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Here is another killin’ solo by the great tenor saxophone player Max Ionata.  I absolutely love this solo and have probably listened to it a hundred times this morning.  Part of what I love about the solo, is watching Max on the video.  He is playing this killin’ perfect tenor sax solo but he looks so chill and relaxed while playing. He looks like he doesn’t have a care or worry in the world and all of his being is being put into creating this masterpiece of a solo.  I love it!

I have posted another transcription of “But Not for Me” in the past as well as a solo of his on a minor blues with Dave O’Higgins. If you don’t know his playing, please check out these recordings and Youtube videos of his.  Max Ionata has a tenor sax tone from heaven in my opinion and his jazz playing is equally as beautiful.  His tone is lush, dark and full of character and his fast lines are smooth as butter.  He is also very melodic in his paying which is so easy on the ears.

Max Ionata’s Inspiration CD

I did my best to nail down the rhythms in Max’s tenor sax solo here but I have to be honest and say that Max is so laid back and chill at times with his rhythms and lines that is was really hard for me to figure out exactly what is going on rhythmically.  The hardest part was trying to figure out what was an eight note, what was a triplet, or what was just a laid back version of either of those.  I did my best………

The tune “Home At Last” is a Hank Mobley tune that I found the music to on Volume 38 of Jamey Aebersold’s play along “Blue Note Years”.  I have never played this tune before but I have now added it to my Real Book because I like it so much.

Hope you enjoy the solo!  Thanks to Max Ionata for his incredible tenor sax playing that always brings a smile to my face!  Do yourself a favor and check out Max Ionata’s website as well!  If you appreciate the solo and Max Ionata’s playing please feel free to say so in the comments below………..  Thanks,   Steve

Max Ionata Tenor Sax Solo-Home At Last (starts at 1:23)

Max Ionata Solo on Home at Last-Bb PDF

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Louis Gerrits creator of the site michaelbreckerliverecordings.com posted a link to a video tour of the Living Jazz Archives at William Paterson University which includes the Michael Brecker Archive on Facebook this morning.   I posted about this great archive in the past here: Michael Brecker Archive Article.

The Michael Brecker part of the video tour starts at 32:32 where Dave Dempsey starts showing that part of the archive.  This is so cool to watch!  I would love to spend a few days in this room listening to recordings and taking photos of charts and notebooks with my iPhone!  Here a description of the tour from the Vimeo website:

Bone2pick heads to the venerable William Patterson University and their extraordinary Living Jazz Archives for a look at some of the most prized artifacts in the history of jazz. Curator/Professor David Dempsey and Professor Pete McGuinness take us on an insiders look at all things Clark Terry – date books, horns, mutes, original lead sheets, a treasure trove of original Thad Jones scores and recordings and everything from practice notebooks, original board cassette tapes, hand written manuscript, even a high school yearbook from the one and only Michael Brecker. It’s like being a kid in a candy store all over again. Enjoy!

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Since I recently wrote a review for a new NY Meyer (2019) alto saxophone mouthpiece as well as a vintage NY Meyer (1960’s) alto saxophone mouthpiece, I thought it would be interesting to do a side by side review of these two great alto saxophone mouthpieces side by side.

These are from the “mouthpiece fun box” that Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness sent me with interesting and great mouthpieces he thought I would like to check out.  Both of these alto mouthpieces have both been refaced by Jimmy.  The vintage NY Meyer alto sax mouthpiece is refaced to a .071 and the new NY Meyer alto saxophone mouthpiece is refaced to a .074.  Being that both alto mouthpieces have been refaced by the Jimmy Jensen and there is only a .003 difference in tip openings between each mouthpiece, I thought they would be good to compare to each other.

Side by Side-New NY Meyer on Left. Vintage NY Meyer on Right

I already anticipate some of you complaining that these are not original Meyer mouthpieces, and to do the comparison accurately, I would need original Meyer mouthpieces to compare.  The truth is that even with original mouthpieces there are differences between each mouthpiece of the same model.  I believe these two NY Meyer mouthpieces still retain the qualities that are consistent with each of the models as far as sound and tone and are worthy of  comparison.

I have posted photos throughout this review of the new NY Meyer mouthpiece next to the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece so that you can see how each mouthpiece looks and compares physically.

The mouthpieces look pretty similar on first glance.  Of course, the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece is more faded and not as shiny as the new NY Meyer mouthpiece.  The new NY Meyer body looks slightly larger in diameter than the vintage Meyer body.  The beak also looks slightly thicker on the new mouthpiece from above but it is so close that I’m not 100% confident that I am correct.  From the side, the new NY Meyer mouthpiece beak also looks a tad bit thicker than the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece.

New NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .074 Tip Opening

Vintage NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .071 Tip Opening

Next are the table comparisons.  Both alto sax mouthpieces have been refaced as I mentioned above.  The refacing process does affect the table but I will still write about what I see.  The vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece has a thinner table than the new NY Meyer mouthpiece.  It also looks like the window opening is slightly wider on the new NY Meyer alto sax mouthpiece than  on the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece.  Both tables look to be the same length and both sax mouthpieces as a whole look to be the same length.

The engraving on the shank of the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece has “New York USA” on the top of the shank and on the bottom is engraved “medium chamber”.  The new NY Meyer alto mouthpiece has “Made in USA” on the top of the shank and “NEW YORK” on the bottom.  The new NY Meyer also has a serial number engraved on the right side of the body as you look at it from the table side of the mouthpiece.

New NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .074 Tip Opening

Vintage NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .071 Tip Opening

The baffle areas of both NY Meyer mouthpieces look very similar to my eye. I think the baffle on the new NY Meyer is slightly wider than the vintage model but the rollover and angle of descent down into the chamber looks almost identical.  The vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece might have a slightly more gradual curve of the baffle but it is hard to tell by eye.  They both look very similar.

New NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .074 Tip Opening

Vintage NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .071 Tip Opening

The tip rails and beginning of the baffle on each NY Meyer alto sax mouthpiece also look almost identical.  I can’t see any difference at all with my eye.  This exact similarity is probably due to Jimmy Jensen’s preferences in refacing tip rails and the baffle area.

The mouthpiece chambers are where I see the biggest difference between these two NY Meyer alto mouthpieces.  As you can clearly see in the pictures below, the new NY Meyer mouthpiece has a thinner roof to the chamber and a deeper cavity at the bottom of the chamber than the vintage NY Link alto mouthpiece.  This makes the chamber of the new NY Meyer mouthpiece larger than the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece.

I’ll get into the differences in sound and playability below but I will say that, in general, I preferred the focus and core sound of the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece over the fatter more spread tone of the new NY Meyer alto sax mouthpieces.  If I had to guess at the reason for this difference, I would guess that it is the difference in mouthpiece chamber size and shape.

Since these alto mouthpieces are only .003 difference in tip opening and the baffles look pretty identical next to each other, I would guess that this difference can be attributed to the chambers.  The smaller more round chamber of the vintage Meyer mouthpiece keeps the sound focused while the larger chamber of the new NY Meyer mouthpiece fattens and spreads the sound more.  This is my opinion anyways……..

New NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .074 Tip Opening

Vintage NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .071 Tip Opening

I have provided two sound clips of both NY Meyer alto sax mouthpieces below.  One is a new clip of the new NY Meyer alto saxophone mouthpiece refaced by Jimmy Jensen that I haven’t recorded or released until now.

The other clip is of the vintage NY Meyer alto sax mouthpiece that I used in the original review of that sax mouthpiece.  I actually recorded the two clips one after the other so there is a lot of similar material in each sound clip.   The same Woodstone 3 1/2 reed and Sumner Acousticut metal alto sax ligature was used on both mouthpieces to avoid any reed and ligature changes in sound.

Both clips were recorded in the exact same location with the exact same equipment and settings.

Here are some specific spots to listen for in the two recordings for comparison purposes:

  • In track 1 of the new NY Meyer mouthpiece, I play Phil Woods solo on “The Summer Knows” at :21-1:37 of the recording.  On track 2 of the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece, I play the same exact solo at 2:10-3:30.
  • I also play the melody to “If I Should Lose You” on both tracks.  On track 1 of the new NY Meyer I play it at 2:20-2:36 and on track 2 of the vintage NY Meyer I play it at 3:57-4:24

The difference in sound and tone I heard while playing and the listening to the tracks are these:

  • I felt like the new NY Meyer mouthpiece had a more spread and fat alto sax sound than the more focused sound of the vintage NY Meyer alto mouthpiece.
  • The new NY Meyer mouthpiece sounded more brash and in your face.   The vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece sounded sweeter and more delicate. The new NY Meyer mouthpiece sounded more aggressive and the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece sounded more polite to me.
  • The new NY Meyer mouthpiece was definitely more free blowing and the vintage NY Meyer had a little bit more resistance to work with.  Using the same reed really helped me  feel this as it felt slightly softer on the new NY Meyer than it did on the vintage NY Meyer.
  • The high register on the new NY Meyer mouthpiece sounded brighter and had a bit of edge to it while the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece sounded darker and prettier to me.
  • Lastly, I think the more fat and spread tone of the new NY Meyer mouthpiece made the fast runs sound as if the individual notes were kind of bleeding together in sound making it sound less distinct and clear to my ear.  The focus of the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece made the fast runs sound more clean and precise to my ear.   It’s almost like I could hear each separate note as it’s own voice even though I was playing fast runs and licks.

