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Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

This is a little return to SOTW, and I hope it can be useful to anyone who is interested on a Dolnet soprano.

During more than a year, I was researching about a Dolnet soprano, wich I finally found and owned.
I want to share all the information I have collected about this beautiful instrument.
Dolnet manufactured three models of soprano saxophones during 1950 to 1980, the Belair, the Studium, and the Universal.
The Studium was the only one engraved with his name on it, which makes more difficult to recognize the others two, but there are some clues to do it right, with no doubt.
Most of them were straight, except the Universal wich were the only ones manufactured straight and curved.

The Belair was produced from 1950 to 1970 (with a tolerance of more/less 5 years), there is no serial numbers charts to rely on.
There is no curved Belair, all of them are straight.
There are at least three subdivision inside the Belair: the early ones (with a separated neck with a ring soldered and fixed, not removable) http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/early.jpg probably around early 50´s, the 50/60´s Belair (most common to find) http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnet4.jpg and the last one around 70's http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130030.jpg.
They also made an extraordinary and uncommon model of Belair with high F#, showing 4 palms keys instead of three (I have seen only one, stenciled to Paul Beuscher - Paris- France) manufactured around 1960·
All Belair soprano share the same tube (I am not completely sure about this, but I believe the tube dimensions are the same for all of them) , the same palm keys (similar to MKVI but square-rounded instead of nail-oval shaped), also the same pinky cluster, but there is a difference at the right hand C/D# spatulas.
This little difference on the spatulas, is which one allows us to recognize the Belair from differents decades (50/60, or 70´s).
From the 50 to the final of 60´s this spatulas were hexagonal http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnet5-1.jpg , but then (at 70´s) they changed the design to rounded ones http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130017.jpg (the same design of spatulas that can be recognized on the M70 altos and tenors).
There is another evident and major difference on the design of 70´s Belair soprano, they changed from ribbed post mounted http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnetriibmount.jpg , to individual post mounted http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130007.jpg, (like Selmer did later on with the soprano SA80 II -ribbed post mounted - and then redesigned the SA80 III - to individual post-).
I believe this change results on a lighter instrument, when I received my Dolnet soprano I was expecting a heavier instrument (I have heard about the weight of Dolnets from others alto and tenors owners) , but I get surprised because this Belair was lighter than my previous modern soprano (I also believe the extra weight on altos and tenors comes from the heavy hexagonal key guards, typical of Dolnet, but completely absent on sopranos) .
The other clue to recognize the Belair from each decade is the engraving, the 70 Belair has some straight triangular designs on it http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130018.jpg but the others (50-60) are like curved triangular leaves and the words "Dolnet Paris Made in France" are inside of a square rounded design http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnet10.jpg or sometimes inside a paper roll like design.
Most of the Belair were nickelplated, some of them were gold lacquered with silver keys or completely gold lacquered, and a few ones silverplated with gold inside bell.

The Studium was an student instrument but can be easyly recognized because of this name engraved on the bell, has different palm keys (nail-oval shaped) and the neck is narrower near the cork and always were light gold lacquered with silver keys. The Studium was manufactured between 60 to 70, I believe.

The Universal were straight and curved, but I am almost 100 % sure they were stenciled to Dolnet by an italian manufacturer (I bet Orsi), that´s why the engraving says Dolnet Paris http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/universaleng.jpg, instead of Dolnet Paris made in France as you can see in any other Dolnet Belair soprano.
They were produced during the early 80´s.The Universal has not his name engraved on it and has different palm keys http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/universalpalm.jpg, different pinky cluster, and diferent octave key http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/universaloctave.jpg .

