Henri SELMER Paris: 135 years of music history & more [2]

Henri SELMER Paris : 135 ans d'histoire et de musique [2]
Discover the rich history of Henri SELMER Paris, a family business created in 1885… Second part: from 1941 to this day.

[First part here]

In July 1941 the family faced the loss of Henri Selmer. Maurice Selmer became president and he was joined at the same time by his sons Jean & Georges.

That same year the 30,000th saxophone left the workshops, closely followed by Metal clarinet mouthpieces. Despite the Second World War, which had impacted on the company and brought the number of personnel down to 80 at the end of the war in 1945, Selmer Paris continued to innovate and brought out the ‘Airflow' mouthpieces for saxophones and clarinets as well as the 'Soloist' models for clarinet. Two years later the production numbers would once again reach 250 per month.

Marcel Mule, soloist with the Garde Républicaine and the first saxophone teacher at the Paris Conservatoire enormously contributed to the recognition of the instrument around the world. He joined the company in 1948 as artistic advisor. Their collaboration began with the development of the ‘Metal Classic’ mouthpiece which was very much linked to Mule’s sonic identity for many. After the success of this model it was reproduced in ebonite and named ‘Soloist’ for its introduction in 1951. After 27 years of interruption the Soloist model mouthpieces for alto and tenor were brought back into production.

At the same time Ulysse Delescuse, professor of clarinet at the Paris Conservatoire joined the company in 1950 as an artistic advisor. The production augmented to 650 instruments per month.

The 3rd Selmer generation took its place with the sons of Maurice Selmer: Jacques, Jean and Georges. Georges Selmer was named president of the company in 1968.

The sixth model since the launch of the first saxophone in 1922, the ‘Mark VI’ was developed with the help of Marcel Mule. Originally conceived as a resolutely classical instrument, it became a legend and a veritable reference for the saxophone in all genres. The Mark VI will always be associated with the greatest: Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Johnny Hodges, Paul Desmond

That same year the ‘Centered Tone’ clarinet appeared in the catalogue. This instrument was rapidly adopted by many great clarinettists around the world and would become the favourite clarinet of the King of Swing, Benjamin David, otherwise known as Benny Goodman. We also owe him commissions and premieres of major classical works such as Bartok’s Contrasts, Copland’s Clarinet concerto and the preludes, fugue and riffs by Bernstein.

The 1955 catalogue’s tagline was “A name, a quality, the artists”, Selmer Paris highlights their artistic advisors and the privileged link they have with the best musicians. At this time new workshops were constructed to allow the production of 1,000 instruments each month by 370 employees. The 28th of June 1962 would see the 100,000th saxophone leave the workshops.

Later on, the 9th of December 1964, John Coltrane recorded A Love Supreme with his Tenor and Soprano Mark VI saxophones and a Metal soprano saxophone mouthpiece.

Meanwhile the album Getz/Gilberto, recorded by Stan Getz with his Mark VI tenor saxophone was released alongside singer and guitarist João Gilberto and pianist and composer Antônio Carlos Jobim. This album was an international success with tracks such as The Girl from Ipanema and Corcovado sung by Astrud Gilberto becoming jazz standards.

Eric Dolphy was one of the pioneers as jazz bass clarinet soloist, performing on a Henri SELMER Paris bass clarinet. He is still one of the emblematic figures of this now widespread instrument. For many years he would play with the 'Varitone', an amplification system using small microphones directly integrated into the saxophone, clarinet or flute. The Varitone was the precursor to the electrification of instruments and the use of effects that would be developed later on. Michael Brecker, in his group formed in the 70s with his brother, The Brecker Brothers, was a figurehead for this technology.

In 1965 the headquarters of the company moved from Montmartre to 18 rue de la Fontaine au Roi, in the heart of the 11th district of Paris, with larger and more comfortable premises. In 2003 the headquarters had a facelift and opened a spacious showroom that receives 3,000 musicians from all over the world every year. There was also a concert space in the headquarters with an eclectic programming from solo concerts to large ensembles, master classes and public events.

In 1971 the clarinet model 'Serie 10' was launched. Flexible and versatile it encompassed Bb and A clarinets as well as the mouthpiece of the same name.

The family of 'S80' mouthpieces appeared in 1974. One of its innovative principles is the use of the famous square chamber, manufactured for the first time entirely by mortiser, making it perfectly reproducible. The most well-known of the S80 family is without contest the 'C*', which has become known as a model unto itself. It is still today, and has been for decades the most sold mouthpiece in the world.