In the end, I think the new NY Meyer is a great alto mouthpiece.  I have played five up to this point and all five played great for me.  I also loved the vintage Meyer NY mouthpiece as was evident from my review I posted earlier.  Both mouthpieces had qualities that I enjoyed and liked while playing them and listening back to the recordings.

Although I totally loved the vintage NY Meyer alto mouthpiece, I wonder if the extra fatness, brightness and edge of the new NY Meyer might make it an alto sax mouthpiece the would cut through in the mix of a big band or modern band with amps and electronic instruments easier than the vintage NY Meyer alto mouthpiece.  I can’t answer that without playing in a live situation with both mouthpieces though.  Jimmy Jensen has played both of these alto sax mouthpieces so maybe he can answer that question in more detail…….

I will say, that I would be the first in line if JJ Babbitt made another version of this new NY Meyer mouthpiece with a slightly smaller chamber like the medium chamber of the vintage NY Meyer mouthpiece in this review.  I think the added focus and sweetness to the tone that is in the vintage NY Meyer is a really attractive quality to have in an alto sax mouthpiece.

These are some of my own observations from playing these two mouthpieces and listening to the clips afterwards.   Feel free to listen to the clips below and let me know what you think in the comments below.   Thanks,   Steve

New NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .074 Tip Opening-Ishimori Woodstone 3 1/2 Reed

Vintage NY Meyer Alto Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen to a .071 Tip Opening-Ishimori Woodstone 3 1/2 Reed

Disclosure: I borrowed the two mouthpieces reviewed above from a fan of my site and will be returning the mouthpieces after the review. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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Today, I am reviewing a new alto saxophone mouthpiece called the High Roller from Westcoast Sax.  Matt Lee at Westcoast Sax was nice enough to send me a sample High Roller alto sax mouthpiece to try out. This metal alto sax mouthpiece is a high baffle mouthpiece with an 8 tip opening which is a .085 tip opening.

Matt makes these beautiful mouthpieces in 24K gold, rhodium (silver color) and in a vintage finish which is a FDA Compliant Clear Coat Epoxy Resin over the brass (which is what I am very excited to be reviewing today).

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece with Clear Coat Vintage Finish

Matt Lee has done a great job with this new High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece.  I think the vintage finish looks authentically vintage and great!  The table, baffle, side rails and tip rails all look clean, precise and perfect to my eye.  The 24K gold plated mouthpiece photos below look gorgeous also.

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece with 24K Gold Plating

In the past, Matt Lee has designed and created some great Westcoast Sax mouthpieces that I have reviewed here on the site (Past Westcoast Sax Mouthpiece Reviews).   It was news to me when I saw Matt working on mouthpieces himself a few months ago and offering his refacing services on Facebook.  I had no idea that he even had that skill set!  I called Matt up about it and he said he had been refacing and designing mouthpiece since 2014 and was now using his own facing charts that he developed based on mouthpiece design and tip openings.

I’m always a bit skeptical about new mouthpiece craftsman and refacers who appear on the scene but after talking to Matt on the phone for over an hour about his mouthpiece journey and now playing this alto mouthpiece he has worked on, I am pretty confident that Matt knows what he is doing in regard to facing curves because this High Roller alto sax mouthpiece plays great!

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here’s a description of the Westcoast Sax High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece from the Westcoast Sax website:

The Westcoast Sax High Roller Metal Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece displays a vibrant sound with plenty of fullness from top to bottom. You will find this mouthpiece extremely versatile and expressive. The High Roller is a great option for the saxophonist that appreciates precision control, projection, and a warmer contemporary sound. The High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece comes in a (24K Gold, Rhodium, or Vintage Finish (FDA Compliant Clear Coat Epoxy Resin) and equipped with responsive rails, rollover baffle, and medium chamber. Matt Lee personally designs each and every saxophone mouthpiece. All WC Sax mouthpieces are CNC Made with (5 Axis Technology) for consistency and accuracy. The High Roller is proudly made in the USA. Each mouthpiece is play tested and checked before shipment.

  • Mouthpiece Includes: H-Ligature and Cap
  • Available in 24K Gold, Rhodium, or Vintage Finish (Clear Coat)

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece has what I would consider a high long rollover type baffle.  I have had readers of my blog comment that a true rollover baffle is one that has a rollover at the tip area but I call a baffle a rollover if I see a long rollover that runs longer on the baffle also.  The baffle ends with a crescent shaped opening to a medium chamber.

In the past I have reviewed two Westcoast MOAM alto mouthpieces, a MOAM .081 and a MOAM .085.  I don’t have those MOAM alto mouthpieces here in my collection anymore but based off of my memory, I believe the new High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece is a bit warmer than the brighter MOAM mouthpieces while still keeping the focus and power that the MOAM mouthpieces had.

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I found the Westcoast Sax High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece to be an incredible focused mouthpiece that had a lot of flexibility as far as volume.  I could play it at a soft volume and it sounded sweet and complex but I could also push it for a loud projecting volume that was powerful.  Many times, alto sax mouthpieces like this will get a lot brighter in relation to how loud you play them but I felt like the High Roller stayed in that “medium bright” tone without getting overly bright.

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece with 24K Gold Plating

I ended up using a Vandoren Java 2 1/2 saxophone reed on this mouthpiece that, to my mind, is about as perfect of a reed as I could find.  The .085 tip opening is a bit more open than my preferred alto mouthpiece tip opening of .080 but with the Java 2 1/2 reed the .085 tip opening felt perfect.   I was actually surprised when Matt told me it was a .085 as it played so easily that I thought it was around an .080 tip opening.

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I’ve provided two samples of the same clip below.  One is a clip with added reverb and the other is a dry clip in a moderate sized room.  I think it’s important to add the reverb clip to brighter sounding mouthpieces just so people can get a sense of what the sound is like with a little bit of that added effect since the added reverb tend to soften the edge a bit.  I personally enjoy the clip with reverb more but I thought the dry clip would be useful to those who want to know what the mouthpiece sounds like for me with no effects at all.

This clip is a bit longer than some of my other mouthpiece clips but that is just because I had so much fun playing this mouthpiece.   I tried to play a mix of different elements and styles as well as my go to Phil Wood’s solo from “The Summer Knows” that I have been playing on a lot of my alto sax mouthpiece clips lately (I learned this solo back in High School over 35 years ago!).  I love that solo and figure that hearing the same lines and phrases on each clip might make it easier to make a decision on which alto sax mouthpiece you like the most.

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The altissimo on the Westcoast Sax High Roller was excellent.   I am a bit out of shape on my alto sax altissimo as I haven’t been playing much alto over the last few months but I tried to squeeze out a few altissimo notes for those of you who like those.

The tight core and focus of the tone make it really easy to manipulate the sound with bends, scoops and vibrato.  The focused core tone has an intensity and energy to it while still being a bit warmer and smoother than comparable alto mouthpieces that can be quite edgy sounding when pushed to full volume.  If you add just a few effects like reverb to this alto tone you have a warm contemporary alto sound that would be killin’ for smooth jazz and modern alto soloing in my opinion.

The other great quality about this mouthpiece is that it doesn’t get too bright when pushed in my opinion.  I was adding some edge on the “Sanborn” sounding lines by hardening the bottom lip of my embouchure but if I kept that bottom lip nice and fat, then the tone sounded fatter and warmer.  The High Roller has the volume to cut through on a gig but I could still play a jazz gig on this alto mouthpiece in my opinion.  Check out the jazz lines in the sound clip and decide for yourself.

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Congratulations to Matt Lee and Westcoast Sax for creating the High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece! If you are interested in the High Roller you can call Matt at: 951-805-5611 or Email: WestCoastSax@Yahoo.Com.  You can also order directly from the Westcoast Sax websiteWestcoast Sax Facebook page or Matt Lee’s Facebook page where he also has more audio samples and videos of this alto sax mouthpiece as well as the other mouthpiece models he offers.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you get a Westcoast Sax High Roller alto saxophone mouthpiece be sure to come back and let us know what you think in the comments below……..Thanks!!

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Added Reverb

Westcoast Sax High Roller Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Dry

Disclosure:  I received the sample mouthpiece mentioned above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     Steve
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Today, I’m lucky to be able to play and review a vintage New York Meyer medium chamber alto saxophone mouthpiece.  Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness was nice enough to send me what he called a “mouthpiece funbox”.  This was a box of special and unique mouthpieces that Jimmy thought I might find interesting.  Among the nine mouthpieces sent was this gem of an alto mouthpiece. A vintage New York Meyer 4M alto sax mouthpiece that Jimmy Jensen refaced to a .071 tip opening.