Now, a little review about my Dolnet Belair from 1970.
1-Sound: Excellent, it has a huge sound, the tone is completely distinctive from other sopranos I had the chance to play, the closest sound that comes to my mind (but still different) is the King saxello (because of the unique sound, and the powerful voice -in spite of they are not similar on tone-)
2- Emission: Good, but at first you have to work on it, it is not an easy instrument to blow at first try, if you are coming for example from a modern Yamaha or Yanagisawa probably you will find the emission of the Dolnet soprano simply bad and almost impossible to play from top to bottom, but really deserves the effort, when you tame it, you have a good resistance, but with a wonderful rich tone, and the volume of the instrument is really HUGE, this is another characteristic very distinctive of the Dolnet.
3-Ergonomics: Very good for a vintage soprano, but regular for a modern one.
The pinky cluster is closer in design to a Conn 6m alto http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130008.jpg and the palms keys are very similar to a MKVI soprano (in line style) but not so near to the tube as on the MKVI and with a different shape (rectangular-rounded,not nail-oval shaped) http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130015.jpg .
The thumb hook is something unique and odd in design http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130014.jpg ,but if you play clarinet or bass clarinet you will love it, because it feels like it came from the same family.
4-Finishing: Very Good, this one has a heavily silverplated,with gold washed inside the bell http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130005.jpg, also a nice hand engraving where you can see the lines of the design of each letter and the lines traced by the engraver to work later on http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130004-1.jpg.
5-Assembly: with no doubt is regular just because in spite of everything is working perfectly, you can see a lot of bad finishing at the assembly department, like bad soldering post (bad finishing, but firm welded) http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130013.jpg , or bad centered screw/pass as you can see clearly on this photo http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130011.jpg.
I agree 100 % with Stephen Howard on his review about a Dolnet M70 tenor (this one is from the same era).
Note: this information is about the 70´s Dolnet soprano, probably the 50/60´s sopranos experienced better assembly procedures than later ones because of that change executed about the individual post mounted, and then it made more difficult to do the assembly between the tube and the post properly at the factory.
6-Action: excellent, smooth and fast, very easy under the fingers.
7-Case: Bad. I believe this is a problem for every vintage soprano , but this one has received a small dent after a plane trip to my hands, because the original case has a piece of wood (covered by velvet), that can impact (and yes,this one did it) below the thumb rest of the left hand, and that´s why I decided to contact a manufacturer of anvil cases http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130021.jpg and we worked and developed together to make my own, safe and indestructible case "airportemployee-proof" for my Dolnet soprano http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P1130002.jpg.
8- Intonation: Very Good to excellent, I had to work some notes like high E and F (a little bit flat at first) but I find the palm keys notes easier to blow than my previous modern soprano.

I use a Selmer Metal Classisc C** mouthpiece, a Rovner dark ligature, and Gonzalez reeds #2.

Thank you for your time reading this words and I would like to say to be fair that probably any modern player could not tolerate most of the things I have described before on a chinese or taiwanese modern soprano , but for the persons who loves ancient instruments in general and vintage saxophone in particular (like I do), I believe The Dolnet Belair Soprano from 70´s is a wonderful instrument with his own voice and a is real pleasure to play and work with.
electricfigue
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Well, I will like to add some interesting information about the warranty document of Dolnet.

http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/P2020032.jpg

I think is interesting because there are two names on this document: Francoise Combelle and Alix Combelle, and both deliver some clues about the Dolnet history.
The first one died in 1952, he also worked for Selmer as a tester employee around 1930/1940 and was the father of Alix Combelle (this fact reinforced the rumour that many workers of Selmer worked also with Dolnet, as you can read on Saxpics about the engravers being part of both companies) .
Alix died on 1978 and because of this fact I believe he was the one who has signed (or at least the person who should be the signer) on this document, (at the end near the sign it says: "L´un D´eux" wich means "One of them").
As you can read on the link below, he died on Mantes, the same city were Selmer and Dolnet had their factories (you can also read "Usine a Mantes" on the document wich means "Factory at Mantes").

Below, I reproduced the text in french (the original language), and the text in english, I tried to do my best to translate it, but neither of both are my native language, if you find any mistake please let me know.

