Jazz Music Video

The Grafton saxophone

Two jazz legends briefly played with plastic saxes but it wasn’t enough to make it a household name.

Grafton Alto Saxophone

The Grafton saxophone was a cream-coloured plastic alto saxophone with metal keys, made in England by the Grafton company. The instrument was manufactured throughout the 1950s until production was ceased. Two of the most famous Grafton sax players included Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman but even they weren’t big enough names to make it popular amongst other musicians and you can probably guess why: it was plastic and therefore brittle.

There aren’t many instruments that strike fear into the heart of the woodwind repairer, but the Grafton alto is definitely one of them. I reckon a repairer averages three overhauls on these creatures; the first out of ignorance and sheer curiosity; the second out of disbelief that any instrument can be such a pig to repair and the third just to be really sure that the thing really exists and isn’t just a terrible nightmare. The truly masochistic (or perhaps forgetful) might tackle four.

Stephen Howard (November 2005)

There’s something intriguing and alluring about the Grafton sax. Its cream colour covered in metal keys begs for it to be picked up and tried out. And that’s likely what happened in the 50s. But whether you’re learning to play the saxophone or you’re a touring musician, you need a reliable instrument. A fragile plastic sax just wouldn’t cut it.

Hi, it's Luke, the editor of Sampleface! Why not subscribe to my Patreon and support the blog?

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