Jimmy told me that this has been his main alto saxophone mouthpiece for the last five years which made me incredibly nervous to be borrowing it.  It is one thing if this was a sax mouthpiece sitting in his drawer for 40 years but this is his main alto sax mouthpiece he was sending me to try out. I have been handling it with “kid gloves” as I  want to get it back to Jimmy in the same condition as it came to me.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

There is a lot of talk on the internet about these vintage New York Meyer alto saxophone mouthpieces.   If you are lucky enough to find one of these for sale you will probably have to pay a hefty price for it (I have seen sellers asking 1000-3000 for one of these…….) Here is how Theo Wanne describes these vintage NY Meyer alto sax mouthpieces on the “mouthpiece museum” page of his great website at theowanne.com.

1960 MEYER NEW YORK USA – EARLY MODEL

The NYUSA mouthpieces retained the deeply rounded inner-side-walls of the Meyer Bros. mouthpieces.

The body of these mouthpieces got thinner. The thin body produced a very nice resonance but sacrificed the solidity inherent to the Meyer Brothers mouthpieces.  Many players prefer this resonant quality though.

The baffle on these rolled up all the way to the very tip of the mouthpiece, leaving almost no tip rail.  This also added to the slightly brighter sound.

The finish work on the baffle of these mouthpieces is impeccable, true masters refaced these.  This impeccable finish work is part of the reason these mouthpieces play so well.

1970 MEYER NEW YORK USA – LATE MODEL

These mouthpieces look identical on the outside to the earlier New York USA models.  Inside they are very different. They have less of the rounded inner side-wall than the earlier model but do retain the same amount of baffle.  The interior finish work is good, but not as good as the earlier model.  This interior design is the same as the later ‘Made in USA’ model.

I’m not completely sure which year Meyer mouthpiece this is but Jimmy Jensen thinks it is probably the 60’s model because of the substantial rollover baffle near the tip.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

The vintage NY Meyer USA 4M sax mouthpiece looked to be in good shape.  The tip rail and side rails look blemish free and even.  The baffle looked smooth and symmetrical. The table looked flat and problem free also.  There are slight tooth indentations under the mouthpiece patch on the beak of the mouthpiece but these are not noticeable when playing with the patch.

The mouthpiece was refaced by Jimmy Jensen to a .071 tip opening.  This is a bit smaller than my preferred alto mouthpiece tip opening of .078-.080 and felt smaller to me as I played it. When I first started playing it, the mouthpiece felt like I couldn’t blow all my air through the tip opening.  Almost like it wasn’t big enough for me.  After playing the mouthpiece for a few hours however, I didn’t really notice this feeling anymore and it felt very comfortable for me.

I had to use a harder saxophone reed because of the smaller tip opening and I found an Ishimori Woodstone 3 1/2 alto sax reed that worked great on this alto mouthpiece.  To keep the vintage vibe,  I also used a vintage Sumner Acousticut metal alto sax ligature that I had lying in my ligature drawer.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

Before I get into how this vintage NY Meyer alto sax mouthpiece played, I want to convey how excited I was to play one of these.  I played one about 16-20 years ago that Bob Ackerman had for sale that was pretty amazing sounding. Bob was willing to sell it to me for 400 bucks but even back then, I thought it was way too expensive.

There is all sorts of talk on the internet about how there is something special and unique about the hard rubber these are made from.  People proclaim that this hard rubber has special resonant qualities that are impossible to attain with the formula for todays hard rubber mouthpieces.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but can only write about my experience playing this specific NY Meyer mouthpiece.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

The first thing I noticed about the tone of this New York Meyer alto saxophone mouthpiece was how focused it sounded.  This is probably one of the most focused alto sax mouthpieces I have played.  I also felt like the focus and core of the tone stayed locked in even when playing at louder volumes. On many modern Meyers I have played, I felt like the tone got a bit more spread and brash when I played at full volume.  This NY Meyer stay nice and focused at all volumes whether playing soft or at full volume.

The other characteristic I loved about this sax mouthpiece is the bright sizzle and sparkle it has in the tone.  It has a bright crispness to the tone that makes it very beautiful and sweet to my ear.  It also has a ton of character and expression in the tone that I loved.   That sweetness even inspired me to take out some of my old classical sax solos to play before I wrote this review.  My classical chops are not what they used to be, but I had a great time using this NY Meyer alto mouthpiece for that kind of style and vibe.  It’s not a dark sounding alto mouthpiece but I thought it sounded great!

This vintage NY Meyer alto mouthpiece made it very easy to manipulate and mold the tone also.  I found it easy to bend the notes as well as adding vibrato.   I also felt the the focused core to the tone made it easier to hear the pitch and intonation.  On more spread mouthpieces, I sometimes find it hard to find the center of the pitch within that tone.  With this mouthpiece I felt like the tight core sound made it a lot easier to hear where the pitch center was while playing.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

The question that you might find yourself asking is whether a vintage NY Meyer is worth the crazy prices people are paying for them.  Are they that much better than modern Meyer alto sax mouthpieces or the new NY Meyer alto mouthpieces that came out this year (2019).  I can’t speak for all vintage NY Meyer mouthpieces but I can say that this alto mouthpiece is without a doubt the best Meyer alto mouthpiece I have played in my opinion.

Is it the vintage hard rubber formula, the way these old NY Meyers were designed and made, or just Jimmy Jensen’s incredible facing work on this mouthpiece?  I can’t say.  There is a large part of my mind that wonders about the hard rubber though.  There is a special resonance and depth of tone that this piece has that makes me wonder. I know many of you are skeptics so I will end my thoughts there, but who knows, maybe there is something to these vintage hard rubber theories out there………

If you like the sound of this vintage NY Meyer alto saxophone mouthpiece, all I can say is start saving your money………  These are hard to find and even harder to pay for once you find one. Maybe you will get lucky, you never know.    If you play one or have any comments you would like to share, I would love to hear what you think in the comment section below.  Special thanks to Jimmy Jensen for letting me borrow this great mouthpiece of his.    Thanks,  Steve

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

Disclosure: I borrowed this Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M alto saxophone mouthpiece reviewed above from a fan of my site and will be returning the mouthpiece after the review. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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I received an email a couple of months ago from a fan of the site asking if I could review these new Echo Master ligatures (formerly Echo Brass) being sold by Getasax.com.  These are reproductions of the infamous Brilhart 3-band ligature that Kenny Garrett uses.  I have been curious about these ligatures ever since I saw them selling on Ebay for 1000.00-1500.00 apiece (Yes, that decimal point is in the right place).  I was curious, what could possibly be so good about a ligature that it would command that high a price?!

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Saxophone Ligatures Box

Well, I’m definitely not going to spend that kind of money to find out,  but getasax.com has these Echo Master Brilhart 3-Band Style Saxophone Ligatures for sale for a much more reasonable price (although still expensive for a ligature in my opinion 165.00).  Here is a description of the ligature from the getasax website:

There’s a reason why the vintage Brilhart 3-Band ligatures have been singled out by the market (players) as by far the most desirable vintage ligatures. They are great ligatures. But there will never be enough vintage Brilhart ligatures to meet the high demand for this style of ligature. Thankfully, the Echo Master company has stepped in to answer this demand.

This Echo Master tenor ligature is a true reproduction: from the alloy of brass to the type of plastic on the reed plate, it is exactly the same as the vintage Brilhart ligature. Same dimensions, same weight, same feel, same playing response. It’s like going back in time to buy one when they were first made!

So for those of you who have always wanted this time-tested style of ligature, but have found them prohibitively expensive, now perhaps getting one is within reach. This is admittedly still an expensive ligature by modern standards. But honestly, to achieve this level of quality of workmanship in Korea where these are made, it just does cost some money. And really, it would do us no good to have a cheaper version of this ligature that was somehow flawed and not as good as the original. Plus, this is probably the last ligature you need to buy, so it may prevent your amassing a whole drawer of inferior ligatures over the course of your career. (You know what I am talking about!)

How does it play? It just plays well. It is just a high quality ligature with heavy duty brass and nice big screws, and that is easy to tighten firmly and evenly. It frees the reed to vibrate with a rich, balanced tone. Compared to a standard ligature, the Echo Master seems richer, more full, and warmer. And it makes playing more fun by making the reed nice and responsive. Just about everyone who has tried one of these in the shop now plays one, including me.-Getasax.com 

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Soprano Saxophone Ligature

I contacted Brian at getasax.com to see about getting a saxophone ligature sent to me to review.  He was happy to send a hard rubber tenor mouthpiece ligature to try but then he asked if I would like to try more than just that one?  “Of course I would” I emailed back  He ended up sending me five Echo Master saxophone ligatures. One for a soprano sax mouthpiece, one for a hard rubber alto sax mouthpiece, one for a Guardala sized metal tenor sax mouthpiece, one for a metal Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece and one for a hard rubber tenor sax mouthpiece.  I could keep one of these ligatures after the review and send the rest back.  I was super excited as I usually am about new saxophone gear that I get to try.