Nous, soussignés,certifions que le saxophone Dolnet a été examiné et essayé par nois soins, et possèdé un mecanisme impecable, une emission facile , ainsi qu´ une grande justesse, puissance et homogénéité de sons.
En foi de quo, nous delivrons le present Certificat, et garantissons cet instrument pour une dureé illimiteé contre tous vices de fabrication.
Les directeurs artistiques
Francois Combelle Ex saxophone solo et Président de la Societé des Artistes de la Musique de la Garde Republicaine et
Alix Combelle Compositeur, Chef d´orchestre
L´un D´eux

We , undersigneds, certify that the saxophone Dolnet was examined and tried by us with care, and it owns a perfect mechanism, an easy emission, also a big correctness, power and homogeneity of sounds.
In witness of this, we deliver the present Certificate, and guarantee this instrument for a unlimited duration against any vices of manufacture.
The artistic directors
Francois Combelle Ex solo saxophone and President of the Society of Music Artist of the Republican Guard and
Alix Combelle Composer, Conductor

One Of them


About Alix Combelle:
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=11:dxfwxqr5ldhe~T1

If you have some extra info, you are welcome. electricfigue
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Hello electricfigue, I am new to sotw but I think it's a good idea to thank you very much for the bulk of information about dolnet sopranos.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Welcome to SOTW and thank you for your words.
This is a good place to share information, and like many others I have obtained a lot of good info about saxophones, mouthpieces, ligatures, reeds and music in general.
That`s why I tried to do my best as a return of that info on my review, is good you liked it.
Do you play a Dolnet also?.- I believe the Dolnets are very good instruments,much better than most people suppose and for some reason thay are underated (maybe because they need some time of work on playing them to reveal the real sound, tone and potential of the instrument).
I am very interested on french woodwinds, the french instrument makers did very good instruments during the last 100 years, and during 1890 to 1950 aprox. something similar to the Taiwanese saxophone makers success of today happened in France.
During my research I wrote every name of any french saxophone maker I have crossed with.
Selmer at that time was one of at least 50 brands of makers/stencils in France, but today only Selmer had survive.
Probably I will post the list of those saxophone makers on another thread soon, but at this moment I only have the names, and in some cases there is no information available, but anyway is an interesting info to share here.
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Hello Dolnet's amators,

Thank you Electricfigue for theese beautifull pics of Sopranos.

About the warranty document of Dolnet.
(http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/...o/P2020032.jpg),
i must say that i am surprised that there is no date of it's delivery.

I did not remember that Alix Combelle was a Dolnet player.

As french saxman too, Guy Lafitte played Dolnet.

Spend good time and enjoy!
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

This is a little return to SOTW, and I hope it can be useful to anyone who is interested on a Dolnet soprano. ...
This is great info, electricfigue! I am deeply impressed by the depth of your research.

Felix
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Hello Tenold: you´re welcome, is good you enjoy the pictures.
Yes, there is no date on the Dolnet warranty, this makes more difficult to set the year of manufacturing, but I believe this soprano is around 70´s because of the serial number, the style of the original case (in and out), and the changes on the designs, wich are consistent with the M70 alto and tenor.
I don´t know neither if Alix Combelle was a Dolnet player but probably yes at one moment of his career because he worked for Dolnet (as it can be read on the document),and his father worked for Selmer also (this information is on Selmer website).
Do you play a Dolnet ?

Hello Laporte: Thank you for your words, I tried to do my best.
You have shared a lot of info here on SOTW , so, thank you also.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Walking on the footsteps of the Belair soprano, I will like to add some pictures of an early Dolnet, Pigis & Lefevre soprano.
http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/dolnet7.jpg
http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnet2.jpg
This is a totally different instrument than the Belair, but I think will add some new information about Dolnet sopranos.
An interesting item to take a look is the early single octave system mechanism design, with an unusual "U" shape,
http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/dolnet6.jpg
and the long palm keys to Eb only
http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/dolnet8.jpg
Probably this instrument can be dated around 1930 with 5 years of tolerance more/less.
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Excellent research "Electricfigue" most interesting. I have at present a Dolnet tenor F/S on here I'm assuming its a 'Belaire' maybe you can enlighten me?? the S/No. is 67701C I'm also assuming it is a late 1950's early '60's
Regards Bopity
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Many praises for Electrifigue too. Very enlightening information.

