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Discussion Starter #1
I recently picked up a beautiful 1935 Handcraft alto. It has all the Imperial features (low B and Bb on same side, big blob LH thumb rest, fixed RH thumb rest, etc.) but isn't marked "Imperial". It has nickel keys and a lacquer body, and as best i can tell it is not a relac - seems almost too beautiful to be original finish but the engraving is crisp. SN 114,xxx

I'm wondering:

Did Martin let a few Imperials slip out without engraving the "Imperial" name on them? Isn't the 1930's vintage Imperial rather rare? (not to be confused with the later "Imperial" student/intermediate horn)

What pads came standard on these? This one has tan leather pads with no resonator, just a rivet. I think flat metal reso pads would really open this horn up......

I haven't seen one of these with nickel keys...... anyone else?

Any other comments on this horn?


Pictures:

http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w85/parts_pics/sax/bell engraving.jpg
http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w85/parts_pics/sax/Lower.jpg
http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w85/parts_pics/sax/side.jpg
http://i174.photobucket.com/albums/w85/parts_pics/sax/pads.jpg
 

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I think the Imperials did have nickel, not plated, keys. All of the features and serial number say it's an imperial.

As to engraving the name, I have a 1920 gold plated Handcraft tenor which, unlike others I've seen, does not have Handcraft engraved on the logo.
 

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Looks almost identical to my Committee 1 except with fixed thumbrest and fork Eb. I will bet you those keys are solid nickel alloy, not plated (good!). I don't think we can draw a lot of conclusions from engraving, given that in the period of concern Martin changed engraving patterns and model designations about like the rest of us change socks. Remember, too, in those days you went to the music store and they had a Martin, a Conn, a Selmer, a King, and a Buescher. They might be a couple weeks old and just sent in from the factory, or they might have been made two years ago. No one knew about all these models, and no one knew that one model was slightly different than the next. If you carefully read the music magazines, you would have seen advertisements with usually line drawings of the instruments, said line drawings often being inaccurate, and if you got to look at the catalog sent to the music store it probably just had a three or four line description of the "Martin alto sax". All the concern about details of models, subtle variations in engraving, etc., is something developed long after the fact. Musicians in 1935 just bought a Martin alto sax.

My guess would be that it originally had plain rivet pads, or MAYBE small flat metal boosters.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I really like the sound of my Buffet SDAs. Even my Conn New Wonders and 6M are pretty darn good. I had a Committee III ("The Martin tenor") thinking it would roar but was disappointed. This one sounds a lot like that one. I'm thinking flat metal resos will help. Or am I missing something else?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
And my horn also has the heart shaped LH thumb rest. Didn't get a picture of that, sorry, but I did note it in the post.

And it has the little brace between the D and D# palm keys.

The bell key guards don't seem to match any of the pictures for either horn.
 

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I think the front fork Eb key and nickel keys make it an imperial. I have one and it looks just like this, but with an engraving softened by a relay. These came with pillow pads without resonators I have heard, but most players put flat resos in as I did. A great horn with power to spare when regulated. Does yours have the G# linked to the other pinkie table keys?
 

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That was meant to say relac not relay. And as turf3 says, naming fixed models is an historians job, not necessarily adhered to at the time.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
My horn has a G# pinky key that is independent except for a tab that will actuate the G# key whenever the other table keys are played.
 

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I just took a look at my Committee 1 of 118,000 serial number, which I am willing to bet is pretty much the exact same horn as yours with a few keywork changes. Mine has flat metal boosters on it and it plays with reasonable power. I would say it has more projection than a modern Selmer or Selmer copy, but not like my Conn 6M.

Mine has a poorly executed attempt at linking the G# to the other keys, but as designed it would bear on the rollers. I disabled this and put my own tabs on that allow the rollers to roll. Any competent technician ought to be able to do this, and I certainly would do it if you plan to use the horn regularly.

Your bell key guards look just like mine. My horn has a pearl on the alt. F# key instead of a metal touch.

What I would do, if I were you, is to put in pads with flat metal boosters, have the G# key tabbed, put something like a Brilhart Tonalin or Ebolin, or a Meyer, on it, and proceed to just play the livin' blank out of it. These are GREAT altos!

Now I don't know what kind of alto you're coming from. If you've been playing on something like a modern Yamaha with its totally slotted-in intonation, you will find that you need to play with more attention to pitch. There won't be any notes that are out of tune, but you will find the intonation of each note is more flexible than you're used to, especially as you go up the scale. When you play each note at the center of its range, they will all be perfectly in tune, but it's easier with an old horn to deviate from the center of pitch if you're not used to this. I got my horn from a friend who had been playing modern altos for decades, and he claimed this one was "pitchy" in the upper register. So, I put it on a tuner. In my case, since I've been playing Conns since 1978, every note just popped right in tune, because I am used to that characteristic.

Once again, let's not confuse "flexible pitch" with "out of tune". They aren't the same thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Now I don't know what kind of alto you're coming from. If you've been playing on something like a modern Yamaha with its totally slotted-in intonation, you will find that you need to play with more attention to pitch. There won't be any notes that are out of tune, but you will find the intonation of each note is more flexible than you're used to, especially as you go up the scale. When you play each note at the center of its range, they will all be perfectly in tune, but it's easier with an old horn to deviate from the center of pitch if you're not used to this. I got my horn from a friend who had been playing modern altos for decades, and he claimed this one was "pitchy" in the upper register. So, I put it on a tuner. In my case, since I've been playing Conns since 1978, every note just popped right in tune, because I am used to that characteristic.

Once again, let's not confuse "flexible pitch" with "out of tune". They aren't the same thing.
I play a lot of vintage sopranos - Conn, Buescher and Martin. ALL altos have perfect intonation after playing these!!! I will say the Martin soprano is fabulous, vintage "flexible pitch" with great intonation. Conn is next, Buescher is hardest, esp the "C" sops.
 

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I hear you on the soprano thing. I mostly play baritone. A minor voicing that would cause a subtle variation in timbre on baritone, will bend the note three half steps on soprano.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I just fixed a handful of small leaks and popped a Selmer S80 on it, plays top to bottom easily now. The Martin really screams with the S80 - seems like a much higher "timbre" or resonance than the Buffet "Master Model" (SDA with a Dynaction low C#) I was comparing next to it. I guess the Buffet horns are known to be dark, although my Conns seem darker than the Martin as well. So I tried a darker and more vintage mouthpiece, a white Kleartone Professional that I refaced. That took all the screaming away, much smoother, mellow, but not as much volume.

The ergos on this horn seem pretty good although the LH "G" key seems a little too close to the "G#" pinky table for me.
 

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Well I think there are a couple things to say about value. Martins didn't have resos and as you stated it can really make them open up. The condition of that I would guess the pads are original. I have a minty Comm I with original pads that are still almost perfect. So I think a range would be $600-750.

The problem with vintage altos is that at the $1000 price point there is some really nice one out there if you look around. Just a ton of altos out there. I think Martins are the best vintage alto. I have several.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
I've been watching the Comm III altos go for $1000- $1400ish. None had as good a finish as this horn, or the original pads. Even the case is in excellent condition, and includes the music holder. I don't think I've seen any 30's vintage alto this nice. I wish I could find a Buffet SDA this nice!!!

Is there that much difference between the Comm III horns and the Imperials? Adjustable thumb rest is a plus but they really screwed-up the neck tenon, imo. I don't think they sound much different............
 

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I don't care for the Comm III pinky tables. The one on your horn is better. People think they are better but they really aren't.
 
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