• Peter Ponzol and the Lyricon, Modell Peter Ponzol and Pro-One

    by  • June 28, 2011 • Misc., Non-Saxophone, Rare and/or Interesting, Saxophone

    In 2003, after I posted my first version of my Keilwerth pages on www.saxpics.com, I was contacted by Peter Ponzol. He said he wanted to “clear up” a few things about the Modell Peter Ponzol and his tenure at Keilwerth. Below, I’ve consolidated my questions into three parts:

    * Questions about Peter Ponzol himself, his involvement with Keilwerth and the development of the Modell Peter Ponzol saxophone.

    * Questions about the Peter Ponzol sax necks.

    * Brand new stuff (2011) regarding the Antigua Winds Pro-One saxophones.

    This makes things a little easier to read – after all, these were three separate e-mails. My post-interview additions are in brackets ([ ]) or in deep purple.


    The Keilwerth Modell Peter Ponzol

    The Keilwerth Modell Peter Ponzol

    PH: How did you get involved with Keilwerth? What was your position and “mission” there?

    PP: I will try and answer your questions without going into my life story. A lot of this information is in a Saxophone Journal interview from late 1992 or 1993.

    I was a consultant for the Lyricon in the late 70’s, while living as a jazz and studio player in NYC. I believe that it was 1980 that I demonstrated the Lyricon at the Frankfurt Music Fair. There I met the people from Buffet (which had just been purchased by Boosey & Hawkes). They invited me to come to the factory after the show and try some of their saxophones which I did.

    After returning to NYC, I became involved with the US part of the company in an effort to make a Buffet for the jazz market. During an extended 1981 stay in Europe, on a grant from the German government, I began to work on prototypes at the factory in Mantes. There was a problem in that B&H wanted a saxophone for the jazz market and Buffet saw the saxophone world as classical. My prototypes were never realized and B&H sent me to Keilwerth, which was in the same German village as B&H Germany, to see what I thought of the Keilwerth horns. I saw a lot of potential in these horns and B&H had Keilwerth make 100 horns with the Buffet logo and engraving. After realizing that Buffet was never going to change and being frustrated that my ideas were not being utilized, I left in 1985.

    I then approached Keilwerth, which was still a small family company to see if they would be interested in my ideas. We redesigned the saxophone they had been making for Conn [the “DJH Modified” horns]/Armstrong [the H-Couf models] by moving tone holes and designing a new neck. The saxophones they had been making were all flat in the palm keys so I suggested making the tone holes larger to raise the pitch.

    The Lyricon

    The Lyricon. Pictured is a Lyricon II.

    1986 saw the introduction of the Modell Peter Ponzol for the European market and the making of saxophones with only the Keilwerth name. (By the way, I moved to Germany in 1981 and was very busy as a jazz player playing all over Europe and with the Jazz Ensemble on the Frankfurt Radio Station HR.) We built an excellent European market for Keilwerth and in 1989, Boosey & Hawkes took over Keilwerth. I worked closely with Gerhard Keilwerth who is an excellent technician. I would give Gerhard an idea and on my next visit to the factory he would have some possibilities for me to try. My position was that of consultant and tester: I would go in the factory once a week to test my models and in general check on the production. We also did many workshops throughout Europe.

    I began making mouthpieces in 1985 and we tied both products into our workshops. My model came with a Ponzol mouthpiece, a different neck which was personally chosen by me for each instrument and I did all the final testing on all Ponzol saxophones and the guarantee card bore my signature. As I mentioned, the G# mechanism, adjustable palm keys and F arm with adjusting screw were all developed on my model. Being a jazz player, of course my goal was to make first a good saxophone and second [to make] one that was aimed at the largest market. During marketing studies we found that classical saxophone represented 3% of the world market in 1985. I was never able to get Keilwerth to change the size of the bow which I feel causes the sound to spread too much. We made a prototype with a smaller bow that I thought was fantastic, but it was never put into production.

    B&H did not like using my name on the saxophone and had no desire to make further major changes to the saxophones, so I became too expensive and my involvement with the company ended in March, 1993. I then returned to the US after a wonderful 12 years in Europe. The Modell Ponzol became the SX90, but without real rolled tone holes [the SX90R “uses tonehole rings which are soldered on to the standard drawn toneholes” (link to this quote is no longer available)] and with a different neck [, however] I would not like to make a comparison between my model and the new Keilwerth saxophones.


