My Horns

Saxophone players never get tired of talking about their horns. I have two tenors: a Mark VI and a Borgani Jubilee model.

My main tenor is a Mark VI. The serial number puts the year of manufacture at 1974, very near the changeover to the Mark VII. This horn is in great shape with 99% original laquer. I had it overhauled, and it feels like a new horn. It has a sound that is more centered than the Borgani, as one would expect from a Mark VI. Don’t believe the myth that the only good Mark VI is one with a five-digit serial number. There are some great horns among the later VI’s.

The Borgani is a great sounding horn. My friend and teacher Tim Price turned me on to this horn. Borganis are not well known in the US. They are hand made in Italy, where the Borgani workshop turns out only about 300 per year. It has a spread American sound reminiscent of a Conn 10M, but with very comfortable contemporary keywork. If you are looking for an alternative to the Selmer sound (and its many clones), you should check the Borgani out. My only complaint about this horn is that it was pretty maintenance intensive for the first 5 years or so. I had it in the shop on the average of twice a year. It now seems fairly well debugged, and maintenance seems normal now.

My alto is a Mark VI. This horn came to me almost by accident. It belonged to a work colleague of mine who had played it as a student in Sweden then put it in the closet for 30 years. It needed some work and smelled kind of funky, but after a complete rebuild by Steve Malarsky, it plays great–good intonation and solid from top to bottom.

Living the Dream

I grew up in a musical family. My mother was a music educator and church organist. My father had been a drummer in his youth and gave me an appreciation for jazz. When I was in high school and college, music was a big part of my life. I played in concert bands, jazz bands, pep bands, German bands (Heine’s Happy Five), woodwind quintets, etc. I even flirted with the idea of a career in music, but cooler heads prevailed, and I chose a path that provided more financial stability than the average jazz musician might expect.

Some career musicians might call that a sell-out, and I wouldn’t argue with them. But that is the choice I made, and I have no regrets. However, music was always there as a sub-text. My wife is also a music lover, and we have always enjoyed listening to good music, whether classical, pop, or jazz.

In the back of my mind was that at some point I would resume an active musical life. In the years when I was busy climbing the corporate ladder, this notion was rather vague but still there. My musical activity was limited to occasionally taking my clarinet or a recorder out of the drawer and tooting away for half an hour or until my embouchure collapsed, whichever came first.

As I got into my fifties, and the prospect of retirement started to take a more definite shape, the itch to really do something about it increased. The catalyst was a visit to some friends who had a high school aged son who played the saxophone, and the turn of the millennium seemed like a good time to start. I bought a saxophone, found Tim Price to get me on the right track, and I was on my way.

For four years my musical activity consisted of almost nothing but practicing and listening to a lot of jazz. It’s amazing how a little maturity can help you focus your practicing habits. The only opportunity I had to play with other musicians was my annual week at Jazz Vermont. For three of those four years I was living in Copenhagen, which is a city rich with live jazz and a great jazz education in itself. At the end of my assignment in Denmark, I worked out an arrangement with my employer (a Scandinavian based company) to return to the US on a part time basis. This was the start of my Master Plan. If I was ever going to be an active musician, this would give me the opportunity to do something about it.

When I got back to the US, I quickly joined a community band (Montgomery County Concert Band). I also reestablished contact with a former colleague of mine who was also a closet musician and more or less in the same position that I was. We started to get together on a regular basis to play and eventually formed the Jazzmen Duo.

My musical life has gathered momentum now, and I have now phased out of my “day job”. What kind of a “Master Plan” is that, you may ask. Well, as I started to think more and more about retirement, I thought about people I knew who had retired and didn’t have anything to do, because their job was their whole life. To me, that is a prescription for feeling depressed and speeding up the aging process. All the experts say that as you age, staying active is important to maintain your health and quality of life.  What better way to do that than to do something that you always wanted to do without the pressure of having to depend upon it wholly for your livelihood? Music and volunteer work do that for me, and I hope I will be able to continue for many years to come.

I am living the dream.

Cheers,
Mike