After 20 years of production, the Mark VI gave way to the 'Mark VII', easily recognisable by its large and solid keywork.

The clarinet mouthpieces were also privy to this manufacturing evolution with the arrival of the ‘C85’.

4 years later the ‘Recital’ clarinet model was born. A unique clarinet because of its “woody” characteristic, it was made for 30 years and is still available today. The Recital was developed in collaboration with Guy Dangain, at the time clarinettist with the Orchestre National de France and artistic advisor since 1970.

The '80s glorified the saxophone. It is present absolutely everywhere, both in the musical world and advertising. The instrument incarnated the decade and became its symbol. Coming back to the spirit of the conception of the Mark VI in 1980, the ‘Super Action 80’ was launched, which would become in 1986 the ‘Super Action 80 Serie II’. It will celebrate 30 years of production in 2016 which will make it the most manufactured model.

During the same period the ‘S90’ mouthpiece was released, finding its place alongside the S80, this mouthpiece offered a fuller sound with more projection.

The Research and Development department welcomed three new artistic advisors, two for the saxophone and one for the clarinet. Claude Delangle in 1989, recently named as saxophone professor at the Paris Conservatoire and in 1990 Patrick Bourgoin, popular music saxophonist and freelancer. Both collaborated with Jérôme Selmer in the Research and Development department. Jacques Di Donato, professor at the Lyons CNSM joined the Research and Development team in 1990. This team would develop the “Serie III” saxophone family, which was launched in 1993 with the arrival of the Soprano saxophone. For the first time in the company’s history the new model did not replace the old, but complemented the range. The Tenor saxophone followed in 1997 alongside the Alto with its patented C# system and the Baritone was launched in 2008. The four Serie III models will be introduced over a 15 year period.

It was also in 1993 that the company celebrated the manufacture of the 500,000th saxophone, an alto ‘Super Action 80 Série II’. This same year a saxophonist was elected to the White House, Bill Clinton.

In the clarinet world, the Italian clarinettist Alessandro Carbonare, soloist and successor of Guy Dandain at the Orchestre National de France until 2003, became an official worldwide ambassador of the Selmer Paris brand.

In 1998 the 4th generation of the founder’s family, Patrick, Brigitte and Jérôme Selmer, take the reins of the company. The production site grew to 20,000 square meters.

During this new era the 'Signature' clarinet was born, conceived with Jacques Di Donato. An audacious concept that produces an immensely rich pallet of sounds, matching the demanding physical engagement of the musician. This generation, perfectly in phase with its history, brought out in 2001 two tenor saxophone models and a model of alto saxophone in 2003, paying homage to the mythical Mark VI and Balanced Action models, the ‘Reference’. It is a model that succeeds in bringing together progress and tradition, a delicate alchemy, and is destined particularly for jazz musicians. The ‘Privilege’ bass clarinet was launched in 2004, representing a veritable event for bass clarinettists, who have seen major progress in their instrument particularly in the instrument’s mechanics.

In 2005 Henri SELMER Paris celebrated its 120th year in one of the most mythical venues of Paris, l’Olympia. It was the occasion for a unique encounter between two giants, Kenny Garrett and Johnny Griffin.

Afterthe bass clarinet, the ‘Privilege’ family moves up to include Bb and A instruments, developed with the help of Jérôme Verhaeghe, clarinettist with the Paris Opera. He was joined two years later by Philippe Berrod to refine the models that would have an immense success thanks to their homogeneity, flexibility, stability and of course their quality of sound. Philippe Berrod, clarinet soloist with the Orchestre de Paris became an official artistic advisor of the brand, and was named professor at the Paris Conservatoire later, in 2012. Henri SELMER Paris reaffirmed its identity as a manufacturer of premium clarinets and numerous musicians rediscovered the SELMER Paris clarinets.

Brigitte Selmer became the executive director of the company. During the Marciac Jazz Festival in 2012 the company gave Sonny Rollins a tenor saxophone engraved with his name: “Sonny Tenor Colossus”, a gift for the loyalty he has always shown to the brand throughout his career.

2013 marked a year of new momentum within the company brought about by the family of mouthpieces, the alto saxophone mouthpiece ‘Concept’ was a resounding success as well as the ‘Concept’ and ‘Focus’ models for bass clarinet. This momentum continued into 2014 with the Bb clarinet ‘Présence’, the alto saxophone mouthpiece ‘Prologue’ and the alto saxophone ‘Axos’ will appear.

In 2015, Henri SELMER Paris celebrated its 130th anniversary, but the story is far from being over…


Discover historical SELMER instruments