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"Paul Safran & Sons"

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by pdbass, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. pdbass


    Jan 2, 2007
    I just bought a really amazing bass that my luthier happened upon around halloween. It was one of those situations where I went in for a soundpost adjustment and he had this great double bass just waiting for me to play. I knew that it was bought as soon as I played her. Really great sounding instrument: Tyrolean ("top-hat")style tuners, 7/8, fully carved, deep and LOUD as all hell. I'm just a little curious about its origins.

    The only label inside is marked "Paul Safran & Sons Violin Repair, Philadelphia". I read somewhere on the internet that, years ago, this shop used to import carved basses from Europe (Germany?), set them up, and sell them. I was curious to find out if anyone on the list knew anything about this shop, or the history of this shop, or even played one of these basses (or knows someone who does). After GOOGLING "Safran & Sons", I was surprised at how many eBay hits I got back for (what appeared to be) student-model violins. This bass sounds too good for me not to want to know more about it. Thanks in advance--and happy new year.
  2. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    Paul was a local Phila Luthier who had a shop in center city Phila back in the late 50's & 60's.

    At one point, he had a shop in Germany make him these carved basses that he imported, set-up and sold with his shop label in them, much like many of today's lutheirs do i.e. Upton, Shank, Kolstein etc.

    A luthier located in Cherry Hill, Nj, Bob Riccardi, who recently passed away, had one for sale with a new neck and fingerboard for $4000 that I was fortunate to be able to try out.

    It was very Juzek-like in its sound and playability. It may have even been made in the same shop that was making Juzek's then for John Juzek, who knows!!! I'm sorry not I did not buy it when I had the chance.

    Good Luck with your purchase.
  3. pdbass


    Jan 2, 2007
    I've been trying to do as much research as possible on this, and it all keeps on pointing to the same place: my bass is probably a JUZEK.

    I've read of basses with this label that sounded and played very "Juzek-like", and now I'm finding that there are several Juzeks out there with the Safran & Sons label right next to the John Juzek one. My luthier (a great guy, but young) had at first told me that this instrument was a Czech bass, but after finding out that Safran imported German basses, I had a hard time believing that.

    Now, it seems as though this might be a Juzek (Czech)--or even just made in the Juzek shop. Perhaps? Did they make a gamba 7/8ths with hatpin tuners?
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    ALL The Juzek Basses were made for ROBERT Juzek in NY. His brother John helped the Czech's. to get things made in various shops. This started after 1920. After WWII, John was totally out of the picture and everything was coming from Germany run directly by Robert Juzek who I had personally known since High School. Mostly I dealt with his son Bobby Juzek who is now in his 70s. Before WWII they may have bought from both sides of the German/Czech border as this was 'cottage industry' days. Anton Wilfer I believe supplied the first Juzek Basses and Cellos followed by Wenzel Wilfer after WWII and then maybe Emmanuel in later years. Other Basses bought here importer to importer came also from Jack Loeb?Ideal Music who would occasionally sell to Robert as needed to fill orders but may not have been Wilfer basses or Juzek looking models. Both warehouses were within a few blocks of each other. I have been to both places myself and hung out a few time at Metropolitan Music/Juzek.

    Juzek/Met. advertised 50% off to anyone who walked in the door. It is very possible that other shops bought from them as well and re-labeled instruments as needed. Many of the Basses (Violins, Violas and Cellos as well) were sold to the NYC School system. I played these when I went to Music & Art HS up in Harlem. One Cello I saw around 1966 (my Freshman year) had an Anton Wilfer label, 1936. I don't know how close to WWII they imported but I had a 7/8ths Bass with the same label and year in the late '70s as well.

    German Shop basses and those made near the border were mostly made for export as well as their own domestic needs. There is no such thing as a bass made by John Juzek. The Germans and Czechs have never heard of or seen a single Juzek Bass unless it has been shipped over there from USA since. The labels were placed in the instrument in New York. Some of the finer Bass and Cello models had Wilfer labels and were either labeled over or left alone. One beautiful 7/8ths Bass had 'WBW' (Wenzel B. Wilfer) engraved in black single purfling under the back button. Why ruin it with a Juzek importer label?

    I met luthier Peter Eibert at the Juzek warehouse in NY around 1971. Within the last decade he told me some inside information about this business from what he had seen and learned while working in Nurnberg Germany for Heinrich Lang. A relative of Lang also supplied the lower end Basses to Juzek in NY.

    More on Juzek and German Shop Basses here, here and here.

    On one of my trips to Frankfurt for the Music Messe I ran into Bobby Juzek. He had there an old 1920s catalog from their firm on display. Across the aisle from him was the booth of the current Wilfer generation of Bass makers. He walked me over and introduced me to them. I remember them showing me a huge slab of an unusual cut of Maple. I was told it's for making Bridge blanks. More recently I called him to ask for some more Juzek history info and clarification and he said "I think you know more about it than I do now". Maybe, maybe not but it was nice of him to say that as I have followed his Family's business for over 40 years.:)

    Tomorrow I might learn something new that yesterday I didn't know.;)
  5. pdbass


    Jan 2, 2007
    Thanks, Ken! I'm proud to play a Wilfer. Whatever it is, it sounds good.