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‘38 Buescher AristoTenor, ‘66 Martin Magna Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I had the great fortune to come across a pre-war art deco Aristo on eflay which had a very intriguing story behind the horn, and while there were only a few small photos attached, the horn had the original case, strap, and other accessories so I got the sense that this was a very well-cared for horn and hit the purchase button immediately.

What I learned since then was that the horn belonged to Howard Wigell (HOWARD WIGELL Obituary (2010) Daily Bulletin) who was a cryptanalyst/cryptographer for the Allied air forces in WWII and worked with the Enigma machine in Bletchley and in Oxford. The horn survived the Blitz intact and was even played at the Stage Door Canteen in London & the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden during the war. After the war, he was a high school music teacher in California for 40 years until his retirement/passing and his HS band took first place at the Seattle World Fair in the 60's.

His son, who was the seller of the horn, told me Howard did a job for Al Capone at one of his illegal gambling clubs when he was very young and was flown behind enemy lines into Germany during the war.

It is a one-owner horn and, as you can see, the horn looks in perfect condition with original lacquer intact and plays wonderfully, but smells musty/moldy. The springs all seem to be the original Norton springs, and I would assume the snap-in pads are original as well, but I am not sure what to do about them since it seems there seems to be mold growing on them. It came with a Zimberoff BD Supersonic mouthpiece in original facing/condition (understand it is an early Dukoff collab piece and quite rare) in a size 3. I am not sure what use I would have with such a closed opening, so if any interest in the MP, PM me.

I am not sure I am deserving of this horn, but I promise to give it my best and take good care of it.
 

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What an amazing find and such a wonderful history.
Congratulations!

I have a ‘39 Aristo with just a bit more lacquer wear than yours but otherwise beautiful with original springs and resonators. Absolutely love that horn.

I hope she brings you many years of enjoyment.

Well done!
 

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Very nice looking horn. I have an art deco Buescher tenor that looks almost as good but is from 1950. My understanding was that I'm just the third owner. It was originally purchased from the factory by a reed man who played in the traveling big bands of the 40's & 50's. When he passed away in the late '80s the family sold it to the fellow I purchased it from. He kept it for about 10 years and sold it to me in the late 90's. I had it re-padded by Sax Alley about 15 years ago keeping the original snaps but also using shellac to help it hold adjustment.

I'm know Buescher expert so this is just a guess but it looks to me like yours may have been worked on in a similar way as the picture of the lower stack appears to show shellac around the edges of the pads.
 

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That's a great tenor !

I'm a big Buescher fan, and have a few tenors, altos and a baritone in the stable.

You could probably play that mouthpiece with harder reeds.
I have a Steve Broadus 'Perfected Model' that's like a 4 that plays
great with harder reeds - not my main piece but w/ harder reads it works fine .

I have an early 50's metal Dukoff alto piece that's a 3* and it also needs harder reeds,
although I think it could use a little work on the facing curve .
 

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‘38 Buescher AristoTenor, ‘66 Martin Magna Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Very nice looking horn. I have an art deco Buescher tenor that looks almost as good but is from 1950. My understanding was that I'm just the third owner. It was originally purchased from the factory by a reed man who played in the traveling big bands of the 40's & 50's. When he passed away in the late '80s the family sold it to the fellow I purchased it from. He kept it for about 10 years and sold it to me in the late 90's. I had it re-padded by Sax Alley about 15 years ago keeping the original snaps but also using shellac to help it hold adjustment.

I'm know Buescher expert so this is just a guess but it looks to me like yours may have been worked on in a similar way as the picture of the lower stack appears to show shellac around the edges of the pads.
yes indeed, I had noticed the shellac on those pads as well. Planning to take it in tomorrow, but is it possible to replace the pads while keeping the snaps (assuming they are still in place)?
 

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‘38 Buescher AristoTenor, ‘66 Martin Magna Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
That's a great tenor !

I'm a big Buescher fan, and have a few tenors, altos and a baritone in the stable.

You could probably play that mouthpiece with harder reeds.
I have a Steve Broadus 'Perfected Model' that's like a 4 that plays
great with harder reeds - not my main piece but w/ harder reads it works fine .

