One of my many goals was to help simplify the mouthpiece madness out there.
To meet my goal of helping make mouthpiece choices easier, I have come up with a 3-category system that will take care of the needs of all players. It covers the sound spectrum in a simple yet extremely effective way.
I see loads of mouthpieces coming on the market, but much of the time the buyer has no idea what they are designed to do. So I decided to make 3 categories that will simplify everything.
Here’s how it’s simplictically set-up:
1st category : A warm category mouthpiece.
Warm, open, full-bodied mouthpiece with plenty of power.
2nd category: A medium category mouthpiece.
An all-around mouthpiece that is warm and has more punch, brights, and sizzle than the category 1 mouthpiece.
3rd category: A powerhouse category mouthpiece.
This is for the guys that want to let loose. More brights, punch, and way more power available than the first 2 category pieces.
This is a simple way to break things up and allow players an easier way to choose what they have been looking for. For tenor, I will have a focussed and spread option in each category to assist the player in dialing in what they prefer.
There is a big spectrum of sound and colors within each category depending on the reed choices and how you blow.
I offer players options within those categories so players can dial in what they prefer. In other words, some like larger chambers, while others prefer medium or small. Some like step baffles, while others prefer rollovers. Some like flat sidewalls and other liked scooped sidewalls. Some like higher beaks and others don’t. These choices go on and on, so I have decided to offer more options over time within the 3 categories for players to choose from.
It’s important to make sure you have a mouthpiece in the proper category that fits your personal playing needs. I think it’s crazy when someone buys a 1940’s Tone Master and then puts loads of epoxy in it to build up a baffle and make it much brighter and louder. You are killing a beautiful vintage design. My simple answer to this: buy a mouthpiece in the other category that is designed to give you brighter and louder than your Tone Master.
You also need to be aware of the 3 categories when comparing different mouthpieces if you are looking for one of mine in the same category or different category than yours. Example—you’re comparing apples to oranges if you compare a Vandoren Jumbo Java to a vintage Slant. The 50’s/60’s Slants are innately warm, full sounding players and would be in my 1st category. Same with a Reso Chamber, Broadus, Selmer hard rubbers, Dukoff Fluted Chambers, Lamberson J model, Freddie Gregory Mark II hard rubbers, etc,…The Jumbo Java is designed to be a powerhouse mouthpiece and would be in my 3rd category with pieces such as the RPC high baffle , Bergs with a “0” or “1” baffle height, Lamberson SB’s and DD’s and pieces like that. Examples of mouthpieces that would fit in my 2nd category are the Early Babbitt hard rubbers, some modern day Slant and Early Babbitt copies made to project more than the originals, Freddie Gregory Mark IV hard rubbers, RPC lower baffle model, Lamberson L model, and various copies of these types of pieces, etc… I can’t write down every mouthpiece ever made and which category they fit in, but I am sure you can see where I’m going with this and how I am breaking up the categories: Warm, Medium, Powerhouse. I compare hard rubber pieces to other hard rubbers that are in the same categories. This makes mouthpiece choices much easier, and is one of the big reasons I love my 3-category system. It simplifies the choices, focuses on sound/design, and compares apples to apples.
I’ve made it simple for you. Just read my descriptions of each category below, and listen to the recordings below that to help decide what best fits your needs as a player.
My 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece categories:
Category 1 mouthpieces:
Option 1: “Merlot” hard rubber: warm, open, and spread sound that you feel from ear to ear when you’re playing.
Rich, full-bodied piece with purity, power, clarity, and depth
Incredible blue note era sound of the 50’s and 60’s and a more modern sound is available from it at the same time for the players who can blow brighter!
For modern guys that have the Merlot vibe: think Bergonzi, Frahm, Potter, Mintzer, Seamus Blake, Mark Turner, etc….. You can also get a Steve Grossman or Bob Berg vibe from it too, if you have those guys in your head. I wanted a warm, full sounding spread piece that wasn’t stuffy at all. This has a beautiful core sound and is incredibly flexible with all the sound spectrum it can offer! Its a warm, open mouthpiece. It does not have the tubbiness or stuffiness often associated with hard rubber vintage mouthpieces! I made this to sound warm yet with plenty of warm power when you push it.
