My New Zephyr


Content Expert Saxophones
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I talked to Steve at World Wide Sax this morning. Apparently he is ahead of schedule this summer, and my 1950 Zephyr tenor is finished getting a rebuild.

I play-tested this horn on a whim last fall when I picked up my 10M he rebuilt for me. At the time I was not in the market for another tenor. The Zep was leaking, the lower end wouldn't play well, it needed a total rebuild: but I just knew that horn had potential. I couldn't get it out of my mind. Finally in March I called Steve and asked if the tenor was still available. It was, and I bought it on the spot.

I waited my turn in the queue, and now if only I'd have gotten my passport dealt with sooner (it won't be here until the end of next week at the earliest), I could drive down and pick up my new tenor. Unfortunately by the time my passport arrives, Steve will be taking a week of holiday. Oh well... That's what I get for procrastinating.

Steve said he's been playing the horn since it's been restored and it's got a great sound. He loves it. I told him to hang it on his wall, and keep playing it until I get there. Of course the danger is I might not get to take it away. He seems to love it that much. We both agreed that there is just something very special about that naturally delacquered Zephyr.

I haven't owned a King since I sold my Super 20 in '81 to buy my Mark VI because that was what I had to do to appease my university profs. Well this Zep will do much more damage than my Super 20 ever would have. So I guess I win in the end anyway. Too bad it took nearly 30 years!
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Hi Helen,

You'll be delighted not only with your excellent Zephyr ( your example being within my favorite years of production for these BTW), but also Steve's usual fantastic workmanship and setup.
I haven't played very many Zephyrs. Mostly altos and they have that bright King sound to my ears. Distinctive.

A guy I play with in a couple of different groups has a wonderful King Super 20 tenor that I played a bit one night. He's an older gentleman (but by no means would I call him old) and he told me recently that when he wants to get rid of the horn he would give me first crack at it. I told him I doubt I can afford it. It has full pearls and is a beautiful playing and looking horn. He is only the second owner.

I think you will have a lot of fun with your new horn and it will have a different personality than your VI.
I too will be the 2nd owner on the Zephyr, if you don't count Steve. He got it from a pro musician who had it from new. It has been used, but not abused, all its life. It is naturally delacquerd from a lifetime of playing. This delacquering is what gave this particular Zephyr the sound and resonance that was head and shoulders over the other Zeps that I tried in Steve's shop that day. Others looked better (more lacquer or silver plated), but none had the sound potential that this one did.

Since I go for bright, and I've chased a bright sound for years, this will be a treat for me. I've made my Mark VI as bright as I could thanks to an after-market neck and my m/p choice. Hell, I've even managed to make a '50s Keilwerth clone horn (my DeVilliers, by Dörfla & Jörka) bright enough to play opposite the lead guitar with the electric blues band I work in.

Each one of my tenors has a very different personality. This one is definitely no exception. It will be the loudest and brashest without a doubt. However, it will also be a lot of fun to see what I can do to tame it, and how rich it can sound. That is something I don't know, because last fall it wasn't playable enough to check those kind of subtleties.
Chiming in here 10 years later to say that I have recently gotten back into sax and my first horn is a 1937 King Zephyr tenor in silver plate. Loving the horn so far despite its ancient ergos but it's not that bad. I won't be playing 32nd notes any time soon.
Chiming in here 10 years later to say that I have recently gotten back into sax and my first horn is a 1937 King Zephyr tenor in silver plate. Loving the horn so far despite its ancient ergos but it's not that bad. I won't be playing 32nd notes any time soon.

Hi there Brad. Welcome to the WF.

There is nothing wrong with the ergos on a 37 Zeph. If you listen to some of the recordings from players back in the 20s and 30s, many used Buescher True Tones and Martin Handcrafts, and those had way worse ergos! We are just spoiled these days. ;) Those guys played crazy-fast too. That music was very hard.

My Zeph is from 1950, and its ergos are slightly more modern than the ones on your horn, but I bought mine entirely based on its sound. (Like I basically buy all my horns.)

What mouthpiece are you using on your Zeph?
My reference to the ergos was certainly tongue in cheek and aimed mainly at the pinky table but indeed, set up properly and with time to acclimate, it's not difficult to adapt to at all. I'm currently favoring a 10MFan Robusto 7* hard rubber on it right now. I also have a TW Slant Sig that is also very nice.
Ah, gotcha... ;) I don't know about the slightly older Zephs, but with mine I haven't encountered a MP that doesn't work. I have been a Dukoff player for 20+ years, and all 5+Dukoffs play perfectly on them, and allow my 1950 horn to play perfectly in tune from low Bb to F#4 and beyond. The most I am usually out is about 15 cents sharp on highest altissimo notes--but then I am usually playing those with guitar players anyway, so I naturally play a bit sharper with most of them anyway, so I'm normally perfectly in tune with them anyway. :emoji_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
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