• JW York Interestingness …

    by  • July 2, 2010 • JW York

    I am researching all things York saxophone, of course. While doing so, I ran across this simply beautiful bari on SOTW. The prospective owner’s question was, “Is this a York-made York?” My answer was equally simple, “I don’t know.”

    While letting that stew for awhile, I ran across an almost identical LACQUER bari on eBay. I found this because of a new thread I started on the Woodwind Forum: the semi-serious, “What’s the Rarest Sax on eBay this Week?” thread. (Ed, the founder of the Woodwind Forum, posted the horn because the seller thought the horn is rare enough to charge $3995 for it, which it is definitely NOT worth in that condition.) However, I was unable to identify the manufacturer, when I looked at it — just as I was unable to identify the horn on SOTW.

    That rarely happens to me: I’ve been doing this for a long while.

    However, on SOTW, another member insists the silver bari really is a York-made horn, so this identical eBay lacquer horn would be York-made, too. While I’m still unsure, I do think she may be right: a known York-made bari from SOTW’s Geausax has a lot of similar features to both of the other horns: similar range (low Bb to altissimo Eb), the same bell-to-body brace, the same style chromatic F#, the same style chromatic Bb and C (the hinged construction of the chromatic Bb is generally very specific to a particular make/model), and the neck crook wraps around the same way. Unfortunately, the extremely interesting octave mechanism on the eBay horn is not pictured on the other two horns. And Geausax’s horn has the patented York “toneholes-on-a-plate” construction.

    However, neither the silver bari on SOTW nor the lacquer bari on eBay have plate construction, like the known York-made bari does (I’ll put in links later, so as to be less confusing). Add to that that the eBay bari says, “Imported by Holton” wouldn’t make too much sense if the horn was made by York: an American company importing an American horn? I do know parts of Michigan are north of Canada, but they’re still Americans. Finally, the gentleman that has done the most research on York saxophones, an SOTW’er named Laporte, says that York sax production began in 1922. That’s 12 years after the serial number of the eBay bari would indicate (s/n 28955 maps to 1910ish). Additionally, these two baris could be Buescher stencils: I do not have pictures of baris old enough to confirm or deny that. I do have a catalog picture of a Buescher bass that looks fairly similar.

    I will do some more research. I’d like to see if I can find a reason Laporte settled on 1922. Whatever the rationale, though, my opinion is that the the lacquer horn on eBay horn and the silver horn on SOTW look too much like Geausax’s bari NOT to have been made by York. I might even have a rationale on why a US-made horn could be “imported” by a US-company, but I’ve run out of time this evening!


    Serial Number
    1920/2 (Note 1)
    Bell-to-Body Brace
    G# Cluster
    Indeterminate (Note 2)
    Neck Crook Wrapped
    Chromatic Bb
    Hinged (Note 4)
    Chromatic F#
    “Spoon” (Note 5)
    Keyed Range
    Low Bb, Altissimo Eb
    Low Bb, Altissimo Eb
    Low Bb, Altissimo Eb

    Note 1: The reason there are two dates is because there are a variety of serial number charts — and all of them are probably incorrect, to a large amount. There is Dan Cipriano’s chart that breaks down serial numbers based on possible production amounts. John Swain’s four synthetic charts, Horn-u-Copia’s chart is based on a synthesis of John Swain’s chart, Dan Cipriano’s chart and verified serial numbers/dates.

    I think that at least 3 years should be added to all charts, because the “toneholes on a plate” patent was filed in 1925. I don’t think York would be selling ANY horns with “unique” technology if the patent wasn’t filed.

    Note 2: While I cannot see the G# cluster on this horn, it quite obviously is a horn that uses the “toneholes on a plate” construction. Other models that I can see the G# cluster on have the “Buescher-style” Button.

    Note 3: It really doesn’t make a difference if you call the wrap clockwise or counter-clockwise, as long as you have pictures, at least. The reason for the direction of a clockwise wrap is to accomodate the double-octave keys, as you can see on this 1861 A. Sax bari. With the automatic octave keys, there’s no real need to have the wrap one way or the other. The other major “contender” for make/model for champagnebari’s and eBay’s bari is the Evette-Schaeffer: even though there were a few different models available, they all had a clockwise wrap.

    Note 4: The reason for the importance of the hinged chromatic Bb to be included in this comparison chart is because it’s somewhat uncommon. If you look at a Buescher True-Tone, you’ll notice that the key is straight. On the Evette-Schaeffer, some baris around the age of this horn, also have a hinged chromatic Bb, but it’s a different style that “wraps” more behind the horn. Note 5: There is no spoon. Sorry. The chromatic F# isn’t that unique on most horns, but it is on the bari. While the Buescher True-Tone has a similar F# key, the Evette-Schaeffer produced around the same time is much more unique: not only is the shape different, you’ve got that extra rod.

    To round this out, I offhandedly mentioned that there are two real “competitors” to the idea that champagnebari’s horn and the eBay horn are made by York. Those competitors are the Buescher True Tone and the Evette Schaeffer. In the case of the Buescher, s/n 28955 = 1916 — if it was a professional model and not a stencil. Considering that this would be a stencil, the serial number means nothing. The earliest Buescher bari that I collected pictures of (that you can see any detail on) is 116,198 (1922). For an Evette-Schaeffer, 28955 = 1926 — and their stencils used the same numbers. Well, I have pics of a 1926 bari and a 1928-ish bari. You can do your own comparing and contrasting, but I think that the True Tone is much more feature-laden and its keywork is too different. The Evette-Schaeffer I throw out because the neck crook is completely different.

    Someone also had mentioned that the champagnebari’s and eBay’s horns could be Malerne stencils. That would be hard to prove or disprove because a) Malerne horns seem to have a rather random serial number scheme and b) no one has been able to produce a horn that looks like these baris. I will be trying to do some research on Malerne in the future, but I can say that all the Malernes I’ve seen so far have single-side bell keys and look to be not older than WWII-vintage.