    PH: I’ve heard a bit about your custom necks. How did you get started doing this? What do you think about using wood as a material for a sax, particularly for a neck?

    PP: […] I learned with Keilwerth and Buffet how important the neck was and made many notes about various experiments. Remember that I had a factory at my disposal so every time I had an idea I received a prototype for testing. Seeing that the current method of making necks is good for production, but not always the best for the instrument, I decided that there was a good market for necks that would play better than the factory necks. I am a strong believer in the neck being the same material as the body of the saxophone. In principal, the ideal saxophone would be one piece, but it is totally impractical. I have experimented with necks of different materials and find a mismatch in the overtones. As to wooden necks, I think that it is asking for problems. I made about 100 wooden mouthpieces and know very well the problems of wood and moisture. In theory the material should have no influence on the sound and I strongly believe that. However, different materials have different resistance and this causes you to play differently in order to compensate for more or less resistance.


    The Antigua Winds Pro One

    The Antigua Winds Pro One

    In 2011, Peter Ponzol partnered with Antigua Winds to produce a new alto and tenor model that has the following, according to http://www.antiguapro-one.com/p1_alto_feat_beta.html:

    Ponzol Neck Design

    The heart and soul of the new Antigua Pro-One is the Peter Ponzol neck design. This new neck is free-blowing, has lightning quick response, precise intonation and great tone quality. Antigua Pro-One necks are designed and built to meet the strict standards set forth by Peter Ponzol.

    Vintage Brass Alloy Body

    Antigua Pro-One saxophones are crafted from a special vintage brass alloy material [Vintage Reserve™ Alloy]. It’s generally regarded that the metallurgy of post-war French saxophones gives them a certain tone character that sounds “right.” We analyzed this alloy and found that its properties were a combination of the chemical makeup, as well as the annealing and working processes during the making of the saxophone. We found a source for this alloy from a mill that uses only the highest quality refined ores to create the purest alloys available. Our engineering team then created an annealing process that emulates the acoustical properties of a fine vintage instrument. Vintage Reserve alloy promotes quick and accurate response, wide dynamic range, and centered, well-focused tone. As a result, the new Antigua Pro-One saxophones are at home in any genre or musical setting.

    I’ve heard many amusing things over the years regarding the kind of brass that’s used in making a saxophone, with the majority of comments having to do with the Selmer Mark VI. My personal favorite is that the metal used in the Mark VI was from old WWII artillery shell casings. While I do know, from watching things like How It’s Made, that how you “treat” the metal can make a significant difference in the strength of the metal, there have been no conclusive studies that show that the metal used in a saxophone’s construction affects the tone. See part 1 and part 2 of a couple articles I’ve written for more on the subject. In my opinion — and that of several other players — the best thing to do is not say that horn X is superior because of what it’s made with, but that horn X is just a really good horn. You might also note that a “taste-test” Paul Cohen did on baritone saxophones for the March/April 1997 edition of his “Vintage Saxophones Revisited” column in The Saxophone Journal magazine (page eight) concluded that the Super (Balanced) Action had better tone color.

    Hybrid Rolled Tone Holes

    The Antigua Pro-One is revolutionary and unique as it is the first hybrid rolled tone hole saxophone. The Pro-One has rolled tone holes for the bell keys and straight drawn tone holes in all other areas to balance response and tone. The rolled tone holes provide a larger contact area for the pads to seal and add needed strength where it matters most. This provides faster, more nimble response from the low notes and a deep rich tone.

    I’ve heard that some Conn New Wonder sopranos and sopraninos had the higher tone holes straight and the rest rolled. This was not done because they wanted to accentuate a design feature, but probably because you’re talking about itty-bitty tone holes. Unfortunately, while I colleced a lot of soprano and sopranino pics on www.saxpics.com, I don’t have any really good close-ups of the altissimo stacks on these horns. It is possible, of course, that the rolled tone holes were filed down on some horns at some point. In any event, the main reason why Conn used and the Pro-One uses rolled tone holes is for extended pad life. Check out this excerpt from a 1922 Conn catalog. If you want me to venture an opinion on the Antigua Pro-One’s design, without me even touching the horn, I think that the rolled tone holes on the bell keys combined with the “Trident™ Key Arms” (see below) might help with the problem of leaky bell keys and the fact that you’ve got an awful lot of mechanism you have to mash down to close the bell keys.

