alto saxophone Selmer Mark VI


"Mark VI". This somewhat puzzling name has particular resonance for a particular category of musicians: saxophonists. It does not refer to an extract from the Gospel, a model of car nor an atomic bomb, but to a legendary saxophone developed by the French company Henri Selmer.

Patented in 1846 by our very own Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), the saxophone was made by a variety of instrument makers as from 1866 when the inventor's patent ended. Although Selmer did not commercialise its first model until 1922 (the "Model 22"), it maintained a close link with the instrument's inventor. In effect, it was Selmer that bought Maison Adolphe Sax in 1928, managed at that time by the inventor's son, Adolphe-Édouard.

The name "Mark VI" refers to the sixth model created entirely by Selmer to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the company winning Gold medal at the 1904 Universal Exhibition in St. Louis. Different musicians were involved in its development, including the great French saxophonist, Marcel Mule. Its production spanned more than 20 years, from 1954 to 1975, and covered various registers, from sopranino to bass. Made in France, it was also assembled in the Selmer Group's factory in the United States.

Many consider the Selmer Mark VI to be the best saxophone ever made and today it enjoys iconic status in the small saxophone world. The design and mechanism of the Mark VI represent important milestones in the evolution of the instrument and are for a large part still valid today. Due to its ergonomics, lightness, accuracy, versatility, not forgetting its distinctive tone, the Mark VI was quickly acclaimed by both classical saxophonists and jazz musicians. However, it is in jazz that the instrument's reputation was made whilst being played by great names such as Stan Getz, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane and Lee Konitz. When Selmer released subsequent models, the "Mark 7" and the "Super Action 80", many musicians preferred to keep their good old Mark VI. Today, specialist shops, auction houses, collectors and of course, musicians, still look for authentic specimens of the Mark VI, just like the one recently acquired by the mim.

This saxophone, acquired thanks to a gift by the Friends of the mim, is an alto in E-flat made of lacquered brass. Its serial number indicates that it was made in 1969. Note the "S" for Selmer, characteristically located on the octave key, as well as the model's mark, located on the ferrule separating the tube from the bell.

alto sax in E flat Henri Selmer Mark VI, Paris, 1969, inv. 2012.074
engraving model Mark VI
engraved "S" for Selmer