Tools of the Trade: Dan Shout
17 July 2019
South African saxophonist Dan Shout performs at the Club on Monday 29 July. Find out about his two favourite instruments in this "Tools of the Trade" blogpost:
To be honest, for most of my life, I had no idea was a Selmer saxophone was, let alone that great
players like Brecker, Redman and Branford played them. In fact, come to think of it, I hadn’t even
heard of of Brecker, Redman and Branford! It was only when I swapped from studying classical
clarinet to the jazz programme at the South African College of Music at University of Cape Town,
that a friend and mentor enlightened me as to the legend of the Selmer Mark VI. At the time, I was
playing on mid-level Yamaha saxophones (a brand I still love), when I began to keep my ear to the
ground in search of the elusive Mark VI.
I can’t remember whether I got the alto or the tenor first, but I do remember how I found them. An
acquaintance and part-time saxophonist in Cape Town had a 1962 Mark VI tenor, which he didn’t
feel he was getting enough use out of to justify having around his house. He also felt he’d do better with a horn that had modern ergonomics and solid tuning, so he asked me if I would be prepared to swap my Yamaha tenor for his Mark VI as well as pay in about R8000 (the equivalent of about £450 today). It was a deal I couldn’t turn down and I still play it now – it’s probably my favourite axe.
The alto sax is a slightly more interesting story. I get my horns serviced at a fantastic repair shop
in Cape Town called Musicraft, run by Victor de Freitas. Most of his technicians hail from the townships, where occasionally a church will discover a room or store of old instruments from the days of church bands and/or marching bands. Often they are not in great shape and require a bit of work, hence people take them to the repair shop to fix them up.
I got a call from one of the technicians who told me he had two Mark VI altos. I took both of them
to friend and fellow saxophonist, Marc de Kock, to check them out and we both felt that the one
I settled on had a magic zing to it. That’s the alto 1995 Selmer Mark VI alto that I still use.