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Saxophone Ligatures from top to bottom: Guardala, Soprano, Metal Otto Link, Hard Rubber Otto Link

The ligatures arrived a couple days later.  I opened the package to find these cool looking velvet covered jewlery boxes that have EM Echo Master written on them.  I opened one up and to find a beautiful looking sexy sax ligature laying on the dark velvet (Now I know how my wife felt when I asked her to marry me! Haha!).

The ligatures look very well made and sturdy.  My first thought was “Let’s handle this thing and see how cheap it is.”  Answer: It doesn’t feel cheap at all.  It feels like first rate quality to me.  The metal does not easily bend and all the connections seem sturdy and reinforced,  The screws on top seem very sturdy and turn easily. The plastic plate that sits on the reed also feels strong and well connected to the metal of the ligature as well.

The gold plating looks perfect with no marks or flaws that I can see.  The top of the metal part of the ligature that surrounds the mouthpiece is clamped on both sides at the top and the screws go though the clamps as well as the metal of the ligature that is clamped making it extra sturdy.

The next thing I did (I have learned my lesson from doing this so long) is too feel the inside of each ligature with my fingers for any sharp or rough edges. I’ve had a few sax ligatures in the past chew up a sax mouthpiece because I didn’t check for these.  The Echo Master ligatures felt as smooth as butter!  There is nothing there that will hurt you favorite sax mouthpiece.

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Ligature

There are two models of ligatures available from the samples I received.  Four of the saxophone ligatures had the white plastic reed plate and black bulbed screws and one alto saxophone ligature that you can see a couple of photos below has a “B” at the head of each screw. The plate on this alto sax ligature is metal instead of plastic.

As I wrote above, I was super excited that I could try all these saxophone ligatures and get to keep one,  but as I started to try each ligature my excitement turned to confusion as there were elements of every ligature that I really liked.  Which ligature would I choose to keep?!  As I type this review, I still have no idea which ligature I am going to choose and there is no way I can afford to buy all of them that is for sure.  Quite the conundrum………

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Ligature

The first ligature I tried was the one for the hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece that has a “T” engraved on it.

The Echo Master ligature slid on to my Early Babbitt Otto Link easily.  I centered the plate on the reed and tightened the ligature to what I thought was a reasonable tightness.  Each ligature has two screw on the top side of the ligature and as you tighten the ligature it tightens around the mouthpiece and the plate tightens against the reed.

The first thing I love about these ligature is that the screws sit a good distance from the top of the sax mouthpiece.  I have tried other sax ligatures (I won’t mention names….) that as you tighten the screw the ligature gets closer to the body of the mouthpiece and next thing you know the screw is digging into the top of the mouthpiece and making a mess.  You don’t have to worry about this with the Echo Master as they constructed it wisely and this can’t happen with this design that I can see.

The other thing I love about these ligatures is that they made the screws extra long.  You can see in the third photo below how there is still a lot of screw that isn’t being used even with the ligature tightened all the way.   I can’t tell you how many times I have bought a sax ligature and when I tighten it on the mouthpiece, it uses up almost all of the screw length.  If the ligature were to stretch even a little bit the ligature wouldn’t be able to be tightened any more and would be useless.  The Echo Master craftsman did well in thinking of this and making the screws extra long.

The hard rubber tenor mouthpiece ligature fit on all of my hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpieces because of the long screws that could be widened extra wide or tightened down to be smaller. The only one that was a close call was my Lamberson J7 tenor mouthpiece but with the Echo Master screw almost all the way loosened it could barely slide to the rear of the Lamberson so I count that as a success.

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style BB Hard Rubber Alto Saxophone Ligature with Metal Plate

The next sax ligature I tried was the one that has “OT” on it. I assume this is for “Otto Link Tenor”. Saxophone ligatures for metal Otto Link tenor sax mouthpieces can be tricky because of that Otto Link ridge on the top of the mouthpiece.  This ligature was made perfect though. As you can see in the fifth picture below. The makers of the Echo Master left enough room with the long screws so that the ligature tightens around the ridge and the screws are high enough that they don’t come close to it.

The “OT” ligature fit all of my metal Otto Links well including a fatter NY Otto Link I have.  As a side bonus for me,  this ligature also fit my Barone tenor sax mouthpieces perfectly also! The Barone mouthpiece shape is a little more difficult to find a good ligature for because it is fatter near the back of the mouthpiece and narrower near the front but the Echo Master with its long screws fit perfectly.  You just open up the back screw and close down the front screw and it fit the Barone mouthpiece perfectly.

I will also note at this point,  that once these ligatures are tightened down they do not move which is a huge plus in my book. I have used sax ligatures in the past that moved too easily as soon as you try to move your mouthpiece.  This stinks when your playing and the reed slides out of place and messes you up. It also stinks if you end up scratching the mouthpiece with the ligature as I have done with ligatures in the past (and even last week actually…..)

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style BB Hard Rubber Alto Saxophone Ligature with Metal Plate

The next ligature I tried was the Echo Master soprano saxophone ligature with an “S” engraved on it. It fit my Gaia soprano sax mouthpiece perfectly and I was quite surprised by how much I liked the change in response and sound to my soprano but I will get to that below.

Lastly, just for the sake of being thorough, I tried the alto BB ligature and the Guardala ligature (engraved with a “G”). The alto ligature had a BB on the screws like I mentioned above and is sized to fit standard hard rubber sized alto mouthpieces. The Guardala ligature fit my Guardala sized Liu Shizhao Pilgrimage tenor saxophone mouthpiece perfectly also.  If you have ever owned a Guardala sized tenor sax mouthpiece,  you know that these can be a pain to find a good ligature for because of their smaller size. The Echo Master fit perfectly though.  I am very tempted to keep this one just because I only have one cheap metal ligature that I have been using with this Guardala sized tenor sax mouthpiece for the past couple of years.

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Ligature From the Side

One other element of these ligatures that I should note before I move on to how they play is about the plates.  The Echo Master BB alto sax ligature has a metal plate that looks like it 100% sits on the reed.  The other four ligatures with the plastic plates have a raised edge on each side of the plate so that the side ridges are the only place touching the reed. You can see this if you look closely at the last photo in this review below.

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Ligature Showing the Long Screws

So how do these sax ligatures play?  I know you are all waiting for that answer.  I appreciate Brian at getasax.com first of all for not making any sax ligature based grandiose claims in his descriptions on his site.  (You know the ones I am writing about…..).  I will try to do the same while trying to convey my experience.

The first thing I will write is that, in my experience, saxophone ligatures with top screws can be tricky to gauge the exact tightness of the reed plate on the reed.  With my Francois Louis, Vandoren Optimum, Selmer 404, etc……the screws to tighten the ligature are on the bottom of the ligature. You tighten the screw and you can feel how tight the ligature is against the reed. I have noticed that when I try sax ligatures with the screws on the top I don’t have as good a feel for how tight the ligature is on the saxophone reed.

When I first tried the Echo Master ligature, I tightened down the screws on top until they wouldn’t move anymore.  When I went to play, I hated the sound and response.  It seemed very tight, constricted and small sounding. I did not like it but then thought that maybe I overtightened the ligature and was strangling the saxophone reed so it wasn’t vibrating freely. I backed the screws out about a quarter turn to half turn and then played again.  Totally different experience!  Bigger sound, more easy blowing and quick response.  Whew!

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Metal Otto Link Tenor Saxophone Ligature Showing Plate on Reed

In my opinion, the Echo Master ligature with the plastic bite plate makes the reed respond and sound differently depending on the tightness of those two screws on top.  I found that if I tighten the screw to just be “tight enough”, where the reed doesn’t move when you touch it, but no tighter than that, the reed plays with a darker more spread sound.  If I tighten the ligature  a little bit at  a time I feel like it gets more of a focused and centered sound.  If I tighten to much, it feels constricted and hard to manipulate as far as expression and nuance.

I also found that if I loosened the front screw and tightened the back screw or tightened the front screw and loosened the back screw, I would also get different results depending on the reed I was using.  All those minute changes in tightness and looseness seemed to have an affect on the response and sound I was hearing as I played. Would the audience hear the change of a quarter turn of a ligature screw, probably not, but it’s not about them, it’s about me and getting the sound in my head out of the saxophone, right?

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Metal Otto Link Tenor Saxophone Ligature avoiding the Link Ridge

The biggest change for me was with the soprano sax ligature.  I was using a Gaia soprano saxophone mouthpiece with a Theo Wanne Enlighted ligature which gives me a pretty bright focused sound.  The Echo Master soprano ligature seemed to darken and fatten up the soprano sound in a very cool way. Instead of this brighter aggressive sound I usually get, it was a lot more mellow and emotional.  Something about it made me think of Jan Garbareck’s soprano sax sound (which is beautiful by the way…….).  It was enough of a change that I thought “Man, I have to keep this soprano sax ligature!”

