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Back at the beginning of the summer, I had Junkdude send me a beautiful old Conn 12M Transitional bari. The thing was a giant, glorious, silver-plated moose of a horn, with a sound that made squirrels fall from trees and car alarms go off.

Unfortunately, I realized it wasn't the horn for me. I'm a pansy: the ergos were just too tough -- the horn didn't even have the front-F key, and the finger stretch made me feel like even if there were one, I'd need to grow my left index fingernail creepily long to reach it....

So I had to send the horn back. That meant I had to get this multi-thousand dollar beast safely back to Ohio in the condition I got it in. Getting the thing snugly encased in bubble-wrap and styrofoam peanuts and cardboard and tape took, literally, a couple of hours. My wife got a kick out of all the stray packing peanuts that had managed to propagate to each and every nook and cranny of our living room, in the same way that she gets a kick out of wood ticks and altissimo practice.

And then I was paranoid during the whole shipping process.

Never again, I decided: next time, I'm just driving to Junkdude's. And that's what I did, on Tuesday.

It's a five and a half hour trip from Buffalo to Columbus, really not so bad, and unlike the vast featureless void of a trip I've taken many times across the northern half of Ohio, this move into the heart of the state revealed hills and rivers and stuff, which was a nice change of pace.

Once I got there: Holy Smokes! Seriously: there should be busloads of vintage sax enthusiasts pulling up in the parking lot. Junkdude is amazing.

The name "Junkdude" does not inspire confidence. He told me he started out as a general antiques dealer, but had been a lifelong player who always picked up vintage saxes when he came across them, and when he first put that particular inventory online, he saw there was a hungry market for it. Since he'd already started to develop a positive reputation as a sax dealer under that particular moniker, he stuck with it...

With that name, I half expected a dingy, dusty joint crammed with saxophones, and I was half right: the place is indeed crammed with saxophones. However, it's a very nice, clean, orderly, well-lit music store that appears to be run by a saxophone fetishist.

I'd been on the phone with the owner, Dave, on several occasions, as we discussed the possibility of trading my Mark VI alto for a Conn bari, and he seemed like a nice guy and a straight shooter.

For my visit, I was no longer in a bari frame of mind. I was mainly interested in trying out altos. And Dave was very helpful and generous with his time along those lines. I had studied his website before the trip and had a list of the horns I'd like to try, basically all the classic American makes that I'd never even touched: Conns, Martins, and some Bueschers (I've already got a 140). I was also game to try any Mark VI altos, because, you know, they're Mark VIs, and it's the law.

There are no separate practice rooms at Junkdude; when you're trying out horns, you're doing it right out there in the middle of the store. At first this seemed less than ideal, but actually it worked out pretty well, because you can get a better sense of a horn's sound in a larger space -- this definitely beats the phone-booth-sized rooms they'll try to shoehorn you into at Roberto's, for example...

We had altos strewn here there and everywhere, and Dave and his repairman colleague, Sweetman (not his real name, I think...) cheerfully endured my trying-out-saxophones schtick, involving playing low and high and altissimo, loud and soft, up and down, blowing harmonics, canned licks, etc. -- basically, if you've heard it once, you've heard it plenty, and Dave and Sweetman heard it many many many times.

And whenever I thought Dave might stomp up and cry "Cripes, ENOUGH already!" he'd instead bring over another horn: "Hey, you should try this too!"

Junkman was thin on Mark VI altos -- just three (including my just-traded, very nice short-bow, #68333, that wasn't the horn for me but that I really think will be the horn of *somebody's* dreams...), and had no King altos on this particular occasion. But just about EVERYTHING else was there in abundance.

I tried a number of Conns and Martins that really impressed me soundwise, and even played an SML (a French make I know nothing about) that would be a lead alto player's revenge -- this thing put out a ton of punch and power and brass.

Then Dave pulled out a beautiful Buescher 400 Top Hat & Cane that has been listed on his website only as "Coming Soon". Well, it had arrived, and really threw me for a loop. It had a lot of what I like so much about my 140, but was even less resistant. It's a more powerful horn as well, trading away some (but not all) of the sweetness of the 140 for core (yes, Virginia, even non-Mark VIs can have core...) and punch. The ergos are also better (the left-hand pinky spatula still won't let you go from a low C# to a low Bb without possibly breaking your finger, but how often are you gonna want to do that anyway? -- and the pearl-button left thumb rest remains a crime against humanity), and the notes pop out even more enthusiastically, especially in the palm keys, and with better intonation.

