February 22, 2024

The Mark VI saxophone model has peculiar serial-number superstitions. The older horns with lower numbers are more valued, and models in the eighty-five thousands are known as Brecker-serial horns. Altos in the hundred and forty thousands are dubbed Sanborns, named for R. & B. saxophonist David Sanborn. Tenors in the hundred-and-twenty-five-thousand range are marketed as Coltrane-era horns. The batch of Mark VI saxophones contained both standouts and duds, showcasing the variance in their production. Marcel Mule, who was integral to the development of the alto, hated jazz. This created a versatile instrument that could accommodate the diverse needs of musicians. Despite its transformation over the years, the human touch remained a crucial aspect of making the Mark VI. The Selmer factory, resembling more of a large workshop rather than an industrial plant, is known for its manual methods that involve handcrafting the saxophones. Although a few steps are now automated, manual twisting, hammering, and soldering continue to shape nearly five hundred pairs of hands working together in the production process. Selmer discontinued altos and tenors in 1975 to transition to a classical instrument, the Mark VII, which faced criticism for its keywork. Despite launching successful models thereafter, such as the Super Action 80 Series II, Selmer still strives to earn recognition on par with competitors such as Yamaha and Yanagisawa. When it comes to playing the alto instrument, the author received criticism from a technician who claims there is no way to recreate the quality of a Mark VI. The author also spent time with a series of altos from Maslin’s woodwind repair shop in Chicago and found solace in the familiar tones that resonated from a middle-serial Mark VI saxophone. Ultimately, the magic of the Mark VI lies intrinsically in the beliefs that players impart onto it. Players such as a saxophonist, Patrick Bartley, who’s known for his incredible talent, have also employed the Mark VI, thereby enhancing its mystique.