Selmer Reference 54 Limited Edition Hummingbird

From a recent for sale ad: A rare alto from 2005, … this limited edition saxophone commemorates the 50th anniversary of the passing of Charlie “Bird” Parker and features an iconic hummingbird engraving on the bell. The Reference 54 series was designed to capture the tone of the much sought after Mark VI saxophones, with this series known especially for projection and a powerful sound. ~ MusicMedic

I saw this ad and thought I would put some information out there because there were so many conflicting reports from some people. Here I will concentrate on the ‘Limited Edition’ alto sax as I own one but by clicking on the links in this article you can find out more about the other alto and tenor saxes in the Selmer ‘bird’ release.

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Coming first in 2005, the Hummingbird series was only available as a Reference 54 alto sax. (Later bird releases included the tenor sax.) The standard and limited models both featured honey gold lacquer (similar to the traditional tenor Reference 36 color). Approximately 300 of the standard were made for the USA market, and only about 70 of the limited model. ~ Sax Org Museum

Here is the Selmer Ad that came out (click on picture for bigger picture):

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I really like the limited edition better because of the darker lacquer and the extra engravings. If you have one of these and wonder if it is a limited looking at the neck engraving is one of the best ways to tell. It looks like this:

neck1  neck2

The neck of the other (not limited version) doesn’t have this engraving. I love my very special instrument and it is my primary alto sax ride.

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I found one of my fav band teachers, Mr. Robert Lake

Still following him.

Robert Lake

The Bis Key Chronicles

There are at least two of my favorite stories to tell about growing up in the mid-west and being a sax player. One is when the Urbandale, IA middle school teacher picked a jazzy song for the eighth graders. The song was Henry Mancini’s “Mr Lucky”. There were two of us sitting in the first chair saxophone position. So without preparation, Mr. Phil Hartman had us play the solo all alone.

I couldn’t read very well and still struggle with sight-reading to this day. But fortunately the girl got to play first. She, like Barb who I play with now-a-days, (hey, I mean play sax with) was a pretty good sight reader. So she played the solo straight and did an… okay job. I was so nervous that when I played the same solo, I started shaking uncontrollably. I was mortified but I had been taught to always, always, play on. “If you quit…

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Swing Dance, this is why …

There are many kinds of dances, but all those requiring the participation of the two sexes have two characteristics in common: they are conspicuously innocent, and warmly loved by the vicious. ~ Ambrose Bierce

We, and my we I mean my swing band, love our dancers. When they show up, the gig seems that much more worthy. Every eye is upon them, celebrating the skill and sensuous nature of their moves.


These two showed up for a charity gig that we were playing for. It’s our annual Jumpin’ Jive to Thrive event and boy howdy can these folks dance.


Note the Zoot suit, you heard me … a ZOOT SUIT RIOT! Photo credit to our band photographer and former lead alto sax Mark Gladding. Enjoy.

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Little Free Library Arsonist ~ March 2018

LittleFreeLibraryFireTravis: Some fucking hooligans torched the community library box. The tree looks damaged too.

David: Call the Sheriff’s Office. Arson is a felony.

Sally: Oh no!!

Lacresha: What a bunch of degenerates

Mike: Did they get caught? I saw the Sheriff there.

Star: I just walked over what a mess! Here’s hoping you can get them–arson is a scary deal. The punks that did this need to be locked up grr!!! I am so angry, hope Jim had a camera on the side of his house…

Simi: This just makes me sad!

Travis: FYI, we saw it coming home. It looked like it had been lit not more than 15-20 minuets before we arrived. I called 911 and stayed to talk with FD. Gave my info in case they had questions.

Star: Thank you so much Travis.

LibraryBurntDown2018Jim: Wow, and I was at a charity gig for kid programs tonight. Suzy will be sad too. I will clean it up tomorrow.

Jim: It will take me some time to see if my cameras saw anything.

This video is of two fellows who walked by our house ~2 minutes before the fire was started and then walked by again after the fire department and crowds dispersed. Anyone recognize them? The walk might be distinctive to those who know them? Please do not share these pictures until we get more info.

Facebook will not allow me to share the vid … here’s a picture. If you think you know them, the picture is much clearing on my screen and you can view the video for walking style.Manage

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Travis: That’s me and my friend.

Jim: You got there just before the big light flash. Thanks for letting us know. That’s why I didn’t want to put this out there before we figured out what’s goin on. I didn’t get any other people by my house, so they went the other way.

(Travis was dressed up for ComCon.)

Jim: All cleaned up.

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Michelle: This is horrible!

Sally: Thank you for doing this.
We were out of town all day at a memorial service in SF ( Marin County) We flew down for the day and just got home. We would like to help in any way we can.

Jim: One of the neighbors said that if we don’t rebuild, the bad guys win?


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Frank Ticheli ~ An American Elegy

From Frank’s FB page: When I composed An American Elegy in response to the Columbine Shooting tragedy, I thought it would be a singular episode, or at least a rare one, in our nation’s history. Sadly, I am constantly reminded how wrong I was.

image(click link to hear song behind your read) Nothing will improve until more lawmakers find the humility to admit that the Constitution was not inspired by God, but written by mere mortals doing the best they could without benefit of a crystal ball. Those same mortals saw this themselves, thereby permitting amendments to the Constitution. In other words, they possessed a humility and wisdom that many current lawmakers seem to lack.