    Trident™ Key Arms

    Double key arms add strength to the low B, Bb and C keys. The Pro-One design carries this feature 2 steps further with the revolutionary Ponzol Trident adjustable arms. This new design, exclusive to the Antigua Pro-One, improves radial rigidity and features 2 adjustment arms to set and balance these critical keys. The difference this new design makes is truly amazing.

    Hybrid Bell Diameter

    There is a lot of mystique and marketing speak surrounding the bell diameter of the saxophone. This lead our design team, headed by Peter Ponzol to seek to quantify the role of the saxophone bell, remove the mystique and answer the question “what is the best bell size for saxophones?” Our research led us to the optimum bell diameter and shape to obtain the best balance, response and tone.

    I was unaware that there was a “mystique” surrounding bell diameters. Definitely a lot of marketing speak, as I know there have been big bell Cannonball horns, P. Mauriat horns and even Antigua, themselves, had a big bell model. SML was possibly the first company to offer an oversized bell, with their Gold Medal saxophone, back in the mid-1950s, but it really wasn’t a case of, “The Gold Medal is extra great because it has a big bell,” it was more, “The Gold Medal is a great horn and it has a big bell.” My opinion is that a lot of manufacturers are trying to get back to a bell that is, uhm, more bell-like. I’ve heard from a couple repairmen that they can remove the bell from (say) a Conn Artist/Standard horn and tap it — and get a bell-like tone. Newer horns just return a dull thud. Anyhow, there are an awful lot of things you can tweak on a saxophone and the bell is a big and logical target. However, it’d be extremely interesting if Antigua allowed Mr. Ponzol to do what he suggested in the above interview: make a one-piece (straight) horn. I know some folks that’d buy a straight alto or tenor!

    Ergonomic Keyboard

    An extensive ergonomic study of the saxophone keyboard was conducted by the Antigua Pro-One design team. The purpose of the study was to refine the positions and placement of the keys, making the Pro-One work with the player, making it easier to play fast and difficult passages and promote better feel.

    F to F# Bridge Key

    We added a bridge arm to the F key of the Antigua Pro-One to facilitate faster action and response in the right hand key section. The Pro-One is designed to have the best feel and response.


    Oddly, it doesn’t appear that you get a Peter Ponzol mouthpiece with the new Antigua Pro-One. The Pro-One horns are not cheap: $2500 and $2800, respectively, at Kessler Music (tell Dave that I said “hi”!). Then again, a Ponzol neck is $470 and his higher-end mouthpieces are in the $400 range. If both were included with the Pro-One, rather than just the neck, that’d be extremely attractive: $900 in Ponzol products and get a sax with some Ponzol custom work for $1600 more? Sign me up!

    The Pro-One alto is $1000 more expensive than the Antigua 4240. I do think this is a good price for Antigua dipping their toes in the “real” professional market with a horn that’s not just a copy of a Selmer Super 80 Serie II or a Yanagisawa 991, even if a Ponzol mouthpiece is not included. I’d rather like to see some reviewers test the Pro-One against the Keilwerth Modell Peter Ponzol, the Antigua 4240 and the Yanagisawa 991. However, I do start to wonder if the Pro-One is approaching two other rolled-tone hole French-made saxophones: the Couesnon Monopole and the SML Gold Medal.

    As a personal comment, I want to thank Mr. Peter Ponzol profusely for “sitting down” for an interview. I also hope he sells a bazillion Pro-Ones.


     

    Make/Model:

    Keilwerth Model Peter Ponzoll

    Lyricon

    Antigua Winds’ Pro-One

    Production Numbers/Dates:

    1986/7 to 1993

    Appx. 200 Lyricon I
    Appx. 250 Lyricon Driver Modules
    Appx. 5000 Lyricon II
    (1972-1980)

    Introduced in 2011

    Available Pitches:

    Eb Alto and Bb Tenor

    N/A

    Eb Alto and Bb Tenor

    Patents:

    N/A

    Manufactured by Selmer and Computone,
    Invented by Bill Bernardi & Roger Noble
    Patent 3767833 (1973)

    Pending for the “Trident Key Arms”

    Available Finishes:

    Lacquer,
    Colored Lacquer,
    Plating on Request

    N/A

    Vintage Gold Lacquer

    More Info & Pics: