Buescher Bass Sax Upper Stack

 … The Conn F Mezzo-Soprano Saxophone …

The Ultimate Conn F-Mezzo Soprano!
This beautiful instrument has been updated for modern play — and it plays beautifully, indeed …

The Conn F-Mezzo Soprano story is quite interesting & convoluted. For reasons that have nothing to do with either the quality nor the musical capability of these instruments, they just didn’t catch on when they were introduced back in the late 1920s. This quite innovative Conn design, along with its ‘sister act’ in F, the Conn-O-Sax, simply got caught up in the pressures of the start of our Great Depression, and a general lack of music written for them in the rather unnatural (save on the orchestral scene) key of F. In today’s culture — where our music is purchased in the form of CDs and DVD videos — it is hard for us to imagine what it must have been like when the songwriters were the celebrity artists of the day, and not the performers, themselves. For in the 1920s, it was sheet music that drove the hit parade, not recorded versions of songs.

The recording industry was a mere babe at the time. But everyone knew someone that played piano or guitar, so the big social occasions featured the 1920s version of our modern karioke. Some would play and others would sing along with the music they all would read from sheets of the popular songs of the day. Of course we still enjoy our karioke — albeit in a much more modern form — so it should not be such a foreign idea to contemplate how things worked in music before the age of singing stars and our modern recording industry. Songwriters still drive the music we love, but now, it’s more from behind the scenes. The one inescapable truth remains, though: Nothing happens until someone writes a song. Perhaps that’s why the individuals we hold in highest reverence as artists are often accomplished both as performers and as writers — like Nat King Cole, Elton John or Willie Nelson, to name just a couple of the brightest. I’ll be getting back to the F-Mezzo story, now, but I hope you got the point that that no one will buy a saxophone if there is no music they can play on it. And when these F keyed saxophones were first introduced, the days when a computer could easily transpose your music to any key you wanted were generations away.

We know that more F-Mezzos were made than were sold, and that many of these poor ‘orphaned’ examples were intentionally damaged & repaired over & again as fodder for the Conn repair school students. No one knows for certain how many F-Mezzos actually survived through to today, but the number of these instruments left in existence is rumored by some knowledgeable saxophiles to be as few as one hundred. Since most of them have found their way into the hands of museums or serious saxophone collectors, it is truly unusual to see them offered for sale at all — much less one like this that has had a detailed restoration that updated the instrument to a modern saxophone configuration.

The sound of this instrument is unique, indeed — definitely not of the alto vein, and not really a true soprano, either. If there were such a thing as a bass soprano — one that had an extended range on the lower end — I suppose this would be it. The instrument is quite dark in tone color, but with a depth & very pronounced edge that make it extremely live sounding. To my mind, the mid & lower range of a vintage soprano saxophone are its most charming, anyway, and the F-Mezzo seizes that advantage with its narrower bore, and extends those lush & full, lower soprano notes for us by another major 4th (Ab concert down to Eb concert).  The Conn promotional materials describing the F-Mezzo as ‘the new lead voice’ were certainly apropos, for this unique sound is extremely addictive to the ears. One can only wonder what might have been, had some of the modern facets of musicology been available back in the late 1920s that would have allowed this unique and charming version of the saxophone a fair opportunity to succeed.

A word about mouthpieces for the F-Mezzo Soprano: I have had an opportunity to try a number of mouthpieces from my collection on this instrument. The selection has included both mouthpieces that were specifically made for the F-Mezzo design, and true soprano saxophone mouthpieces of varying configurations. It is of note that conventional soprano mouthpieces work well on the F-Mezzo because the inlet bore and terminal taper of its neck is most like that of a conventional Bb soprano sax. I found that this instrument responds well to a range of mouthpieces, but the most rewarding results came with a very old, large chamber Selmer Metal soprano sax mouthpiece — and surprisingly, using an alto reed. The idea of trying an alto reed on this Selmer sop mouthpiece came about from the way a standard soprano reed fits on its table. While the sop reed covers the window & matches the tip, the mouthpiece has wider rails (like some of the boutique tenor mouthpieces you see) that the wider alto reed covers more completely. This set up works surprisingly well, producing marvelous response characteristics and a focused sound that is at once reminiscent of both a vintage soprano and a brighter modern alto. This particular Selmer mouthpiece is a bit unusual in that it is physically larger than the typical Selmer metal sop ‘piece, especially in length. While the ‘piece is apparently for a soprano saxophone (judging by bore & reed table), its somewhat larger chamber seems perfectly matched to the air input that the F-Mezzo body tube seeks for its ideal response & sound. The proportions of this mouthpiece, especially considering its excellent musical results on the F-Mezzo does, however, beg the question of if Selmer did indeed make an F-Mezzo mouthpiece, and of course, why? 

