Tenor Madness

In sixth grade, I joined Krueger middle school band and learned to play clarinet. In 7th grade, I joined jazz and added tenor sax. In 8th grade, I learned flute so I could double in jazz band.

My parents bought me the tenor, a Selmer Mark VII, from my dad’s (now late) high school friend, Pete Portillo, on San Antonio’s west side, not far from Grandma and Grandpa’s house in the summer of 1981. After middle school, I played in high school jazz band(but I don’t think all four years), and took it to college where I continued to play jazz until I graduated MIT in 1990.

Fast forward 26 years to this spring, when our new church pastor, myself and several others played and sung a jazz mass, which I really enjoyed. But it was clear then that this sax needed an overhaul, and I finally took the plunge this summer and had it done by Ken Cameron, owner of Cameron’s Music:

Ken’s been at this for 23 years, and his passion really shows. He was pretty excited when I dropped it off, and asked me this history of the horn. He looked up the serial number, and informed me it was built in 1978, 38 years ago! I picked it up this week, and played it at his store to be sure everything worked. It sounded wonderful, except for a little issue with the high E key, which was blowing open ever so slightly. Ken took it into the back room, and came back several minutes later(I didn’t realize at the time that the E key was operated by complicated linkage to the alternate B key). I bought a fresh set of reeds and a new case that doesn’t smell like, well, let’s face it, 38 years of spit, went home and ‘opened her up’.

The horn is PERFECT! The leaks have been vanquished, all the linkages are straight, and desecrations of my poor man’s tape and cork repairs of years ago have finally been banished. I’ve been playing about every other day. I can hit the lower registers without the honking(well, except low Bb, which can only be honked into existence).The horn plays with much lower effort, and more smoothly than ever before. Now I just need to get my embouchure back into shape, relearn my scales, and then begin to approach what the horn can now do.