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Metal Otto Link Tenor Saxophone Ligature on Florida Otto Link

The bottom line for me, is that the Echo Master fits all these sax mouthpieces perfectly. It is well made and sturdy.  It doesn’t move when you try to move your sax mouthpiece. It is easy to put on and center on the reed.  It is easy to tighten and adjust. Even as you are playing, you can reach up a hand and easily try tightening or loosening the back screw or front screw to see what affect it has on your saxophone tone or response which I think is really cool!  It also looks pretty darn cool with the mystique of the Brilhart 3-band Kenny Garrett ligature phenomenon that is going on.  As a side benefit, other sax players will think you are loaded if you can afford this Brilhart 3-band sax ligature and that fake Rolex you are wearing……….Haha!

GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Ligature with Plate on Reed

If you are interested in the GetaSax Echo Master Brilhart Style Saxophone Ligature you can find out more information and order one at getasax.com.  If you have any questions feel free to contact Brian at getasax.com and he can answer any questions you might have.  Getasax.com also look like they have a generous return policy if you would like to try one but check with Brian to confirm that.   If you try an Echo Master saxophone ligature or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Thanks,   Steve

PS.    Brian added this in the comments below but I wanted to add it here so no one misses it that is reading this review:

The EchoMaster ligatures have a generous amount of threading on the screws, which makes them more flexible than other ligatures to fit mouthpieces of different diameters.

For example the Hard Rubber alto size actually fits metal Otto Link Baritone mouthpieces perfectly, because of the screws. For alto, it fits everything from the narrow Selmer Soloist to the Meyer Bros ‘Fat Boy’ which is basically the full range of alto pieces.

And the Guardala size tenor ligature fits metal Yanagisawa, and Ishimori Anemos, and lots of others. (Dukoff Miami, the slimmer Bergs)

The OT metal Otto Link ligs are also just about the only non-Rovner ligatures (afaik) that fit metal 10MFan and MacSax and other wide body metal tenor pieces. But it also fits vintage Bergs of the standard and wider body variety, as well as Dukoff Hollywood and Dukoff Stubby. It’s very useful. I don’t know of another ligature that fits the Dukoff Stubby as well, and that’s my favorite vintage metal mouthpiece.

The Soprano size fits everything from Selmer Soloist to Meyer to Otto Link Tone Edge, and even some of the very large vintage soprano pieces like Conns and Bueschers.

Email me at getasax@gmail.com if you’re reading this and want to know if your mouthpiece is compatible.

Disclosure: Brian at Getasax.com sent me sample package of 5 ligatures to try out in the hopes that I would review them here on my blog.  I will be keeping one ligature free of charge and sending the rest back to Brian after the review. Regardless, I only review saxophone gear that I enjoy using and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.   Steve
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Today, I am reviewing a new BSS custom saxophone reed released by Jack Finucane at the Boston Sax Shop.  Jack has been my repairman for the last six years and always gives me the inside scoop on new saxophone gear that is coming out. Besides being a phenomenal repairman and craftsman, Jack is always up to some saxophone related endeavor lately.  Whether it be straps, cases, ligatures, saxophone necks, reed cases, reeds, masterclasses, etc….. Jack always seems like he has a new project on the horizon……When I heard of these new BSS custom reeds he was developing, I had to try them!

I have been playing primarily Rigotti Gold tenor saxophone reeds for my tenor sax mouthpiece reviews for many years now. (I don’t know the exact number of years but it has been a long time…..) Although, I love Rigotti Gold tenor saxophone reeds, at times I find them a bit too buzzy, bright and edgy depending on the mouthpiece I am using them on.  In general, I usually notice this the most on tenor sax mouthpieces with a shorter facing curve like the 48 length curve of my JVW (Jon Van Wie) refaced Otto Link, Retro Revival Florida Super D, Eric G refaced Early Babbitt and hard rubber Lamberson J7 (all  have curves of a 48 length). These are some of my favorite tenor saxophone mouthpieces but the Rigotti Gold reeds tend to be really stiff and edgy on these shorter curves in my experience. (I have reviewed all of these mouthpieces on my site here and I don’t think I used Rigotti reeds on any of those reviews)

I have been on the lookout for a darker equally responsive reed that would play well on all my mouthpiece but especially on these shorter facing curved mouthpieces.  I have been searching for years trying all sorts of reeds.  You name them, I have probably tried them with no luck. (The closest I have come to finding a darker reed has been Rico Select Jazz reeds but I found them very inconsistent for me)

The Boston Sax Shop Custom Saxophone Reeds

When Jack Finucane at Boston Sax Shop contacted me a couple months ago about a new custom saxophone reed he was working on, I was quite excited.  In our communications back and forth he left me a voicemail that I thought sums up the concept of the new BSS custom saxophone reeds.  Here is his message transcribed for you with his permission of course:

“I mean this was it for me,  I was always going back and forth between trying to find a classical reed that could project, but gave me that upper register homongeneity, if thats a word, that I could push in the palm keys and that wouldn’t get super bright and thin.  But then of course,  I couldn’t project with it and I would go to the “jazz” reeds which were too buzzy.   I would end up playing 4’s or whatever hernia inducing size as I could find but you know, I was always just going back and forth, back and forth, and this to me, I think I wrote it in my description, is kinda of like a hybrid between the two. It’s a dark reed that still projects but it gives you the good kind of resistance you need in order to fatten up the upper end of the horn which as you know,  is such and issue on Selmers to begin with………….-Jack Finucane (excited voicemail message to Steve Neff)

Here is the description of the Boston Sax Shop custom saxophone reeds from the Boston Sax Shop website:

Designing the Boston Sax Shop reed line has been a dream of mine, stemmed from the frustration that many of us as players have searching for that ‘perfect’ reed. For years I personally struggled to find a well balanced reed that would promote a warm, homogenous tone while still allowing me to project. Most ‘jazz’ cut reeds seemed to play too ‘bright’ and ‘buzzy’ but offered the projection I needed while ‘classical’ reeds had the depth and evenness I was searching for but simply could not cut across a band. So with the help of the finest French cane manufacturer in the world, I designed a ‘hybrid’ jazz reed that had qualities of both cuts, creating a reed that did exactly what I asked; providing a warm and dark tone while still being able to be pushed.  I certainly hope you give them a try and enjoy them as much as I do! ~Jack Finucane (Owner and Repair Technician Boston Sax Shop)

The Boston Sax Shop Custom Saxophone Reeds

As I wrote in the disclosure at the bottom of this review, within minutes of trying a 3 reed on my beloved Early Babbitt 7* (Slant Blank) hard rubber tenor mouthpiece and the 2 1/2 reed on my JVW refaced Otto Link 8 metal mouthpiece I immediately texted Jack and wrote “Holy Crap!  These reeds are great!” “Do you have 5 boxes of each I can buy before you sell out?”  Why was I so excited?  Why was I willing to spend 260+ dollars in a matter of minutes?  Well, I’ll tell you……….

Like Jack described in his voicemail message above, the Boston Sax Shop custom reeds are a darker sounding reed.  I have tried darker sounding reeds before but usually I find those reeds are too stiff for me.  They also don’t feel like they have the responsiveness and projection I would like out of a reed.  Many times they just sound like they are “dead” to my ears. I was looking for a reed that was darker but still had resonance.

When I first tried the Boston Sax Shop reeds they felt a bit stiffer than my Rigotti Gold reeds and I had the thought “Here we go again, they are darker but stiff as a 2 x 4!”.  I didn’t want to throw in the towel without giving them a chance so I played longer.   Within 10 minutes, the 3 reed on my Early Babbitt Otto Link tenor mouthpiece was playing effortlessly.  It had a much darker and richer saxophone tone than I can get on my Rigotti Gold tenor reeds that is for sure. I had always struggled with the palm keys and altissimo sounding too thin and bright with the Rigotti Gold reeds on the EB mouthpiece.  With the BSS tenor sax reeds,  those upper notes sounded darker, fuller and thicker.  I was in love!

The best part was that I could still get loads of volume and projection from these new BSS custom saxophone reeds.  The tone, without a doubt, is darker than the Rigotti Gold reeds, so that might affect how well my new darker tone might cut through a mix compared to the brighter reeds but in my studio they were just what I was looking for.

I was so hopeful and excited that I immediately thought of my JVW refaced Otto Link mouthpiece.  I have never found a reed I could play on that mouthpiece besides a Vandoren Java 2 1/2 tenor reed.  This mouthpiece was my main gigging mouthpiece for many years but whenever I played a jazz set it would tend to get overly bright when I played at full volume.  I have been looking for a darker saxophone reed for that mouthpiece for about 15 years now with no luck.

Did I dare to hope? My brain was telling me that it probably wouldn’t work and I would be disappointed again.  The JVW Otto Link has a short curve of 48 but I have been told by a few refacers that it also has some atypical numbers to the curve that cause it to have more resistance.   I’ve always believed that the Java reeds work the best because they are thinner right in that spot in the curve where the resistance is and they can still bend easily at that point in the curve.  All other reeds feel like a  2 x 4 and are super resistant and edgy. I hoped for the best with the BSS reeds but honestly thought they would also let me down on this JVW Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece.