Reader, I married him. It. Her. She came home with me.

I originally had visions of trading my VI for this horn and some cash, and talked to Dave along those lines. I had no intention of picking up a tenor -- I'm perfectly satisfied with my current horn, a VI -- but I *did* bring my tenor mouthpiece, just because it seemed crazy not to just in case, and after a fair bit of intensive alto blowing I was ready for a brief respite, a palate-cleansing sorbet course, and asked to try some tenors.

Again, Dave was completely helpful and informative. I tried a couple of very nice Martins, and some lovely Conns. But what really knocked me out was a particular 10M that just had so much beef in the sound, loved to play harmonics and just plain spanked me around like a bad boy.

It was fun enough that I thought, hey, a person should always have a spare tenor (New York State Law 18-105), so I managed to forgo the cash and just grab this beastie as well. As long as my wife never learns how much cash I didn't bring home in order to score this horn, things will work out just groovy -- and my wife is notorious for her lack of interest in visiting Sax On The Web....

And here's the thing: I was there for hours, tried more horns than I could tell you, and I barely touched Junkdude's inventory. I should be shamefaced at all the sorts of horns I didn't even try: various flavors of Martins and Conns and Bueschers and more -- even as I was wrapping up my very long visit and starting to realize that the Conn and me might become pals, Sweetman was wrapping up work on an SML tenor and saying "You should wait for me to finish this one -- it's a beaut!"

Fearful of further confusing my already saxophone-addled mind, I threw in the towel and plead exhaustion. If I hadn't had a gig on Wednesday night, I would gladly have gone back the next morning to spend several more hours playing and becoming even more amazed and benumbed at the possibilities.

In short, this was a marvelous experience that way exceeded my expectations, and I really take off my hat to Dave and Sweetman. They've really got a killer shop, and if you're able to get yourself over there in person, it's worth the trip.
 

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That's what always happens when I visit Dave. Last week I brought my horns in for a tune up and he was literally handing horns and mouthpieces more than I could handle. I forget if it was that exact buescher, but I played a few altos that hadn't been touched my Tom yet, so they needed some work, but I remember thinking the buescher was very nice. His inventory is very big. I have been there mulitple times and I'm not sure I've played half of his stuff. Did you play that 90xxx mark VI alto? That thing was one of the best altos I've ever played. Couldn't afford it though or need it really.
 

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Those kind of trips are always the best! I've got a sax shop in Madison, WI I go to that usually has like 20 vintage saxes in stock, and I always think that's cool! I've never got to have quite the experience you did, although I'm sure one of these days I'll make it down there. It's even better when you get to bring horns home!

I've never played a 400, although I've heard great things about them. I picked up a pretty worn 10M a month ago and have fallen in love with it. There's nothing like that deep, roaring 10M sound. What mouthpiece are you using with it? Mine was very picky in that arena.

I also took a pilgrimage to Elkhart, Indiana which was interesting, but a different kind of trip. Junkdude is around 5 hours from where I am now, but maybe I'll make the trip next time I've got lots of money to spend!
 

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Kelly Bucheger said:
I should be shamefaced at all the sorts of horns I didn't even try
I'd say so. You made a big mistake by not buying the nickel plated Conn tranny tenor that Dave has on consignment. Just my honest opinion that is totally unbiased by my personal finances. :D
 

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I love going to Dave's. I live about 20 minutes away, so its a great place to go and get things I need, especially because he knows what saxophonists really want.

I got my Martin tenor there, I love it. Not sax related, but I also got my Olds Super trumpet there, one of the best jazz tpts I've ever played
 

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I've bought 3 horns from him, 3 or 4 mouthpieces, and a bunch of other stuff. His tech, Tom, is the only guy I fully trust working on my saxes.
 

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Ahh yes, the mpcs. Ive gotten a few there as well, and Ive traded in a number of mpcs and a handful of horns there as well. Tom is a great tech also!!
 

