Michael Brecker’s Selmer Mark VI Tenor Saxophone

These photos of Michael Brecker’s Selmer (Paris) Mark VI tenor saxophone were taken in our Archive space in October 2018.  Mike often said that, although he had various backup horns from this era, he mainly performed on this same horn for virtually his entire career.  This has been verified by his brother and bandmate Randy, and I can add that this was the horn in his hands from the time I knew him in 1977.  He used this horn as early as his time with Horace Silver and Dreams, through various editions of the Brecker Brothers, all the famous pop singles solos, Steps/Steps Ahead, tours with Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, and his solo albums, all the way to Pilgrimage.

Note the unique qualities of this instrument.  Most remarkable is the amazing amount of wear on the pearls and anywhere his hands contacted the horn – it is difficult to imagine the tens of thousands of hours he spent practicing on this instrument, let alone the thousands of gigs that are etched into the minds of his audiences.

Several notes about the horn:

  • Although the Michael Brecker Archive does contain mouthpieces, EWIs, thousands of pages of original music manuscripts, practice notebooks, photos, memorabilia, and over 1000 LPs, original gig cassettes and CDs – please note that this tenor stays with the family and is not here on campus in the permanent collection.  Susan Brecker generously loaned this iconic instrument for this photo shoot opportunity.
  • We are including a closeup of the serial number, to resolve the decades-old discussions about the vintage of Brecker’s horn: # 86351.
  • The low B-flat pinky spatula is extended with a black epoxy add-on.  This is perhaps the most visible identifying “marker” of this horn, traceable back to the mid-90s on many videos – but he was playing on this same instrument long before this epoxy was added.
  • There are two left-hand palm-key risers, one an installation and the other an epoxy add-on.
  • The right-hand thumb area is completely customized, in part because Brecker had large hands and double jointed thumbs.  He placed the thumb rest on the second joint of his thumb (not the first), and in doing so, rotated his right hand slightly around the horn.  Over the years, that wore the horn body away enough to weaken the metal, so there is a circular patch on the horn body, plus an added thumb cradle.
  • The silver neck is a Mark VI neck of a vintage only slightly newer than the horn: a 92203 serial number.  (Note: the whereabouts of the original neck are not known; he played on various silver necks since the early 1980s, including one with a Barcus Berry pickup that is in the Archive.)
  • We also provide (separately, in the Photo Gallery) closeups of the Guardala mouthpiece that is on this horn in the case, along with the only other Guardala in his collection, some other earlier Otto Link models and a Dukoff.