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Saxophone/V. Kohlert sons, tenor sax,


I am inquiring about a tenor sax I have.  My deceased father purchased it in the '50s, in Regina Sask.Canada.  It has a lot of engraving on it. There is a crest engraved on it with the letters 'JGK' and the words, 'Best In The World' The serial # 23874, made in Czechoslovakia.  I have all the original pieces and case. It is in fairly good condition.  How would I find more information and if this is a valuable instrument or a what caliber of an instrument, etc?
Thank you, Marina

Hello Marina,
They are great saxophones as long as it's in great condition. They were made in Germany. From the web... "German saxophone manufacturers are a bit difficult to learn about, primarily because a lot of the documentation has been destroyed either in the manufacturer's move from one part of Germany to another or in the WWII and the conversion of many of the music instrument factories over to producing war materiel.
This brings us to Kohlert.
A brief digression: Kohlert is NOT Köhler. Köhler was founded in Markneukirchen, Germany in 1933 by Franz Köhler.  They stopped producing instruments around 1961.
(However, while the Köhler example I've seen does not look like a Keilwerth or Kohlert design, yes, there's always the possibility that Köhler did stencil some horns from either Keilwerth or Kohlert.)
The similarity in names and similarity in the saxophone designs from Kohlert and Köhler throws most folks for a considerable loop.  The similarity in design is not because they shared a common ancestor, but more rather because company X would produce a good design and then everyone else would copy it (this tidbit of information popped up numerous times while I researched Kohlert and Keilwerth).  Matters grew more complicated after Keilwerth began producing saxophones in 1925/6: not only did Keilwerth produce stencils of their horns (of which, they branded at least one Kohlert model), but they furnished saxophone bodies to a variety of other German and Czech manufacturers which would affix their own keywork and sell the horn under a different name - sometimes with no trace of the Keilwerth mark on the horn.
However, Kohlert IS "Vincenta (or "V." or "Vizenze" or several other variants) Kohlerta Synové Kraslice".  This is the Czech form of Kohlert's name.  There are other Anglicized/Germanized variants of the VKS label (e.g. "V. Kohlert's Sons"), but some variant of "Kohlert" is always listed.
Here's a timeline:
1840: The Kohlert Company was founded in Graslitz, Czechoslovakia by Vincenz Ferarius Kohlert .  However, he did not produce any saxophones.
1900/01: V.F. Kohlert dies and the ownership of the Kohlert Company is transferred to his sons, Rudolf, Daniel and Franz [3] and the company's name is changed to "V. Kohlert's Söhne".  Kohlert produces the first German-made saxophone around this time.

1910-1916 (Approximately): Kohlert stencils saxophones for HN White (King) in the USA.

1914-1925 (Approximately): Julius Keilwerth apprentices at the Kohlert company.  It is arguable if Keilwerth influences Kohlert's designs more or vice versa.

1938 (Approximately): Kohlert has become the largest German instrument maker, employing 600 craftsmen and producing an entire range of brass, woodwind and double-reed instruments.  Keilwerth is a distant second with 150 craftsmen and producing only saxophones.

1939-1945 (Approximately): WWII.  Kohlert produced relatively few instruments during this time, as production was limited by the conversion of most factories to producing war materiel and the Nazi original disgust of all things Western, especially jazz.  There was some limited production and some horns produced during WWII are labeled "Reich" and are quite elaborately engraved - with Nazi regalia.

1945-1947: After WWII, the firm was "nationalized" into the Amati cooperative (Amati's website says the cooperative was founded in 1945 and was fully "nationalized" by 1948) and the Kohlerts became workmen in their own factory, similar to what happened with the Keilwerth family.  According to the Lein article, the Kohlert family was no longer even allowed to put their stamp on their instruments .

It's an unconfirmed fact that Amati used Kohlert and Keilwerth tooling in their first horns, rather than producing anything new: the first Amatis were labeled "Toneking" - a Keilwerth model name - and had the Keilwerth "Best in the World" logo stamped on the back.  Some even used the Keilwerth serial number chart!
I'm not quite sure if Amati just decided to use Keilwerth saxophones as their template for future models, but the "second generation" of Amati horns, such as the "Classic Super" is fairly reminiscent of Kohlert, not Keilwerth, designs.

1948: The "last" generation of the Kohlerts migrated ("evacuated" would be more accurate, according to the Lein article) to West Germany:  Max Kohlert, an instrument maker, died in 1949. Kurt Kohlert, a businessman, died in 1973. Ernst Kohlert, a musician, died in 1986 or '87. None of the three brothers ever married.