I have an early 50's metal Dukoff alto piece that's a 3* and it also needs harder reeds,
although I think it could use a little work on the facing curve .
I’ve got a box of vandoren v12 in 3 strength that is too hard for my jazz pieces and will try them out on the Zimberoff, but curious to
know what you use on the smaller tip pieces vs modern pieces.
 

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Fabulous find! Would Mr. Wigell's son consider writing out the history that he told you? Having the provenance documented would certainly help preserve the history, and he might appreciate the respect to his father.
 

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Very cool. The history lesson is the best part of the story. I wish I knew the history of the Conn tenor I've talked about here. It was modified for someone with either missing fingers or some other handicap yet I know the guy was a pro because there was a musicians union sticker on the case. If only these old horns could talk, the stories they could tell of road trips and honkytonks.
 

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yes indeed, I had noticed the shellac on those pads as well. Planning to take it in tomorrow, but is it possible to replace the pads while keeping the snaps (assuming they are still in place)?
Yes, I believe it is. I asked Tim at Sax Alley to repad my horn in this fashion and he gave me no indication this wasn't possible. The question is what is your tech going to find when he removes those pads? I believe it's possible to use the original resonators but with the snaps removed as well and that was a popular thing to do for many years. I wouldn't let it bother you either way. It may have some small effect on value for a collector but IMO it has virtually no impact on how the horn plays. I'm sure it plays beautifully and it has such an interesting history which is rare.
 

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‘38 Buescher AristoTenor, ‘66 Martin Magna Tenor
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Fabulous find! Would Mr. Wigell's son consider writing out the history that he told you? Having the provenance documented would certainly help preserve the history, and he might appreciate the respect to his father.
That is a great idea and certainly something the next owner would appreciate!
 

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I’ve got a box of vandoren v12 in 3 strength that is too hard for my jazz pieces and will try them out on the Zimberoff, but curious to
know what you use on the smaller tip pieces vs modern pieces.
In addition to the Broadus 'piece I mentioned I ended up with a few other closed tip 'pieces.

The Broadus I was going to have opened slightly but I never got around to it, so with 5 smaller sized tenor pieces that I was curious to play,
it was time to order some harder than normal reeds !

Vandoren Java and V-16 # 5
Gonzalez 4.5 and 4.75
Brancher Opera 4 and 5

I think the V12s should be a good bet . you might need harder than the #3 . depends on your embouchure and if you find you need more
or less resistance to play that mpc. comfortably.

Those are great 'pieces.
I'd keep it with the horn and enjoy it, in addition to whatever
your normal 'piece is .
 

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The mouthpiece is just as interesting if not moreso than the horn. It doesn't look like it's in great shape but what piece that old is? It's probably worth almost as much as the horn.
 

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Fabulous Story :) I have been long looking a suitable Aristocrat to replace one I had that er, um, disappeared. These aristos are terrific horns.
 

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Very cool story, thanks! You are definitely deserving of the horn.

The only trouble with that particular horn is that the keys change daily. Hope you can crack the mouthpiece code. :)
 

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Those vintage mouthpieces play best in normal tip openings like that.
Instead of trying to use a 2 x 4 to play it, try the softest reed you can play on it that won’t close up. I do that with a Slant 4 and a C* I have. Tons of color and you can practice all day.
Those old Dukoffs are great playing mouthpieces. Look at the detail of the baffle. They don’t do that anymore.
 

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It is a one-owner horn and, as you can see, the horn looks in perfect condition with original lacquer intact and plays wonderfully, but smells musty/moldy. The springs all seem to be the original Norton springs, and I would assume the snap-in pads are original as well, but I am not sure what to do about them since it seems there seems to be mold growing on them.
When you take the horn in to get the pads replaced (which you definitely should do!), that will take care of the musty smell. As you imply, it's the moldy pads that you are smelling. You'll likely want to get a new case also, assuming the case has been permeated with that smell.

Fantastic story! And these are great tenors. I have one in silver plate (292,xxx; 1939?). It plays really well, with a great tone quality.
 
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