I’ve played the same Mark VI Alto for almost 30 years now. It’s a good horn, but not a great one. I’ve played other Mark VIs that were better, but I’ve never played a ‘modern’ horn that came close to it in any aspect.
For years now I’ve been on the lookout for a ‘backup’ horn. I know that my Mark VIs are irreplaceable. The market for them has gone through the roof. If anything happened to any of mine, it would be very difficult to replace any of them. Searching for the right horn would take time, and once I found it I’d have to pay dearly for it.
Further, I can’t really get my horns worked on because I can’t be without any of them for more than a few days at a time. Having a backup just makes sense.
So when my friend Rick mentioned that he was considering selling his Conn 6M, I was intrigued. It seems like all of the players in Seattle have switched from Selmer to Conn in the past five years, or maybe I’m just starting to notice it? I’ve played Conns before, but mostly Tenors and not Alto. My biggest complaint is that the keywork feels antiquated. The ergonomics are just not there, and there seem to be many rube-goldberg-esque mechanisms that are overly complicated and prone to failure.
But, that sound! As soon as I played this horn I could tell that it was a player. It definitely needs some work. There are notes that can’t really be played, and the micro-tuner (which is new to me), wobbles when you play. But the horn is really responsive, and seems to play pretty well in tune (perhaps better than my Mark VI). The altissimo pops right out!
It’s going to take some work, and some adjustment on my part, but I’m digging the new horn so far. I don’t know if it will ever become my primary horn, but we’ll see how I feel once I get it back into fighting shape. The next challenge is finding a good repair guy in Seattle. I’ve been taking my horns to Paul Maslin in Chicago since he sold me the Mark VI 30 years ago, but I don’t get out that way as often as I used to.