New beginnings!

Almost exactly to the date, 30 years ago today, I traveled to New York with one goal in mind - to buy myself a new saxophone. Up until then I've played a "Dolnet" tenor sax which I inherited from my grandfather. It was on that very instrument which I learned to play the saxophone, and it stayed with me all through Berklee College of Music. I was repeatedly told by my teacher at the time; George Garzone, that I should consider getting a better, more professional horn. For reasons I can't remember now, it took me almost a year after I graduated to get myself to New York to look for a saxophone. A Mark VI no less. That was the horn to play, and everybody who meant anything in the jazz world played one - so why shouldn't I have one? The lineage from the original greats like Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane to Branford Marsalis and Michael Brecker is as impressive as it is long, and in the saxophone community, the Selmer Mark VI is the holy grail for most players.

During my New York visit I stayed at my friends place on Christopher street in Greenwhich Village, and I clearly remember my first true New York Moment that morning as I set foot outside and found myself on the movie set of the film "Carlitos Way" featuring Al Pachino and Sean Penn. They were shooting the very last scene in the movie where Al Pachino is being shot and stumbles into a taxi. I watched Al Pachino getting in and out of that taxi maybe 10 times that morning before I could tear myself away and get on with my business. Btw, when I got home that evening, they were still shooting that same scene!

So anyway, I'm in a taxi going uptown to look for a Mark VI tenor saxophone, and on top of my list of places to visit is this guy called Perry Ritter. ( An acclaimed saxophone repair guy who also happens to sell horns. (I got his name from the saxophonist who was with David Bowie at the time. Don't ask me how.) His shop, (and this will enhance the story later), was in an alley close to Carnegie Hall. You can't see the storefront from the street, but if my memory serves me correctly it was on 56th St. btw 6th & 7th ave. For reasons unknown I asked the cabdriver to let me off at 53rd st., right outside Ed Sullivan's theater. As I get out of the taxi I acknowledge another taxi parked right in front of me. Out of the vehicle steps no other than - Dave Letterman. "New York Moment #2". Starstruck for the second time this morning, (it's still not noon), I make my way into the shop. And there it is! The horn that I've ended up playing for the last 30 years. A Mark VI, #116373 (September 1964). I tested it and it both sounded, and may I add - looked great. I told Perry that I was on a hunt for a new horn and asked him very politely to keep the horn for me until 4.00 pm that afternoon so that I could try other horns before deciding. He agreed to that.

Needless to say, I could have saved my trouble. None of the other horns I tried that day ever came close, so it was with great expectation I returned to Perry's to close the deal.

Upon returning to Perry's shop, I hear somebody playing saxophone. I can't see anyone, only hear, because as I said earlier, you can't see the store from the street. Anyway, the sound and phrasing coming from the alley feels strangely familiar. I know I've heard this before, but I can't really put my finger on it. As I enter the store, my mouth dry up. Here's my "New York Moment #3" big time. The guy playing the saxophone is no other than Sonny Rollins, and what makes the situation even more intriguing is the fact that he is playing the very same horn I asked Perry to set aside for me.

This is indeed an intricate situation. I'm sure as hell not going to tell Mr. Rollins that the horn is asked for - by me. But before I ever get to review my options, Sonny takes the horn out of his mouth, putting it back on the stand and turns to me and says - "nice horn"! I couldn't have asked for a better excuse to convince myself that the horn was well worth buying.....After paying Mr. Ritter $3.000 in what I believe was traveleres checks, (21.000 NOK at the time), I return slightly bewitched, bothered and bewildered, ( back into the hustle and bustle of New York City.

During the past thirty years there has been countless hours spent practicing and numerous giggs performing on that horn. It has travelled around the world several times. It has been dropped, kicked, repaired and tuned over and over. It has brought me so much joy, but also equal amount of frustration. It has kept me, (and I proudly add) - my family alive for just as many years, and now thirty years later it feels only natural to close the chapter on this horn as my main one and welcome another. It will never replace my Mark VI, but as you know, it's a time and place for everything and so now it feels like the the time is right to put my old #116373, (September 1964), aside for the benefit of a newer, stronger and more importantly, more modern and enduring horn. A horn capable to stay with me for the remaing of my, hopefully long career.

And this brings me up to the present. Some weeks ago I visited Remy Veerman, a saxophone maker in Amsterdam. I've been aware of his existence for quite a while. His reputation has exceeded him to put it mildly and Jerry Bergonzi has always spoken very warmly of him. The visit was not the actual purpose with my trip to Amsterdam, but as soon as I entered Remy's showroom I immediatelly felt a good vibe and was met with a mutual understanding of what a saxophone is all about and how it's supposed to both sound and react. During the hour I spent with Remy, my mind was already made up as to who was gonna be the provider of my new instrument. I did however let the thoughts sink in for a bit and digested it for a couple of weeks before I called him up expressing my wishes....

And here we are today, June 1st. 2023. The horn has been in my possession for a little more than a week now. As I have welcomed this new "baby" into my most intimate inner circle, my mind can't help but repeating three questions over and over; Will it sound as good as my old horn? Will I get along with it? And most importantly - will I miss my old one?'

I don't know the answers to all of these questions, but I'll tell you this much - it sure as hell kick some serious ass. The egality and sonority in the sound is unparallelled to any horn I've ever tried. It's loud but never the less beautiful. It's balanced and rich in all ranges. It is indeed a challenge to place my fingers elsewhere than I've done for the last thirty years, but if you're patient with me and let me go about this my way, you won't be dissapointed. Taming this "monster" of a saxophone is by far the biggest challenge of my career so far, but I'll pour my heart and soul in to it, and hopefully I'll get along with it eventually. 

As to missing my old horn, well, I miss it and I don't. I will pick it up from time to time. It stays with me, that's for sure. The whole idea about gettig a new horn was initiated by the fact that it makes travelling so much easier these days. Since I'm living in Paris, one horn there, and one horn in Norway makes perfect sense   

When I come to think of it - I never looked back when I got my Mark VI back in 1993, and I don't believe there will be a reason for that now either.

Why don't you join me and hear for yourself.


Oslo 1/6 2023


Populære innlegg