After arriving in the West, Ernst worked for a short while with instrument makers near Fürth.  Shortly thereafter, the city of Winnenden provided the brothers with a former barracks (actually a wooden house) in which to establish a new workshop.

1948/49: About forty people were employed in the Winnenden factory. At first, they only repaired instruments, mainly for the American army, but resumed instrument production began in the fall of 1949 with saxophones. A new serial number chart was instituted, starting at zero [13] and the "V. Kohlert's Söhne" mark was dropped in favor of just "Kohlert". and a few miscellaneous newsgroup/forum posts also indicate that there was a Kohlert model that had beveled tone holes, like the Martin and early Couesnon horns .  Considering this design is a radical departure from the standard Kohlert designs AND because Keilwerth also produced a similar design right after they fled Czechoslovakia, it's possible that either this "new" model is either a Keilwerth design or could have been jointly developed between the two companies (there is a suggestion that the bodies were imported from the Martin company, but that's a bit of a stretch and there's nothing to corroborate this suggestion).

1953/54: Kohlert employed around 100 people from 1953 to 1954, with about seventy working in the "barracks" and another thirty working at home. These "home workers" had small shops in their homes and would receive the materials, complete their part of the assembly process and return them. Several craftsmen only made saxophone bodies and even the bells and necks were made in Winnenden [sic]. The Kohlerts also employed four tool-makers whose job it was to make the tools and apparati used in the factory according to the designs and needs of the instrument makers. Thus everything was done "in house" with specially crafted tools.

1955-1965: The two remaining Kohlert brothers, Kurt and Ernst, entered into contracts with American wholesalers which guaranteed that the Kohlerts would supply instruments at the same price for ten years. What the brothers didn't foresee was the onset of the "Deutsche Wirtschaftswunder," or "German economic miracle", when the materials costs and wages rose dramatically. At this point they couldn't get out of these long-term commitments -- the penalty for breach of contract was severe.

Instead of specializing on a single instrument, like the Julius Keilwerth company, Kohlert continued to make the whole range of instruments - and, so the profit margin kept shrinking. Realizing they couldn't continue in this manner, Kohlert tried to cut labor costs by minimizing handwork and started mass-producing hundreds of parts. This idea didn't work and left Kohlert with a financial situation which required declaring bankruptcy in 1965.

1966: About twenty employees continued producing instruments to meet bankruptcy obligations. Serial numbers stood at about 85,000 at the time of the bankruptcy.

1967: Fritz Pfannenschwarz, an industrialist from Nordheim who was interested in music as a hobby, came to Kohlert to buy a bass clarinet and was told that nothing could be sold without consulting the administrator of the bankrupt estate. He asked the price of the bankrupt firm, was told 40,000 DM and subsequently bought it. Although plans had already been drawn for a new factory, nothing had come of them and work continued in the "barracks". Later Pfannenschwarz moved final assembly operations and sales to Nordheim, concentrating on flutes, saxophones and clarinets.

1977 (Approximately): The final line of Kohlert saxophones was discontinued and the final model name list was Popular, Regent, Star and Excelsior.  The best of these horns was and is considered to be fairly low quality.

1981-1983: Albert Moosmann, once an apprentice in the firm, his son Bernd and another partner purchased the remains of Kohlert in Winnenden. Today the name "Bernd Moosmann" appears on the bassoons, which is what Kohlert now specializes in.
* Contrary to some Internet forums and newsgroups, I see no relation between SML and Kohlert.  The connection that people use between the two companies is that both used rolled tone holes and that some Kohlert models are said to have the "switchable" articulated G# key.  Literally dozens of companies used rolled tone holes and Leblanc/Beaugnier/Vito used the switchable G#, too, and none of these have any connection to SML.  Additionally, I can't really see a French manufacturer cooperating that closely with a German manufacturer around WWII (SML was founded in the late 1930's).

