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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I shouldn't get another sax, but a big band I play with is doing a bunch of Kenton two-baris stuff, and as the 2nd alto player I'm the one who will have to either sit out or play a bari part on alto otherwise, which gives me a potential excuse to pick up a bari if I can find one I can afford. This is likely to be a short-term thing (we switch up our music a lot, so the Kenton kick won't likely last more than a month or two), but I did enjoy playing bari in the past so I'm not opposed to owning one if it works out that way. I'm open to renting, too, but so far all I'm finding are low-quality junk or rentals that are extremely expensive for something short-term. I don't yet have a specific budget in mind, but virtually everything new that isn't obvious garbage seems to be $3k+ (and usually a really big plus), and that's a difficult sell under these circumstances). So I'm kicking around a few ideas, and I'd love to hear what you guys think.

1. Renting--I'm going to continue to look for decent options. The local music store doesn't rent baris at all, so it's down to someone online. Any good places I should look?
2. eBay--I've just barely started browsing eBay, and did actually put a bid on an old Selmer USA horn that was going extremely cheap. It's supposedly in excellent playing shape with some cosmetic issues, but I live a three-hour drive from Tenor Madness, so if I can pick this thing up for a few hundred bucks I'm fine with taking it there for an overhaul if needed. It's a slog trying to get through all the Chinese junk there, and I'm not knowledgeable about vintage horns, but I know it's at least possible that there could be a steal available if I can find it.
3. The Solist bari from Kessler--When I was looking for a tenor early this year, I had the good fortune to unexpectedly have to travel to Utah with enough spare time to swing over to Vegas and visit Kessler Music. I ended up buying their Custom Handmade horn and have been thrilled with it, so naturally I looked at their website again this morning. The Solist has great reviews, at a price I could actually pull off. Does anyone have experience with this horn?
 

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I have a Solist bari. An older one that I bought used (Dave K says the newer ones are better).

I have had a bunch of baris, and played a bunch more. Good ones, junk ones, fair ones.

The Solist is a great player. For $2500 it is a great deal.


dsm
 

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A few years ago, I picked up a second-hand Unison baritone on eBay for $1800. I thought it was better than the cannonball bari and used it on many gigs.
 

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I see a lot of Buescher 400/Bundy/Selmer USA baritones in "kind of playable-looking" condition around $1000. It's all the same basic horn with different engraving and varying build quality.

If you don't truly need the low A these would probably work for you.
 

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Potentially there are a bunch of options. A lightly used Yamaha YBS-52, Yani or Yani-stencil are the ones most often mentioned. Some older or vintage horns
and many of the Taiwanese branded baris may also be good choices. The real issue is you're under a time constraint as well. If the band is already working or very soon to be working on the charts you want to play bari on it doesn't give you much time to get a horn, get it in good playing condition, get your setup (mouthpiece & reed) sorted, and put some hours in learning to make a good sound on the thing. It's not just a big alto sax. The bari is really a different instrument in many ways.

For your situation I think the Kessler Solist is a very good option as it will get you a horn to begin working with that should arrive in premium playing condition as long as it doesn't get damaged in shipping. I'd also suggest you talk to Dave about upgrading the mouthpiece to one of his in-house custom pieces (the guy they have working on these does a pretty nice job on them and they don't charge much) or maybe the Vandoren V16 which is a fine middle-o-the-road all-around bari piece.
 

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OK, so first off...unless an eBay seller absolutely states the horn is in good playing condition, ready to go and needs nothing...it is gonna need something. So build that into the equation.

I am not going to chime in on budget-priced new BigHorns...other than to say, hold to a price point.

Because it can get to the point where you may be willing to pay for a new boutique horn for $1800....when that $1800ish will get you a used pro model in playing shape.

So there's a tipping point there.

When you hit $2g vicinity, then used low A horns such Vito-Yanis, B&S, later-model Jupiters start coming into the mix; horns which by many yardsticks might give you more than a new budget model.

I am assuming we are talking Low A here.

IF a Low Bb would do the job, then I don't see why you need to spend $2g at all. You could get a good, used Low Bb for under $1500 pretty easily these days.

Best of luck.
 

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I found a 1970s vintage Conn on craigslist in good playing condition for $600. So, cheap, good playing horns are out there.
 

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Unless I have *played* a Craigslist or eBay horn, I would be careful about saying it is "in good playing condition."

Most of them, quite simply, are not.

dsm
 

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OK, so first off...unless an eBay seller absolutely states the horn is in good playing condition, ready to go and needs nothing...it is gonna need something. So build that into the equation.