I put a 2 1/2 BSS tenor sax reed on the JVW Otto Link and tried it. Low and behold, it played easily and it sounded like a totally different mouthpiece. This mouthpiece is usually pretty bright when you crank up the volume on it like I wrote earlier.  With the BSS reeds it sounded so much darker.  Even at full volume in the upper register and altissimo still had a rich darkness to the sound.  It caught me so off guard that I was amazed.  “I could do a jazz gig on this mouthpiece and reed with no problem!”

The Boston Sax Shop Custom Saxophone Reeds

As of this review, I just don’t have the time to provide audio clips of different mouthpieces with different reeds for comparison but I do hope to do that in the near future.   Until that time, you will just have to take my word on how good these new Boston Sax Shop custom tenor sax reeds are.   If you have been looking for a darker alternative as far as tenor reeds,  these are worth checking out!  Trust me!

If you are interested in the Boston Sax Shop custom saxophone reeds,  you can get them at these links Boston Sax Shop Custom Tenor Saxophone Reeds or the alto saxophone reeds (I haven’t play tested these yet…….) at Boston Sax Shop Custom Alto Saxophone Reeds.  Hint: you might want to act fast. I posted about these reeds on Facebook a few weeks ago and Jack was sold out of the size 3 tenor sax reeds by the next day!

Thanks to Jack for sending me these great reeds to try.  Even now, weeks later, I am still just as excited to wet one of these reeds and put it on one of my mouthpieces.  I still haven’t tried these on the rest of my favorite tenor sax mouthpieces so I am super excited about how these reeds will perform with them as well.  Great job Jack!

PS.  As I was finishing writing the last words of this review above, I thought about another favorite tenor sax mouthpiece of mine that I thought was a bit thin and bright in the palm keys with Rigotti Gold reeds and that is my Barone SNY mouthpiece.  I put the same 2 1/2 BSS reed on it that I used on my JVW Otto Link and it played perfectly on the Barone SNY just now!  No edgy, bright thinness in the palm keys at all.  The tone is dark, thick and beautiful!  I’m very excited!

If you try the Boston Sax Shop reeds, please come back and tell us what you think of them in the comment section below.    Steve

Disclosure:  I received a sample package of 12-15 of the Boston Sax Shop custom reeds reviewed above for free in the hope that I would try them and perhaps review them on my blog.  As soon as I tried the tenor sax reeds, I contacted Jack and ordered five boxes each of the 2 1/2 and 3 tenor saxophone reeds and received a 10% discount from Jack on my purchase.  Regardless, I only review products that I believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.     Steve
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A few weeks ago, I reviewed a new 100th anniversary model Florida Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece by JJ Babbitt that I found out after the fact was refaced by Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness. I decided to proceed with the review anyways with the hopes that I would soon get a brand new JJ Babbitt Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece to review and the comparison between the stock Florida Link review and the refaced Florida Link review would be interesting.  Here is my review of a brand new 100th anniversary Florida Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece that I am the first to play since it has left the JJ Babbitt factory.

As you can see from the photos below, this Florida Otto Link saxophone mouthpiece still has the seal on the box as well as the sealed plastic wrap around the mouthpiece so I believe I am the very first person to play this mouthpiece since it was boxed up at the factory.  This was chosen purely at random from someone outside of JJ Babbitt with no play testing or picking it out of a batch of 20 or anything like that.

Brand New Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece in Sealed Box

The vintage metal Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpieces from the 1960’s are some of the most sought after vintage Otto Links on the vintage sax mouthpiece market today.  When I heard the news that JJ Babbitt was coming out with a new Florida Otto Link mouthpiece for their 100th anniversary I had to try one of these mouthpieces out.

The new Florida Otto Link mouthpiece looks beautiful upon opening the box.  The gold plating looks thick and rich looking.  The mouthpiece comes with an Otto Link ligature and a gold mouthpiece cap.  I thought the mouthpiece cap was pretty cool because it looks like metal but is actually gold plastic so it looks great but is nice and light and won’t scratch or damage a mouthpiece when you slide it on (I have put my share of nicks in mouthpieces by being clumsy with metal mouthpiece caps when I was younger…..).

I must admit that when trying the new Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece for the first time my excitement quickly turned into annoyance.  First,  I was hoping the new mouthpiece would have a better ligature than the ligature Otto Link mouthpieces have come with over the last 30-40 years.  The ligature looked solid, well made and better than the usual modern Otto Link ligatures so I thought I would give it a try.  I slid it on over the reed but when I went to tighten it with the screw the pressure plate that the screw controls turned with the turning of the screw and was now crooked on the reed.  That was annoyance number one.

Later, I tried the ligature again and found that I could center the plate by working with the screw and holding the plate with my finger but it was honestly more of a hassle than I like to deal with so I decided to use my trusty Selmer 404 two screw silver ligature that is simple and has never let me down.

Brand New Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece in Sealed Plastic Bag

The second annoyance was when I tried to slide the mouthpiece on to my neck cork.   It was really tight on the cork.  Vintage Florida Links are normally one of the sax mouthpieces that have a smaller bore and are pretty tight on a saxophone neck cork so I got out two of my vintage Florida Links and tried them on the cork.  They were snug on the cork but could easily be pushed on to where they played in tune.  I tried the new Florida Link mouthpiece again and it was quite a bit tighter.  Enough so that I couldn’t push it on to where it was in tune and was afraid I might bend the neck if I used any more force.

I had to take it off and lather the cork up with cork grease to be able to slide it on to where it would play in tune for me.  This is not that big a deal once the cork is compressed but when you review as many mouthpieces as I do, it is a bit of a pain to have your cork compressed that much.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is how the JJ Babbitt website describes the new Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece:

Introducing the FL (Florida) Otto Link for tenor saxophone, in celebration of our 100th anniversary. Developed over several years, the new FL Otto Link is a superb blend of professional musician input and skilled JJ Babbitt craftsmanship. Created through minor adjustments in virtually every aspect of the mouthpiece – inside and out – the FL expands the opportunity for players to recapture the distinctive sound that players are looking for.

Here is what professionals say:

“A warm big sound throughout [its] range, yet with some edge, if I want it.”

“It is amazing!”

“These are the first current production pieces that truly recreate the best of the vintage mouthpiece sound…dark and powerful, with just the right amount of edge. I most appreciate how well the mouthpiece plays top to bottom, with great intonation and response.”

“The new FL Otto Link has a rich, warm sound, [plus] quick response and flexibility through the entire range of the horn.”

You might notice as you read the description above that it doesn’t state that these new Florida mouthpieces are exact copies or reproductions of the original Florida Links from the 60’s.  It just states in somewhat vague terms that these new mouthpieces were “developed over several years, the new FL Otto Link is a superb blend of professional musician input and skilled JJ Babbitt craftsmanship. Created through minor adjustments in virtually every aspect of the mouthpiece – inside and out – the FL expands the opportunity for players to recapture the distinctive sound that players are looking for.”

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As I examined the new Florida Otto Link next to my other vintage Florida Links I quickly saw some obvious difference between the two models.

First of all, the new Florida Link mouthpieces have a much thicker backend to the body of the mouthpiece.  You can see this clearly when comparing the new mouthpiece side by side with the vintage Florida Otto Links.

I also saw this clearly when I slid my Selmer 404 ligature onto the new Florida Link.  I have used a Selmer 404 ligature on most of my metal Otto Link mouthpieces whether they be vintage or newer Otto Links for the last 20 years.  It usually slides on very easy.  On the new Florida Link mouthpiece, the rear body of the piece is so thick that I had to unscrew the rear screw of the Selmer 404 ligature all the way until it was about to fall out to be able to slide the ligature back towards the rear of the table.  Even unscrewed to that point, I couldn’t get the ligature all the way to the butt of the reed.

Secondly, the beak of the new Florida mouthpiece immediately felt higher to me than my other vintage Otto Links.  It was enough of a difference that it felt a bit uncomfortable and odd to me because I am so used to the beak heights of my vintage Florida Link mouthpieces.  I took the mouthpiece off and compared it side by side with my vintage Florida Links and it did look higher to my eye which confirmed what I felt.  I don’t think this is a deal breaker for me but rather just something I would have to get used to if I owned one of these new mouthpieces.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When comparing the baffle and chamber of the new Florida Link mouthpiece to the vintage Florida Link mouthpieces I have to start with the acknowledgment that I have seen many Florida Links with variations between there baffle shapes and chamber shapes.  Even when comparing the two vintage Florida Links I have right now, the baffles and chambers have variations between them.

The baffle of the new Florida Link has a high rollover baffle on it that is a bit crooked as you can see from the photo below. I’m not sure if this crooked baffle is the same in all the new Florida Otto Links or this is just a variance with this mouthpiece.  The Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Otto Link had a slight crooked baffle in it but this one looks to be worse to my eyes.  You can see in the photo how the left side of the baffle is quite a bit higher than the right.

