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A letter from Wally

Shortly after I posted to this blog about my friend Wally West, he wrote me a letter. Remember I said Wally is a super-great guy? Check out this letter, I mean really folks, this is why I love my job. If you ask me, Wally's stories are best enjoyed over a good meal and libations...

Thanks Wally, I'm looking forward to y'alls next visit.

-unedited letter from Wally West with permission from the author.

Curt -

I'm quite ashamed of myself for taking so long to get these pics to you. But here they are, in full love and glory. My horn is playing the best it's ever played right now, thanks to the genius of Matt and yourself. And the horn looks good too. I love telling these sax aficionados that approach me, "no, it's not a Selmer. It's a Yamaha. No, Y-A-M-A-H-A."

Interesting story behind this horn of mine. In early 1992, my family took a trip to Europe for a month, visiting our friends in Switzerland, who so kindly allowed us to stay in their lake house on the Lake of Constance. While we used the cottage as "home base," we travelled around Europe taking day trips and short 2 and 3 day trips to some of the larger cities. Our last big trip from "home base" was a 5 day stay in Paris. Before leaving home, I had arranged to tour the Selmer factory in Paris - I was able to do this because of my employment with the local music store, where I headed up the band department and did all of the purchasing for the store. We were a Selmer dealer, so naturally, this was an easy draw.

When I arrived in Paris, I took the metro to the Selmer factory and was greeted by none other than Jerome Selmer, grandson of Henri Selmer. I was so excited, as you can imagine. I decided right then and there that I was going to purchase a Selmer tenor directly from the Selmer factory and Jerome Selmer. That would be a real story to tell later. And it is, but not in the way that you think.

I tried out 25 tenors while I was there at Selmer. I chose this beautiful Series III in black lacquer - not because it was black, but because it played the best of the 25 I tried. Jerome released the horn to his local dealer (Le Menetrier) for me to buy (little did I know that one cannot purchase directly from the factory - but it didn't matter to me, as I picked it out there.)

So, this beautiful Selmer tenor was mine, and it made the trip back to the US in fine fashion. You can imagine the excitement as I returned to work at the music store, with my new tenor in tow, beaming with pride as I show off this beauty to all of my co-workers, customers, and anyone else who would listen! The next day, a shipment of horns came in from Yamaha - our big master order - that included a bevy of student, intermediate, and professional horns. Obviously, after checking n all of these horns, I go for the Yamaha YTS-875 Custom in black lacquer. I have to compare this Japanese beast of a horn to my newly acquired beauty from Paris. I carefully unpacked the Yamaha, taking time to remove all of the little shims that hold the keys down and keep the tone holes covered. I felt this process would take forever, and with the removal of each shim, I am telling myself that I am simply wasting my time - nothing can compare to my Selmer black beauty. Finally, the Yamaha is out of it's packaging - free and clear - and I remember admitting to myself just how beautiful the Yamaha was. But I immediately qualified the looks of the horn, confidently telling myself that it's not how a horn looks, it how it plays.

Then, the true test. Out comes my mouthpiece, and I go for my Selmer first. I play, and then I drool. How can anything compare to this French piece of artwork? I remove the mouthpiece from the Selmer and place it on the neck of the Yamaha YTS-875 Custom in black lacquer. I pick the horn up, place the hook of my neckstrap into the ring, wet my lips, and play. What??? Wait...dang. Let's try that again. Holy cow. This simply cannot be. This Yamaha plays circles around my hand-picked, freshly acquired Selmer Series III in black lacquer, procured from Jerome Selmer in Paris, France. Ain't that a bitch.

So, naturally, I take this Yamaha home (the perks of working at the music store), and explain to my wife that there's been a mistake made. I've bought the wrong horn. We agreed that I needed to buy the Yamaha and sell the Selmer (who needs three horns, as I already owned a Mark VI, too). So...the Selmer Series III in black lacquer, purchased in Paris, France, goes on the market. And fortunately, i was able to sell it at a nice profit, and very quickly.

Now, fast forward 18 years. Here we are today, and I've had some wonderful folks fix, repair, overhaul, and care for my Yamaha. But you, Curt, have made the biggest differences and improvements in the playability of the horn since that exciting day back in 1992. I think you and I met when you first moved to North Carolina, as I had found your website on the internet and found you to be very close to my in-laws. I remember my first visit to your home and shop, too. I was visiting my in-laws and I called you and asked for a visit. I drove over to your place. We met outside, and you invited my inside - your garage was serving as your shop, workbench, and shipping department. At this time, I don't believe you had any employees, but there was certainly a lot going on in that garage! We chatted for a short time, and then you popped the question (that is, the question that all eager saxo-phobes ask) - "Did you bring your horn?" Well, I had brought my horn, and your VERY eager hands gently, but hurriedly, took it from the case, and onto the workbench it went. The thing I remember most was that I asked you a question about something on the horn, and it took you about 20 minutes to respond, as you were SO into looking at my horn! Nonetheless, you took my horn completely apart and began working - I didn't know what you were doing to it - but you were intensely focused on that horn like I have never seen someone so focused before. This was around 11AM. By 6PM, we were still "visiting" (I use that term loosely - you were talking as little as possible, but at the same time, you were giving my horn some Curt TLC treatment like it had never before seen) - and all of a sudden, my cell phone rang. It was my mother in-law calling to let me know that dinner was at 7PM. I told her "OK!" and hung up. I then turned to you, Curt, and professed that things needed to wrap up pretty soon, as I had a 30-minute drive back to my in-laws for dinner, and that gave you about a half-hour to finish up whatever you were still dong. Your reply - and I remember this like it was yesterday - "YOU CANNOT TAKE THIS HORN UNTIL I AM DONE. AND I AM NOT DONE." Whoa, Nelly!

Anyway, since that initial meeting, we've become great friends, and you have been my sax savior in every way imaginable. From the complete overhaul, to the quick repairs that I've "forced" you into doing for me (twice from my own negligence - who drops their horn?!?!?), to the holiday hangs we've enjoyed for several years now, please know that I hold your friendship as something very dear to me, and I hold your profession in the highest regard. In no minced words, I unequivocally endorse the artisan craftwork that you do. You're a true friend and a true artist. For these two things, I am most thankful.