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Discussion Starter #8
jacobeid said:
Did you play that 90xxx mark VI alto? That thing was one of the best altos I've ever played. Couldn't afford it though or need it really.
You're lucky to live so close -- it's a heckuva place. I did indeed give that VI a shot, and thought it was a fine horn, brighter than the one I've traded over, which I think you might also like....
rs1sensen said:
I picked up a pretty worn 10M a month ago and have fallen in love with it. There's nothing like that deep, roaring 10M sound. What mouthpiece are you using with it? Mine was very picky in that arena.
I'm using a 110/2 SMS Berg with a custom facing by Doc Tenney. I haven't really played the horn enough to know ultimately how great that set-up is -- just had fun with it in the store.

(In general these days, all my practicing seems to be on alto, as that horn seems to demand my attention more to keep everything cool.... My tenor -- or I guess now I should say tenors, BOTH of them, get kind of neglected in the process, played only during the couple of gigs a week where I'm using them. So I haven't yet given this Conn the quality time she deserves....)

brasscane said:
I'd say so. You made a big mistake by not buying the nickel plated Conn tranny tenor that Dave has on consignment. Just my honest opinion that is totally unbiased by my personal finances. :D
Well, dagnabbit, Brasscane, you're right: I didn't see nor play that horn, but it shore looks purdy on the website. I hope someone has the good sense to grab it!
 

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Kelly Bucheger said:
Well, dagnabbit, Brasscane, you're right: I didn't see nor play that horn, but it shore looks purdy on the website. I hope someone has the good sense to grab it!
That horn might not have been on a stand on the wall. Most of the horns with a finish besides lacquer are kept in the back, along with the selmers.
 

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Kelly......One word....

wow


ok, couple more words...you suck! I wanna go to Dave's TOO! And the worst of it is my hometown is QUITE close to Columbus...though Dave's place wasn't there when I was growing up...

Congrats on the horns....

I scored a mint original YTS 62 tenor that hasn't a scratch on it from a lieutenant at Langley Air Force base right before I came to Japan...I got it for about 400$ ...Amazing deal...almost illegal huh...

I'm in the market for an original 62 soprano now...62R or regular...I love the 62 series...Ken Beason, mad-scientist repair tech from North carolina, told me that the original 62 yamaha's are the closest conically to the mark VI and I believe him...as far as I'm concerned the 62 kills all the other yamaha horns...(the ORIGINAL 62 that is...the new ones have a lighter alloy metal...)

Anyhoo...
Living vicariously thru your post on SOTW...thanks...
 

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Hope I get the chance to visit some day (sigh):(
 

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Ahhh your post is a saxophone enthusiast's dream... so much so that I quickly typed in junkdude.com and looked up the address of Dave's place. Only 7hrs and 15mins away. :(
 

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I emailed Dave today about a Morgan mouthpiece. Is he good at getting getting with email, or should I call his shop? Thanks
 

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Discussion Starter #16
nitrosax said:
I wanna go to Dave's TOO! And the worst of it is my hometown is QUITE close to Columbus...though Dave's place wasn't there when I was growing up...
Nitro, you definitely've got to put Junkdude on your "To Do" list -- you'd totally dig it. While I was making the trek, a part of me was thinking I was nuts -- I was giving up some prime summer days, prime practicing time, and had to cancel some students as well....

Now that I've been there and have seen what's what, I'm sold: I want to grab some local like-minded sax friends and turn this trip into an annual "thing" -- "The Junkdude Excursion" (tm).

asaxman said:
I emailed Dave today about a Morgan mouthpiece. Is he good at getting getting with email, or should I call his shop? Thanks
As has been noted, the phone's the way to go. Email worked best for me as a follow-up medium, after I've first had a phone chit-chat with Dave.

(By the way, boys and girls, I'm really Just Plain Loving this TH&C alto I picked up! Really great horn, and I hope to write about my observations about it when I get a chance...)
 

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I go there too. im 3 hours away. Dave is one of the coolest guys out there.Ive bought a ton of stuff from him. reeds,mpcs and a mark 6 alto. Its the most fun a sax player can have legally..
 
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