1937 Selmer Jimmy Dorsey Series I Alto Saxophone, Balanced Action Era, Video
1937 Selmer Jimmy Dorsey alto saxophone, s/n 24146. A couple years after Selmer began making the Balanced Action model, a limited run of saxophones was produced with the body tube of a Balanced Action and the bell and bow of a Radio Improved model. The most noticeable difference is that the bell keys are on the opposite side, and the left hand pinky cluster is the older Radio Improved style. This example is considered a Series I Dorsey Model. Some also refer to this model as a late Radio Improved saxophone.
The sound is absolutely gorgeous and centered, with more heft and presence than the earlier Radio Improved model. It really has its own voice that is different from the earlier Radio Improved and concurrent Balanced Action models. The response is focused and even from top to bottom. It takes on air remarkably well and projects easily. All in all, this is a stunning horn. The sax was just serviced by my repairman prior to sale, so the pads are sealing very well and it plays well from top to bottom. The lacquer does not appear to be original.
For those unfamiliar with Jimmy Dorsey, he was an American jazz big band leader, composer and saxophonist. He had a vibrant career from the late 1920’s through the 1950’s, and is considered one of the most influential alto saxophone players of the big band and swing era. Dorsey and his band’s sax section played Selmer horns. He championed this specific crossover model, and also designed a “Jimmy Dorsey Signature” mouthpiece for Selmer in 1941.
Although the exact origin of the “Dorsey model” sax is historically murky, the horn itself clearly combines the previous keywork of the Radio Improved with the newer body tube of the Balanced Action. Two serial number ranges refer to this Dorsey model - 23xxx - 24xxx, produced in 1937 and 26xxx-28xxx, produced from 1938-1939. A few differences can be found between the two production runs. For example, the later saxes have a sheet metal B/Bb keyguard soldered over the wire guard.
Less than 100 Dorsey models were ever made, and there could be as few as 60 or 70. These are rare horns, indeed!