The chamber of the new Florida Link looks to have slightly deeper floor in the chamber than my vintage Florida Otto Link mouthpieces have also.  The sidewalls are scooped out as they are with the vintage Florida Otto Link mouthpieces.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Another difference I noticed,  is that the new Florida Otto Link chamber seems a bit longer than the vintage Otto Link chambers.   What I mean, is that when I compare the new Florida Link with the vintage Florida Links,  the bore past the chamber starts farther back on the new Florida Otto Link than on the vintage Florida Otto Links.  I think this might have the affect of making the chamber a bit larger than on the vintage Florida Links although this is just speculation on my part without measuring the chamber volume of each mouthpiece.

The other difference I see is that the table of the new Florida Link is thicker than on my vintage Florida Links.  When you look at the chamber from the tip of the mouthpiece you can see the thickness of the table while looking at the roof of the chamber.  I do have to say that the two vintage Florida Links I own now have been refaced so this thinness in their tables might be due to the refacer’s work. (I have actually never owned an original vintage Link…….too expensive……)

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The 7* Florida Link seemed to play well with a Rigotti Gold 3 Light, 3 Medium or 3 Strong reeds for me.  I tried some 2 1/2 Strong Rigotti reeds but they just felt too soft for me.  I used the Rigotti 3 Strong reed for one recording below and a 3 Light reed for the second recording.

I found the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Otto Link that I reviewed last week to to be in the middle of the dark to bright tone spectrum in my opinion.  I know Jimmy said he did some work on the baffle so I wonder if that made it more neutral than this brand new Florida Otto Link.  I found this mouthpiece to have a brighter tone that actually reminded me quite a bit of Coltrane’s tone in the middle and high registers.  It’s got that Coltrane bright but spread tone as I refer to it. (Michael Brecker had what I call bright and focused tone)

I did find that this mouthpiece seemed to put the tone out in front of the saxophone the same as I experienced with the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Link.   Some mouthpieces I play seem to fill the room and the sound seems like it is right next to my ears.   Other mouthpieces seem to put the sound out in front of the sax so it seems a bit further from my ears.  I usually attribute this to the spread quality of the tone.   I would classify the new Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece as having a tone that leans to the more spread side of a saxophone tone.  This is interesting to me as I really dig my vintage Florida Links because they are more focused in tone.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I found the new Florida Otto Link to give me the same volume I typically get from a great Otto Link style mouthpiece.  I felt like I could push it to about 80% of my full volume but then it felt like it hit a wall for me and I couldn’t push it past that point without the tone getting crass and breaking up a bit. This is typical for me and why I usually don’t use a Otto Link type mouthpiece on super loud gigs.

I have to be honest and say that I definitely preferred the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Link to this “new from the factory” Florida Otto Link.  This mouthpiece played ok for me, but I found the low notes to be a bit iffy in response.  There were a few times where I went to play something down low that I usually play and the notes wouldn’t speak easily.  I had to put a little more air through the horn. It happened enough times, that I was wondering if my horn had a new leak in it.  I ran a leak light through it and didn’t see anything though. (You can hear this at 1:57 of the 3 Strong recording as well as hear me honking the low notes out a little more on Moose the Mooche at 2:08 of the 3 Strong recording, also at the 2:56 low note of the 3 Strong recording, also at :19 of the 3 Light clip).  The Rigotti 3 Light reed made the low notes easier but I still felt I had to put more effort into them than I usually do.

Although the brand new Florida Otto Link seemed to play ok besides this low note issue, I did find it to be a bit stuffy and tubby in the middle range of the saxophone.  I had a reader ask me what “tubby” meant a few reviews ago.  That is a word I use when I feel like a note has a bit of a “stuffy” and “nasal” quality to the tone.  I’m not sure how else to describe it.  I mostly noticed this on the middle D,Eb, E and F notes.  (I hear this stuffy nasal quality at the 1:45 Eb of the 3 Strong clip but also at various other places during both clips).  I didn’t experience this “tubby” quality on the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Link.  At least it didn’t stick out to me like it did with this mouthpiece.

Please review the clips below and compare them with the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida Otto Link review clip.  I feel like the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida mouthpiece has a clearer more focused sound than the brand new out-of-the-box Florida Link which to me has a brighter more spread tone.  I also felt like the Jimmy Jensen refaced Florida was easier to play in the low register and had less of that mid-range tubbiness that I described in this review.

As I stated above, this Florida Otto Link saxophone mouthpiece was selected randomly.  I have heard from quite a few people that have played a few of these new JJ Babbitt Florida tenor mouthpieces that there are great ones, good ones, ok ones and bad ones. In my opinion, this is an ok one in my mind.  If I played it for a few months and got used to it,  it might very well become a great one for me but that is impossible to state without going through that process.  For right now, it is ok.

If you like the sound and look of the new Florida Otto Link from JJ Babbitt you can find them at Kessler & Sons Music or Tenor Madness as well as other stores.  If you play one or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.   Thanks,   Steve

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Strong Reed

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed

Disclosure: I borrowed this New Florida Otto Link 100th Anniversary tenor saxophone mouthpiece reviewed above from a fan of my site and will be returning the mouthpiece after the review. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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Today, I am reviewing a new 100th anniversary model Florida Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece refaced by Jimmy Jensen.  The vintage metal Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpieces from the 1960’s are some of the most sought after vintage Otto Links on the vintage sax mouthpiece market today.  When I heard the news that JJ Babbitt was coming out with a new Florida Otto Link mouthpiece for their 100th anniversary I had to try one of these mouthpieces out.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I reached out to JJ Babbitt a couple times to see if I could get a mouthpiece to review but both times they didn’t have any available to send me as they seem to have their hands full just filling existing orders.  Luckily, a member on SOTW (Sax on the Web) offered to send me his mouthpiece to try for this review.

I thought that this was an original “off the shelf” mouthpiece but I found out after it was already in the mail that this sax mouthpiece was refaced by Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness for the customer who bought it.  Although, the mouthpiece is a 7* and was at a .105 tip opening, the customer wanted it at a .103 tip opening so Jimmy set it up for him. (I hope to find another new Florida Otto Link that is original to review in the coming weeks……)

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The new Florida Otto Link mouthpiece looks beautiful upon opening the box.  The gold plating looks thick and rich looking.  The mouthpiece comes with an Otto Link ligature and a gold mouthpiece cap.  I thought the mouthpiece cap was pretty cool because it looks like metal but is actually gold plastic so it looks great but is nice and light and won’t scratch or damage a mouthpiece when you slide it on (I have put my share of nicks in mouthpieces by being clumsy with metal mouthpiece caps when I was younger…..).

I must admit that when trying the new Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece for the first time my excitement quickly turned into annoyance.  First,  I was hoping the new mouthpiece would have a better ligature than the ligature Otto Link mouthpieces have come with over the last 30-40 years.  The ligature looked solid, well made and better than the usual modern Otto Link ligatures so I thought I would give it a try.  I slid it on over the reed but when I went to tighten it with the screw the pressure plate that the screw controls turned with the turning of the screw and was now crooked on the reed.  That was annoyance number one.

Later, I tried the ligature again and found that I could center the plate by working with the screw and holding the plate with my finger but it was honestly more of a hassle than I like to deal with so I decided to use my trusty Selmer 404 two screw silver ligature that is simple and has never let me down.

The second annoyance was when I tried to slide the mouthpiece on to my neck cork.   It was really tight on the cork.  Now, vintage Florida Links are normally one of the sax mouthpieces that have a smaller bore and are pretty tight on a saxophone neck cork so I got out two of my vintage Florida Links and tried them on the cork.  They were snug on the cork but could easily be pushed on to where they played in tune.  I tried the new Florida Link mouthpiece again and it was quite a bit tighter.  Enough so that I couldn’t push it on to where it was in tune and was afraid I might bend the neck if I used any more force.

I had to take it off and lather the cork up with cork grease to be able to slide it on to where it would play in tune for me.  This is not that big a deal once the cork is compressed but when you review as many mouthpieces as I do, it is a bit of a pain to have your cork compressed that much.

Although I found these two things frustrating for me, I took a break and came back to the new Florida Link a couple of hours later after lunch with a fresh more optimistic perspective.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is how the JJ Babbitt website describes the new Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece:

Introducing the FL (Florida) Otto Link for tenor saxophone, in celebration of our 100th anniversary. Developed over several years, the new FL Otto Link is a superb blend of professional musician input and skilled JJ Babbitt craftsmanship. Created through minor adjustments in virtually every aspect of the mouthpiece – inside and out – the FL expands the opportunity for players to recapture the distinctive sound that players are looking for.

Here is what professionals say:

“A warm big sound throughout [its] range, yet with some edge, if I want it.”

“It is amazing!”

“These are the first current production pieces that truly recreate the best of the vintage mouthpiece sound…dark and powerful, with just the right amount of edge. I most appreciate how well the mouthpiece plays top to bottom, with great intonation and response.”