* There has been a lot of discussion about the Kohlert model that has the fancy little letter keyguards.  First of all, the letters are "VKS", not "JSK", and it probably stands for "V. Kohlert's Söhne". The "JSK", in this interpretation, is expanded to mean "Julius S. Keilwerth".  I've not found any documentation that even says that Julius' middle name started with an "S" and the mark on Keilwerth horns is "JGK: The best in the world."
end web content:I would really need photos to see what you have. You might have a 1940's pro model, I can locate no serial number charts for Kohlert. I might be related to the ancesters of this sax company... Thanks, Grant Koeller  


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Grant R. Koeller


I'm a Professional Jazz Saxophone soloist recently retired from 23 years with the USAF Band Of Flight, WPAFB, OHIO, experienced in performance, technique and equipment. I'm not a buyer/seller or dealer. I have 40 years Alto, Tenor, Soprano and Bari Saxophone performance experience with additional years on the Flute, Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Bass Guitar, Piano, Drum-set, Guitar and Voice. I'm a third generation professional military musician, my father, Bill Koeller(1939-1997) was in the USAF 1958-1962, and played Jazz Hammond B-3 organ from 1957-1997, and my fathers Uncle, Alfred Koeller (1912-1993), was a professional Acoustic Bassist in the Army Air Corps in WWII, and also performed on Jazz Guitar, Hammond organ, Piano and tenor saxophone.


Professional Saxophone Soloist, 23 total years with the USAF Bands, 6 years with the USAF Band of Flight, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, performing on Tenor, Alto, Soprano, Clarinet, and Flute. 4 years in Japan, at Yokota AFB with the USAF Band of the Pacific. An Avid Composer and Arranger for the Night Hawk Protocol Combo. Former Lead Alto Saxophonist with the USAF Night Flight Big Band performing the music of Glenn Miller as well as other hits of the Big Band Era. I collect LP records of Jazz, blue's, classical and rock, and have over 12,000 records.

USAF,Phi MU Alpha Sinfonia, Men's National Music Fraternity, Johnny Mack Super Big Band, Tom Daugherty Orchestra, Kim Kelly Orchestra, Dayton Jazz Orchestra, Eddie Love Big Band, Gem City Big Band, Jazz Central Big Band, Shin Sings Orchestra, Kim Kelly Orchestra,USAF Night Flight Jazz Ensemble, Different Hats Big Band, Jimmy Baker Blues Band, This Side Up, Freelance, KING KOELLER Quartet, Jazz Central Big Band, GB Work, Sax On The Web,

Saxophone On the Web; Anchorage Daily News; All Experts; Augustana College Public Radio, WVIK;

North Texas State University School of Music, Jazz Studies 1982-1986 Lead Alto, Lab bands 1982-83 and small group leader 1983-1984, Jazz Radio Host WVIK 90.1 FM NPR affiliate Rock Island, IL United States Collegiate Wind Band European tour 1980 Augustana College, Rock Island IL, Liberal Arts Music Mentors/Teachers:My father Bill Koeller, a Jazz Hammond B-3 Organist (1939-1997) Great Uncle Alfred Koeller, Acoustic Bass 1912-1993

Awards and Honors
Paul Shartle Musician of the Quarter Spring 2008; Glenn Miller Festival, Clarinda, Iowa featured soloist; McDonald's All-American Band and Jazz Ensemble 1979; US Collegiate Wind Bands,Paul Lavalle Conductor, tour of Europe,1980; John Phillip Sousa Award, 1980 Dimond HS Anchorage, Alaska; USAF National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star; USAF Achievement Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters; USAF Good Conduct Medal with 6 Oak Leaf Clusters

Past/Present Clients
Performed with, Bob Hope, The Platters, Four Tops, Jimmy Dorsey, Crystal Gail, Helen Ready, James Williams, Dallas Jazz Orchestra, Jack Jones, The Mills Brothers, the G-Clef's, Lionel Hampton at Carnegie Hall, Performed for the King Of Thailand 2005, Tom "Bone's" Malone, Roy Hargrove, Tommy Turrentine, Performed for President Gerald Ford, President George W. Bush, The Maguire Sisters, The USO Girls-Andrew Sisters Tribute, The Four Lads, Lincoln Berry, The Dayton Jazz Orchestra, Louis Bellson, Buddy DeFranco, Walter Bishop Jr, Sadao Watanabe, Bobby Shew, Pete Jolly, Quad City Jazz Ensemble, Augustana College Symphonic Band, Jack Scott, Catfish Jazz Society, Intrigue-Boston Wedding Band, The Mark Herbert Little Big Band, The Pacesetters Big Band, The Ambassadors Jazz Ensemble, Pacific Showcase Big Band, Jimmy Dorsey Big Band under the direction of Lee Castle, Ronny Scott Orchestra, Big Al's Hot Dance Orchestra, The Dayton Sidewinders, Tom Daugherty Orchestra, Johnny Mack Super Big Band, Ken Peplowski, Eddie Daniels, Buddy Guy, Roy Hargrove, Warren Parrish, John OMeara Jr., Dave Holcomb, Albia Silva,Vinnie Demartino, Clon VonFitz, The G Clef's

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