Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Jazz Clarinet Gear Review: 1952 Selmer Centered Tone

If readership of The Jazz Clarinet is any gauge of market interest, the Selmer Centered Tone should be ready for a comeback. By far the most read post on this blog is last year's gear review of my 1955 Q Series Selmer Centered Tone, Model 802.

There is so much interest in the Selmer CT that the 1955 review routinely tops my weekly and monthly charts, and as of this writing more readers have flocked to it than to the those reviews posted here of the Buffet R13, Boosey & Hawkes Edgware, Selmer Balanced Tone, and Fritz Wurlitzer Reform-Boehm combined.

Having played a Centered Tone for over a year now, I can understand why. They are in a class of their own when it comes to dynamics, power, color palette, jazz flexibility, intonation, ease of projection, and modern tone conception. Of all the horns I've played, only the later Selmer 10S rivals its volume.

Because the 1955 Q Series CT worked so well for me, and because 7 ring models are becoming increasingly rare, I purchased a back up earlier this summer: a 1952 P Series Centered Tone, Model 804 (which includes the articulated G# mechanism).

1952 P Series Selmer Centered Tone Model 804

This horn was previously owned by a conscientious player and collector, so it arrived in excellent adjustment. Besides the difference of key work to my 1955 Model 802, and perhaps more importantly to the resonance of the instrument, the lower joint was topped off by a metal sleeve (standard on these horns when possessing an articulated G# and present on my 1944 BT and 1951 Fritz Wurlitzer Reform-Boehm as well):

Bottom Joint/Inner Sleeve P-Series CT
Whether this or any slight difference in bore between the models accounts for it, this P Series horn is not only slightly heavier in a physical sense, but darker and more solid in tone than my 1955 Q Series. In many ways, the horn seems a perfect median between the Balanced Tone and later Centered Tones--it has some of the retro-depth of a BT, while giving the hair-trigger response of the CT.

The chalumeau of this horn is rich and mellow, the clarion perfectly matched, and the altissimo is even more spot-on, intonation-wise, than my 1955 Q Series. The 1955 has a bit more 'jump' to the sound and a type of warmth I've not found in any other instrument, so each has their strength--the P Series would be my choice in more intimate settings, perhaps. Either way, they compliment each other well, and my goal was met: to have a pair of Centered Tones that were interchangeable from my playing standpoint. Because different horns demand different breathing approaches and voicing, it was important for me to have one that behaved in the same manner while my main axe was in the shop.

Several months back, there were some internet rumors that Selmer was considering a Reference Clarinet based upon the Centered Tone. Those rumors seem to have come to naught. But if anyone from Selmer Paris is reading, they might want to know that my Centered Tone review is by far the most popular on this blog--a popularity that never seems to wane. I hope, with many others, that a Reference CT is the works and will be available eventually.    


Jory Woodis said...

Hi, I was wondering why you said that the 7th ring is essential?

Eric Seddon said...

Not sure I said essential, but it's certainly important for me, for the trill fingerings, especially when playing the blues (the minor third tremolo between C-Eb/G-Bb is much better--almost not a real option on a clarinet without it)

Anonymous said...

I own 2 '34 BT's( a 20/7 and an 18/7) and am awaiting a '54 P series CT(8XXX)

It _seems_ the Q series is the most sought after but I wonder if there's any
appreciable differences between a late P and the Q series or if there is
some overlap/similiarites in playing characteristics at that juncture - or
maybe it's more a matter of just individual clarinets being .. individuals ?

When they changed letters in the CT series run are there any subtle design
changes going on or is it just a 'letter change by year' kinda thing ?