Jaleel Shaw with a Selmer Supreme Saxophone

Episode 4: Selmer Saxophones

The sound of Selmer Saxophones is embedded in the legendary Rudy Van Gelder recordings. Jaleel Shaw describes the legacy of those recordings on his career and the beautiful tone produced through his Selmer Alto Supreme.

״You have a sound... in your head, and you need something that doesn't restrict you from reaching that sound.Jaleel Shaw

Jaleel's Inspirations and the Selmer Connection

Don Sickler – Van Gelder Studios

The people that are important in the saxophone world played the Selmer. John Coltrane, Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins, there's Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Benny Golson. All those guys, if you talk to them, they're going to say how great their instrument sounded when they were out here recording with Rudy Van Gelder because he was the one that got their sound.


Jaleel Shaw – Henri Selmer Paris Artist

Both of the recordings of the Eternal Triangle are very important to me. I first heard the recording with Sonny Stitt, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sonny Rollins when I was, you know, probably just starting to play the music and play the saxophone. And later on, I got into an amazing master name, Kenny Garrett, who is on the Double Take album. I listened to that album like crazy. To be here in the studio where it was recorded for the first time, and not only to be here but to be here and to be able to play one of those compositions with the great Cecil McBee, it's truly an honor.

I've been playing Selmer saxophones since I was 15. I'm not going to say how old I am now. Back when I was young everyone always wanted a Mark VI because of the warmth of that saxophone. You know, it had something that the newer saxophones didn't have, and I think that that's the thing that drew me into this. 

I’m playing the Selmer Supreme. Very often with horns, the lower register can be in tune, but then maybe the top register is out of tune. But this is very even and for me, that was a big shock when I first played it. 

Being able to play from the bottom of the horn to the top of the horn and not have to make crazy adjustments is always been very important. And also, just to be able to get around the instrument, play fast passages, and not feel like I'm being held back, not feel like the action is too tight and doesn't allow me to do that. You have a sound that you have in your head, and you need something that doesn't restrict you from reaching that sound. 

When I first saw the engraving of this horn, I was kind of mesmerized. I honestly don't always think of that when I'm playing, you know? But if you look at this, it is pretty amazing.

One thing that my mom told me a long time ago was that I remember I was complaining about a gig and she was saying, “You know, you have an opportunity to express yourself in a way that other people can't, and people look to you for that.” 

I think that that's what we're all here for. That's what it’s about for all of us.

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Henri Selmer Paris Alto Supreme

Henri Selmer Paris Alto Supreme

Played by Jaleel Shaw

The Henri Selmer Paris Alto Supreme is characterized by a perfectly balanced tuning, infinite sound colors, and a great ease of response. It hides the natural and inherent constraints of the saxophone - the playing limitations are non-existent. Its roundness and projection capacity make it an instrument that is both traditional and resolutely modern. The refinement and care taken in its manufacture, as well as its entirely corrected ergonomics, reveal an enjoyment and ease of play that has never been seen before.

Learn More About the Alto Supreme