Current lawmakers also need to let go of the fear that tighter gun legislation equals removal of all guns. (I am from the rural south and grew up with guns; got my first rifle at age 10, owned several, went hunting all through my childhood.) In fact, common sense gun legislation may very well save the second amendment.

Finally, our lawmakers need to find the strength to compromise and the courage to act, even if it means losing their NRA donations and their seats in Congress. This may not happen in my lifetime. But I have hope that my children’s generation will show more wisdom than my small-minded generation of lawmakers has managed to muster.
An American Elegy has been performed frequently in response to mass shootings occurring since Columbine. I had no idea that could ever happen. I am sad about a cultural situation that makes it so.

#MassShootings #FireThePoliticians #ProtectOurChildren

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Project Band ~ People Turnover

Jazz is about being in the moment. ~ Herbie Hancock

Every year my band has turnover. People move, get new, harder jobs, get divorced, … you name it there are so many good reasons for leaving a good band. Some let you know at the end of a season. Other, through bad luck or poor planning let you know days before the first practice of the new season.

SaxPeepsThen comes the ‘not so fun’ part of managing a band. How to find a suitable replacement who is also a good team fit personality wise. And if the outgoing band member is a key soloist, that really is hard to fill. In some cases that case would require a change in the music program for the year, even if you find a decent soloist to fill the loss.

Then there is the interesting phenomenon of not being able to find some one till the last moment and then suddenly you have two qualified candidates. That happened twice this year in my band with the pianist and the director. I guess it’s better to have too many candidates. But sussing out which one is better for the band can be a real challenge.

Auditioning them is relatively easy. Make sure you throw something challenging at them to see how they do. I hafta say that after having stellar trombones for a number of years, suddenly it’s become difficult to find any candidates to fill those shoes.

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The Music World: Should I, Could I Be a Part of It?

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.” ~ J.S. Bach

DSC00387Friend: Hey Jim.  Based in large part on your enthusiasm, I plan to drive over to Spokane on Thursday to horse trade for a like new Yamaha pro 62 II Alto.  Guy there would like to have one of my Yamaha wind synths (WX-5), so I’m working a partial trade.  I’ll also likely pick up an Otto Link to go with the Alto, assuming I do the deal at all.

Before I drive 600 miles and spend a lot of money, I really should ask – do you still feel there is a need for another Alto player in our area?  You feel good Altos are more in short supply than good Baris, for example?  I’d hate to spend a lot of money on a horn and then not find an opportunity to play it.  As you know, my interest would be to play with a group like EMJO or MJJO with a more challenging and up-tempo book, as opposed to what I’ve been hearing from some of the other bands in our area. ~ Gary

Me: I firstly want to say, that making money is not in the equation for most of us. It might be for you, as you are a pro or semi-pro player (depending upon your definition). So other than resale value, and that instrument you have selected is good for that, it’s all about the value you get from playing. I know you probably know that, but I just wanted to make that clear.

PGSQ2017PracticeThe guys who have played at your caliber and whom I know, tend to own sop, alto, tenor, and bari saxes. They also have a clarinet and/or a flute. There are so many that are my close friends and they have *way* too many playing opportunities. For example, one joined DoctorfunK, two play with the Jazz Police, and so on. These are paying gigs, but not enough I suspect to cover your home utilities costs.

It you like playing lead alto and *can*, you should have an alto sax. If you love playing bari sax, then we need more of them on the Eastside. However, if you are ~3 years from retiring from music performance, maybe you would not get the benefit from these additional instruments. 

I can’t promise you will find a home with the 30+ big bands in the Seattle area. But I suspect if you network, cover some free gigs to meet the many band owners and players, and if you are are willing/available to sub, then you would be able to find that perfect band or two that you’d want to be a part of. And there are over 20+ theater houses doing musicals on and off throughout the year. So there are those jobs.

Me, I thought the pit jobs took too much time and didn’t pay well enough for a hobbyist like me. I did two shows with the Second Story Rep in Redmond and then decided it wasn’t for me. But the experience was worth the time and effort of slogging 3 to 5 instruments to the pit for 5 to 7 shows plus a two month of practice sessions.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my musician friends, and there are so many, are the bestest. Lovely people, they are very talented and hard working. These are people I would have never met had I not returned to music after a ~30 year break. I adore these people and they make my life fuller and better.


Here’s what I ended up doing. I created my own jazz combo (4-horn), big band, sax choir, clarinet choir and sax quartets. I also help three other big bands get up and running, two of which are still playing. I also had many community band projects including a summer band and ten years on a community band board. After a whirlwind ~10 years, about three years ago I downsized to playing in these select groups, my favs: WCB, MJJO, and the Professor Gadget Sax Quartet. I sub 10 to 20 times a year with other bands/groups. AND, I’m not half the player you are.

So that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. Good luck.

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