with band and orchestra, chamber music and on many saxophone quartet performances and recordings. To play it in tune to these performance standards, it is a delicate combination of appropriate mouthpiece, "severe" regulation of the instrument, (with some custom adjustments), a pallet of alternate tuning fingerings and a lot of practice.
I'm interested in what routine you use to determine what mouthpiece might be appropriate. Could you share any info? Thanks.
 

Paulc135

Professor Sax
Distinguished Member
I'm interested in what routine you use to determine what mouthpiece might be appropriate. Could you share any info? Thanks.
An appropriate mouthpiece is one whose chamber size is commensurate with the design of the instrument. In the case of virtually all saxophones up to 1930 (with a few exceptions) this means a large chamber mouthpiece. A more homogeneous tone throughout and more consistent intonation in all registers are but two of the benefits.

Paul Cohen
 
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