I am not going to chime in on budget-priced new BigHorns...other than to say, hold to a price point.

Because it can get to the point where you may be willing to pay for a new boutique horn for $1800....when that $1800ish will get you a used pro model in playing shape.

So there's a tipping point there.

When you hit $2g vicinity, then used low A horns such Vito-Yanis, B&S, later-model Jupiters start coming into the mix; horns which by many yardsticks might give you more than a new budget model.

I am assuming we are talking Low A here.

IF a Low Bb would do the job, then I don't see why you need to spend $2g at all. You could get a good, used Low Bb for under $1500 pretty easily these days.

Best of luck.
+1.... As I did from JayLID/PDX for under 1500 in nice play condition! (low Bb, 12M)

Support your local SOTW business!
 

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Unless I have *played* a Craigslist or eBay horn, I would be careful about saying it is "in good playing condition."

Most of them, quite simply, are not.

dsm
No doubt. With craigslist, since the transaction happens in person, you can obviously play and inspect thoroughly before buying, which I did. With ebay, I always assume they're never as good as described and make my offers accordingly.
 

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Keep an eye out for an Armstrong Low A baritone.
They’re really Conn 11m’s with the Armstrong logo on them.
Generally sell for less than Their Conn branded siblings and are great horns for the money.
If Low Bb is an option, Keilwerth King Tempo horns are nice with a modern feel and strong tone.
 

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With some shopping and willingness to invest in a tech visit, you can get into a player for a good bit less than 2Gs. Its mostly a matter of looks. If you don't mind an ugly Bundy, dents, freckles, scorched soldier joints, bad lacquer, etc, you can probably come in under $1000. If you want a looker, maybe look for European imports, and 70's horns for 50%-100% more. Or, there are Asian imports to consider, but I'd really research these. Most are new looking, if all else is acceptable. Good luck! PS - dont forget the case. Not a trivial cost if the horn has no case.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Okay, lots of advice. Thanks to all for your help.

OK, so first off...unless an eBay seller absolutely states the horn is in good playing condition, ready to go and needs nothing...it is gonna need something. So build that into the equation.
Yeah, that doesn't surprise me a bit. For reference, the Selmer USA I bid on was going for $202 at the time, so it would have left funds for getting some work done on it. I've since been outbid and then some, but at that price I felt like it was worth the risk and the likely cost of repairs.


The real issue is you're under a time constraint as well. If the band is already working or very soon to be working on the charts you want to play bari on it doesn't give you much time to get a horn, get it in good playing condition, get your setup (mouthpiece & reed) sorted, and put some hours in learning to make a good sound on the thing.
This is very true. It's only a few weeks until the first gig where we'll be playing this stuff, so I do need to move pretty quick if I'm going to do it at all.

I've kept looking at eBay and checked Craigslist (no baris at all in my state) and a couple of other online shops (not much of anything in my price range). I'll probably end up looking for another couple of days and then pull the trigger on something, whether it's the Solist or something used if I find anything that looks trustworthy. Looks of the instrument are not a huge priority; I'm kind of a fan of the uncommon finishes and such, but baris are costly and I don't think I have the money to look for something that both has that cool look and plays well.

One other brand that's come up in my searching is Holton. I understand Selmer owns that company now, but I'm not familiar with the reputation of their older horns. Anyone have any thoughts on that?
 

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Keep an eye out for an Armstrong Low A baritone.
They’re really Conn 11m’s with the Armstrong logo on them.
Generally sell for less than Their Conn branded siblings and are great horns for the money.
If Low Bb is an option, Keilwerth King Tempo horns are nice with a modern feel and strong tone.
One just sold on eFlay US for very cheap. If I had been more liquid monetarily, I would have grabbed it myself.
 

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For reference, the Selmer USA I bid on was going for $202 at the time, so it would have left funds for getting some work done on it. I've since been outbid and then some, but at that price I felt like it was worth the risk and the likely cost of repairs.
We should get clear here on the market values of these horns.

A "project baritone" is not gonna sell for $300, as you know. A project baritone Low Bb, of good repute/model....is going to sell for at least $600...if it is a sought-after model (12M, Martin Comm) it will be more like $800. If it is a sought-after Low A model (Vito-Yani, B&S, Yama 52, etc) it will easily be over $1100.

A decent servicing of a 'project Baritone' - one which has no horrific/serious issues but has just not been kept up to speed as far as padwork, cleanliness, regulation, etc - is going to be a good $500....unlike, say, a Tenor/Alto, where you might be able to get away with a significant amount of servicing for $300.