This makes me realising that I am not alone as a Dolnet player. Plenty of Dolnet lovers are around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

BOPITY FUNK : thank you,I' ve tried to be very clear on my research.
Yes, I think your tenor is around 1955/1965 but I am not an expert, all this research was a consequence of the lack of information at the time I found my Dolnet soprano.
A good point to look at is the engraving, maybe you can check this on your tenor.
As I wrote about the sopranos engraving, I think the same engraving can be seen on altos and tenors over the same period of time:
"The other clue to recognize the Belair from each decade is the engraving, the 70 Belair has some straight triangular designs on, but the others (50-60) are like curved triangular leaves and the words "Dolnet Paris Made in France" are inside of a square rounded design or sometimes inside a paper roll like design."

supruet: thank you also for your words, and yes, for sure will be more and more Dolnet players, or as you said very well, Dolnet lovers, because they are excellents instruments, and when you work playing on them, the Dolnets gives you more than you expect at the begining.
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Here we go again, some of these days my research about Dolnet will come to an end, but meanwhile...

1.Lester Young's Dolnet publicity photo showing him playing at a french club, (I have seen many pics of Don Byas playing his Dolnet, but not so many about Prez), the ad says: "Lester Young plays on Dolnet"
http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnetlester.jpg

2-Very simple and beautiful designed Dolnet publicity ad which says: "The great artists and jazz stars plays on Dolnet" - "The Worldwide Brand"
Paris office address and a mention of Mantes factory.
http://i1008.photobucket.com/albums/af204/lepoisondargent/Dolnet soprano/dolnetad.jpg

Both ads showed the names of several cities of the world where Dolnet were distributed at the time: "Paris - Bruxelles - Lausanne - Barcelona - New York"
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

:cheers:

Electricfigue, i thank you for the Lester's jpg.
The horn seems to be a Serie II, like mine's, so i'am glad to see it.
When i was younger, in the end of fiveties, i used to read the french revues "Jazz Hot" and "Jazz Magazine" in wich there were photos of Jazzmen "playing on" Selmer (mostly) an Dolnet too.
Of course, i regret not to keep all theese newspapers but i was too young to guess the future interest of these pics.
I really enjoy to read the Dolnet's threads.

Spend good time.

:hello2:
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

…Lester Young's Dolnet publicity photo showing him playing at a french club…
Perhaps you could contact the photographer Jean Pierre Leloir or his heirs. Maybe they have more photos?
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Tenold: Yes, it looks like Lester played a series II, which I think it hadn't significant differences compared to the Belair, the body to bell brace, the red inlays, and the palm keys only, I believe.
Maybe they used the same body tube on Series II and Belair tenors, as I think they did on sopranos over the differents periods of time.
Yes, If you had preserved these newspapers perhaps today we would discover more names of Jazz who have played Dolnet in the past, but a good way to avoid your regrets about it, is sharing those moments here on SOTW.
Good time to you also.
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

sharing those moments here on SOTW.
Hello falks, i've found these other Dolnet docs (maybe you did already know them?).

Lester's pics :





and Don Byas who liked to leave in France:



An other Dolnet's player was the french Guy Lafitte (left of the pic) in the immediate after war, then he switched to Selmer. He went and played many times in US.:



Enjoy!
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Great thread!
I just found this and I have found an used dolnet soprano I'm thinking of buying. The guy who owns it don't know how old it is he says that he thinks around 1960. The serial number is 52***. I think it's an Belair. I have only this picture. I've asked for more pictures but I haven't got them. There is some original pads left and they are red. Can someone tell me if this is a bellair?
 

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Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Excellent research and postings Electricfigue. Many thanks for sharing this with the forum.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Re: Review on Dolnet Belair 70´s soprano

Great thread!
I just found this and I have found an used dolnet soprano I'm thinking of buying. The guy who owns it don't know how old it is he says that he thinks around 1960. The serial number is 52***. I think it's an Belair. I have only this picture. I've asked for more pictures but I haven't got them. There is some original pads left and they are red. Can someone tell me if this is a bellair?
Hi limpan2,
I have answered your PM.
Yes, it is a Belair, and I think is well dated around 1960.
Also the original pads on Dolnet Belairs were red.
Good luck.
 
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