“The new FL Otto Link has a rich, warm sound, [plus] quick response and flexibility through the entire range of the horn.”

You might notice as you read the description above that it doesn’t state that these new Florida mouthpieces are exact copies or reproductions of the original Florida Links from the 60’s.  It just states in somewhat vague terms that these new mouthpieces were “developed over several years, the new FL Otto Link is a superb blend of professional musician input and skilled JJ Babbitt craftsmanship. Created through minor adjustments in virtually every aspect of the mouthpiece – inside and out – the FL expands the opportunity for players to recapture the distinctive sound that players are looking for.”

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

As I examined the new Florida Otto Link next to my other vintage Florida Links I quickly saw some obvious difference between the two models.

First of all, the new Florida Link mouthpieces have a much thicker backend to the body of the mouthpiece.  You can see this clearly when comparing the new mouthpiece side by side with the vintage Florida Otto Links.

I also saw this clearly when I slid my Selmer 404 ligature onto the new Florida Link.  I have used a Selmer 404 ligature on most of my metal Otto Link mouthpieces whether they be vintage or newer Otto Links for the last 20 years.  It usually slides on very easy.  On the new Florida Link mouthpiece, the rear body of the piece is so thick that I had to unscrew the rear screw of the Selmer 404 ligature all the way until it was about to fall out to be able to slide the ligature back towards the rear of the table.  Even unscrewed to that point, I couldn’t get the ligature all the way to the butt of the reed.

Secondly, the beak of the new Florida mouthpiece immediately felt higher to me than my other vintage Otto Links.  It was enough of a difference that it felt a bit uncomfortable and odd to me because I am so used to the beak heights of my vintage Florida Link mouthpieces.  I took the mouthpiece off and compared it side by side with my vintage Florida Links and it did look higher to my eye which confirmed what I felt.  I don’t think this is a deal breaker for me but rather just something I would have to get used to if I owned one of these new mouthpieces.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When comparing the baffle and chamber of the new Florida Link mouthpiece to the vintage Florida Link mouthpieces I have to start with the acknowledgment that I have seen many Florida Links with variations between there baffle shapes and chamber shapes.  Even when comparing the two vintage Florida Links I have right now, the baffles and chambers have variations between them.

The baffle of the new Florida Link has a nice rollover to it and looks pretty darn close to the height of my vintage Florida Link baffles. There is a difference in that the vintage Links have a smooth rollover which makes the rollover harder to see as it is a gradual smooth rollover.  The new Florida Otto Link baffle has a more abrupt crooked change in the baffle as you can see in the picture below.

The chamber of the new Florida Link looks to have slightly deeper floor in the chamber than my vintage Links do.  The sidewalls are scooped out as they are with the vintage pieces.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Another difference I noticed is that the new Florida Otto Link chamber seems a bit longer than the vintage Otto Link chambers.   What I mean, is that when I compare the new Link with the vintage Links the bore past the chamber starts farther back on the new Florida Otto Link than on the vintage Florida Otto Links.  I think this might have the affect of making the chamber a bit larger than on the vintage Florida Links although this is just speculation on my part without measuring the chamber volume of each mouthpiece.

The other difference I see is that the table of the new Florida Link is thicker than on my vintage Florida Links.  When you look at the chamber from the tip of the mouthpiece you can see the thickness of the table while looking at the roof of the chamber.  I do have to say that the two vintage Florida Links I own now have been refaced so this thinness in their tables might be due to the refacer’s work. (I have actually never owned an original vintage Link…….too expensive……)

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The 7* Florida Link seemed to play well with a Rigotti Gold 3 Light or 3 Medium reed for me.  I used the Rigotti 3 Medium reed for the recording below.

I found the new Florida Otto Link to to be in the middle of the dark to bright tone spectrum.  It has some nice brights and highs in the sound but the thick slightly spread nature of the tone balances well with the highs.

I did find that this mouthpiece seemed to put the tone out in front of the saxophone.   Some mouthpieces I play seem to fill the room and the sound seems like it is right next to my ears.   Other mouthpieces seem to put the sound out in front of the sax so it seems a bit further from my ears.  I usually attribute this to the spread quality of the tone.   I would classify the new Florida Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece as having a tone that leans slightly to the more spread side of things.  This is interesting to me as I really dig my vintage Florida Links because they are more focused in tone.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I found the new Florida Otto Link to give me the same volume I typically get from a great Otto Link style mouthpiece.  I felt like I could push it to about 80% of my full volume but then it felt like it hit a wall for me and I couldn’t push it past that point without the tone getting crass and breaking up a bit. This is typical for me and why I usually don’t use a Link type mouthpiece on super loud gigs.

This also might just be me not being 100% used to the mouthpiece yet.   Usually I can spend a few weeks with a mouthpiece before I review it but I have only played this one for a few hours and have to get it back to the owner who so graciously let me borrow it.

At the end of the day, I really dig the new Florida Otto Link tenor mouthpiece and wish I could spend more time with it.  I think it is a different beast than the vintage Florida Links I have tried in that this piece feels and sounds more spread to me than the focus of those old Florida Link mouthpieces.

This mouthpiece is hands down better than any other modern Otto Link STM I have tried over the last 30 years.  It doesn’t have that dreaded tubbiness I have found in some of those mouthpieces and the tone has a richness and complexity to it that reminds me of some great NY Otto Links I have played that have a larger chamber.

It’s almost like it mixes the thick full character of tone of a great NY Otto Link large chamber mouthpiece with the focus and brightness of the vintage Florida Otto Links.  To combine that balance of both concepts is a hard thing to do but I think JJ Babbitt has created a mouthpiece that does just that.

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you like the sound and look of the new Florida Otto Link from JJ Babbitt you can find them at Kessler & Sons Music or Tenor Madness as well as other stores.  If you play one or have any other thoughts or comments, I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.   Thanks,   Steve

Florida Otto Link Metal 100th Anniversary Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece refaced by Jimmy Jensen

Disclosure: I borrowed this New Florida Otto Link 100th Anniversary tenor saxophone mouthpiece reviewed above from a fan of my site and will be returning the mouthpiece after the review. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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Here’s a free sheet I give to all my students to learn their 12 major scales and major triads.

When I teach my students the major scales, I teach them to memorize all the scales on this sheet exactly as written.  They should be able to play each scale on the sheet immediately when asked without mistakes. (If I start a student on saxophone in 4th grade then we would start learning this sheet in 5th grade as part of their weekly lesson assignment).  I also ask them to memorize what flats or sharps are in each scale from left to right in the key signatures as well as how many flats or sharps are in each key. So for example,  I might ask them to play the Eb major scale.  The student would say “The Eb major scale has 3 flats. Bb, Eb and Ab. The Eb major triad is Eb, G and Bb.” and then they would play the scale from memory with no mistakes the first time.  If I asked them to play the F# major scale they would say “The F# major scale has 6 sharps. F#, C#, G#, D#, A# and E#. The F# major triad is F#, A# and C#.”

Being able to mentally say what is in each scale is as important as being able to play each scale.  It is especially important for student who tend to play by ear or perform by finger memory without thinking about what is in each scale.  Having the student say what is in each scale makes sure that the student knows the scale mentally as well as being able to perform it.  The right order of the flats and sharps is important for later music theory work and advanced topics so I make sure they learn the order of flats as BEADGCF and the order of sharps as FCGDAEB, (It helps to spend a week saying BEADGCF FCGDAEB over and over again until it is memorized.  People will look at you weird but it is worth it…….)

I usually assign 1 to 3 scales a week depending on the student. I also review each of the scales already learned until all 12 major scales are learned. At the end we review all 12 major scales.  The goal is not just to learn the scales for their lesson with me but to learn them so that they know them for the rest of their lives in the same way that they learn their times tables and know that 9×9=81.

I also have each student practice improvising using the notes of the scale over the play along Jamey Aebersold Vol. 24 “Major and Minor”.  The focus is on hearing how each of the notes sound against the major tonality.  For example, in the key of C,  the note C is considered home base. E and G are considered like first and second base.  Those notes are safe and you can stop on those notes.  The other notes of the major scale D, F, A, and B all have a little more dissonance to them. D and A sound the most consonant of the four notes and F and B the most dissonant but all four notes feel like they want to go somewhere to resolve.  B wants to go to C.  A wants to go to G. D wants to go to C or E. F wants to go to E. etc…….. The student needs to practice to the play along and try to hear these consonant and dissonant notes and hear where the notes want to resolve and practice resolving them.  This is a very important part of practicing improvising with these scales because you are training your ear to hear the notes and resolve them when needed.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD –>   12-major-scales

For more information and licks using the major scales check out my two books: Mastering Major Diatonic Patterns and Mastering the Major Bebop Scale & Sound.  There are tons of great sounding lines and licks in these two books!

Mastering Major Diatonic Patterns

Mastering the Major Bebop Scale & Sound

I also have tons of video lessons in my Neffmusic store on the major scales.

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