If the Baritone has issues discovered which were not apparent, or not described, and which a novice Baritone buyer wouldn't necessarily notice (bent tube, bellbrace impaction, bent rods which are disguised by heavy spring tensions, poor past repairs or regulations which need to be reversed and redone, etc) then repairs can easily get into $800.

If you say the Soloist was on your radar, this would imply you are willing to go up to $2500. So perhaps the news of an $800 purchase + $800 of work is not anything shocking to you (it is actually a pretty common sorta price point, at the end of the day).

As others have said, yes you might find a Bundy or a King Zeph in 'decent' playing shape for around $800-900 (also something like an old splitbell Conn NW or Buescher), but you would need some patience ...and then...'decent' does not mean 'good'. It means 'playable'.

To 'get away' with a good playing, serviced, used Bighorn of good reputation for under $1500...is a stroke of luck, basically.

So, a $1200 Low Bb, or an $1800 Low A...IS an 'inexpensive Bari option'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Yeah, I didn't really say that clearly enough. I knew that was an absurdly low price, which is why I threw out a bid immediately even though I was just starting to look around (knowing I'd almost certainly lose but thinking it was worth a shot). I probably should have made that explicit so it wouldn't confuse others who read this thread later. $1800 for a playable, reliable bari does strike me as inexpensive and is not shocking at all.

That info about repair costs, etc is certainly nice to have. For my situation, the time it might take to find something like you're describing could just be too much, but if I decide to wait on it and just not play bari on these charts this time around, then taking my time to find a reputable model in that price range seems like the clear way to go.
 

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There was a Bundy on Facebook marketplace for like $220. It took months to find a taker....not sure why I didn't jump at it.

probably because after fixing it up, it would have virtually no market, and i have no idea how to ship something that size and weight.
 

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While I agree with these price points (and it's why I haven't tried to find the Couf Low A bari I want to try) cheap baris are out there!

I've owned 4 baris in the last 15 years including a Conn 12M, Martin Committee "Music Man Model", a King Zehpyr and a Selmer Mark VI (Low Bb). All in, my most expensive one was my Martin with repair cost included at $800. With good patience and looking comes the reward, I think my total bari investment is still sub 2500, I'd have to check repair receipts.

I only own/play the Selmer now, but they were all great horns! Just found and got a bari fixed for a friend, low A Buescher 400, her total cost for the horn was $700 fixed, plus a case. Just found a low Bb Armstrong that looks to be a Conn stencil that will probably go the same way, maybe a little more.
 

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I have owned a Soloist since Dec. 2018 and think it is a great choice for someone who wants to dip their toe into the bari world. I played mine for 2 years in various community bands and in a start up amateur jazz group and it has worked fine.

The Kessler Soloist is based on the Yanagisawa 901 (now the W01). I would describe it as 75-80% of the quality of the 901 for about 50% of the price of a 901. Dave Kessler used to advise not to expect a 901 with the Soloist, just a well made copy for 1/2 the price. I highly recommend it.

BTY, I am selling my Soloist only because I recently came across a good buy on a Yanagisawa bronze 992 bari. I called it a retirement gift to myself. Again, the Soloist cannot be compared, but even at a "good" price my Yani 992 bari is about 3 times the cost of a Soloist. If anyone in the Phoenix, AZ area wants to buy (or even test play) a Soloist, post a reply.
 

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I have owned a Soloist since Dec. 2018 and think it is a great choice for someone who wants to dip their toe into the bari world. I played mine for 2 years in various community bands and in a start up amateur jazz group and it has worked fine.

The Kessler Soloist is based on the Yanagisawa 901 (now the W01). I would describe it as 75-80% of the quality of the 901 for about 50% of the price of a 901. Dave Kessler used to advise not to expect a 901 with the Soloist, just a well made copy for 1/2 the price. I highly recommend it.

BTY, I am selling my Soloist only because I recently came across a good buy on a Yanagisawa bronze 992 bari. I called it a retirement gift to myself. Again, the Soloist cannot be compared, but even at a "good" price my Yani 992 bari is about 3 times the cost of a Soloist. If anyone in the Phoenix, AZ area wants to buy (or even test play) a Soloist, post a reply.
Wish you were closer - I'm just a bit north of Denver and I'd love try one of these Kessler baris to see how it compares to my Yani B992. BTW, it's actually "Solist" not "Soloist" which is strange as everyone wants to add that extra "o" ;)
 
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