The message one should take from my mouthpiece experiments with this instrument is that though we will provide you with a classic F-Mezzo ‘piece to get you started enjoying this marvelous musical instrument right out of the box, your own mouthpiece experiments could produce surprising rewards. I’ve given you a framework from which to work: The larger soprano chambers & table configurations, combined with a free wheeling use of reeds from both alto & soprano types. To clear up any confusion, my personal Selmer metal soprano mouthpiece (of which I have been speaking as yielding such extraordinary results) is shown in some of the pictures of this instrument for display purposes, but that is NOT the mouthpiece that will be included with the instrument.

Do all F-Mezzos sound & perform like this instrument? Well, I suppose if you went to the trouble & expense to restore one in this detail, and to update it with modern, functional saxophone accouterments, one would. But most of the F-Mezzos you will see (not that you are likely to run across a number of them) are in some state of disrepair. There is absolutely nothing wrong with picking up a vintage saxophone in carcass condition with an eye toward a complete restoration project, but that’s not an instrument you will be able to evaluate for tonal & response qualities, much less be able to actually perform on — if that’s in your plans. Is this instrument, then, a rare collectible saxophone? Most assuredly. Though it has been updated to make it both more functional and more durable, the body tube and most of the keywork are of original configuration. This IS one of the few remaining Conn F-Mezzo Sopranos in one piece — one truly glorious piece, at that. This instrument is in perfect playing condition & is cosmetically dazzling. There is an authentic F-Mezzo mouthpiece included, as well, which is a huge plus with the F-Mezzos. IOW, this is a ready-to-play example of one of the rarest collectible saxophones in existence. Take it out & gig, take it to the recording studio for your session work, take it to the orchestra pit to read English horn charts — or just take it to the beach & play to the setting sun. Trust this saxophone to not let you down, wherever you need to play.

Some notes about the work that has been done to this instrument: This Conn F-Mezzo Soprano (s/n 213xxx) apparently started life as a silver plated instrument. We know that from the engraving, and where that particular pattern would have fit into the hierarchy of Conn finishes when this horn was produced back in 1928. Nothing is known of the history of this instrument between 1928 and about 15 to 20 years ago, when it was modified to the current configuration. By that time the horn had found its way to the Seattle area, though we do not know just how it got there. By Kentucky windage & dead reckoning, one would think that the horn had spent time at the Conn repair school, and that some parts may have been missing or damaged beyond the salvage point. Thus this marriage of some fabricated key touches, modern sheet metal key guards (from probably either a Selmer or SML alto), and the majority of an F-Mezzo Soprano might have come to be. It might also have been that some creative soul merely set out to update this instrument to a more modern look & feel. Whatever the true inspiration, the result is a gloriously beautiful & functional version of this unique & rare vintage Conn saxophone. The extent of the work that has been done to this instrument that was actually performed here at CS is limited to set up work to perfect its play, a few very minor mechanical mods, and restoring the original Conn engraving pattern in as faithful a manner as possible. The work performed by others prior to this instrument’s arrival here is truly first rate, though, as you can readily see from our picture spread. This custom work has made it both a thing of extraordinary beauty and an immensely playable musical instrument, in the modern music sense of the term — and you can own this amazing little beast.

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priced at $4,285
(plus shipping)

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Special Note
A a result of our recent Conn F-Mezzo Soprano offerings we have been contacted by others interested in acquiring rare collectible saxophones. If you have instruments such as the Conn-O-Sax or F-Mezzo Soprano that you would like to place please email or call Bear (918-625-9773).

Did you miss the One-Hand Conn F-mezzo we recently sold?
see our new feature article on this unusual instrument, including added information on Al ‘Papa’ Miller.

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CyberSax receives numerous questions every day which we faithfully try to answer for our many friends and fellow saxophiles. As you can imagine, some topics come up repeatedly, and others are quite thought provoking. This is not intended to be a FAQ section where boiler plate information resides that  is intended to keep the number of emails we receive to a minimum. Quite the contrary, we love to talk sax, so we hope the discussion of these topics will provoke thought and stimulate our visitors — and we also hope the collection of topics will become a source of information for all our saxy friends, regardless of your skill level or degree of involvement with saxophelia. One final point:  the subject of vintage and pro saxophones is virtually inexhaustible. We do not claim to be either omnipotent or for that matter, always right. We welcome your thoughts on expanding the comments you find here, or even your dissenting opinions. Just keep in mind that ladies and gentlemen may disagree, but are never disagreeable ….

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