I wanted to make a warm playing tenor mouthpiece that didn’t sound like a 60’s slant, but does everything they can do, and much more. My pieces don’t put you in a “sound corner” and make you sound one-way. Mine offer way more flexibility, depth, and clarity to the sound. Joel Frahm and many other great players, has gigged on and recorded with my Merlot and Robusto hard rubber models. The sound can be very clean or fluffy depending on how you want to play it. The high end releases the sound and doesn’t make you sound airy or tubby on the palm keys. You can make it sound like that, but it won’t dictate that on its own. This piece does not make you play “one way” or put you in a sound corner like the vintage mouthpieces. You can easily go from Stan Getz to Joel Frahm to Bob Berg with this piece. Like a fine wine, you will discover that this piece will continue to get better and better for you with time!
The merlot has less highs and punch than the other tenor saxophone models…but still lots of warm power and fulness.
Option 2: “The Classic” hard rubber: warm, focussed, deep sound that is in front of you, and is extremely even with the scale from top to bottom.
This piece is amazing! For me, far better than the warm category vintage mouthpieces. It is focused, so you feel the sound right in front of you, and it projects like crazy out to the audience. Tons of warm power here. Full with excellent altissimo.
The Classic is warmer and more focussed than the Robusto model.
Category 2 mouthpiece:
Option 1: “Robusto” hard rubber: For me, the perfect all-around fat sounding hard rubber jazz mouthpiece
This was designed to have a warm and punchy spread sound….Ala my hero and inspiration for this mouthpiece…Gene Ammons!
I designed it to be my personal tenor mouthpiece—-and it is. For me, this offers the perfect blend of lows, mids, + highs, and has a rich color palette and wide dynamic range. The sound has a really great classic warmth and brightness available and plenty of punch to it when pushed! This has a timeless “hard bop ny tenor sound” and a modern sound is available from it at the same time. Classic straight ahead sound with more power and punch available than the traditional vintage mouthpieces…And with a nice classic sizzle on top when you want it. Lots of room to let loose with this piece. It offers great body and depth. It’s clean and powerful top to bottom with a huge body of sound. Like all my mouthpieces, the sound “opens up” beautifully as you push it. This has a longer baffle than the Merlot and The Classic model,and the sound is big and fat with much more punch available. The altissimo sing with a fullness on this piece. They do not get thin or edgy for me. This piece is the best all-around straight ahead jazz hard rubber mpc I have ever played. Again, I designed it to be my personal tenor mouthpiece – and it is. My search for the perfect mouthpiece has ended here. Pharoah Sanders, Joel Frahm, Jerry Bergonzi, Doug Lawrence, Jan Garbarek, Arnie Krakowsky, David Mann, Max Ionata, Doug Webb, Ivan Renta, Dave O’higgins, Emanuele Cisi, Herve Letor, Thiago Ferte, Antoine Roney, Jeff Elwood, and so many others are just a few of the guys that you may have seen playing on my Robusto model– and each getting their own personal sounds from that same mouthpiece model. Great depth, width, and body!
Option 2: “Showtime: For me, the perfect all-around focussed sounding hard rubber jazz mouthpiece
This is a focussed all-around mouthpiece with warmth, power, punch, and brights when pushed. Its the perfect Category 2 piece that can do it all from mellow jazz to R&B, without any problem!
Category 3 mouthpieces: 2 options
Option 1—-“BLACK WIDOW”: Powerful “cross-over” moderate height baffle mouthpiece with huge depth and a vibrant core sound, that can be used for all settings from quiet to the nastiest funk! It crosses over the jazz world to the pop world, in what its capable of doing.
More powerful and has more brights than my category 1 and 2 models. Still full bodied sounding and not thin at all.
A piece the jazz guys can use easily, and the pop/smooth jazz and funk players love. It has become clear that many players want a “cross-over” category piece that is different from the other models. Something easily used for jazz stuff and for guys playing commercial pop, blues, smooth jazz, rock, and funk type of stuff too.
The Black Widow will be loved by jazz players looking for a powerful piece that can be used for straight ahead stuff+++, and also the more commercial players looking for another design option for a powerful piece with a longer and more moderate baffle height design. The baffle goes to the chamber and makes this piece incredibly versatile.
Option 2—-“SUPER WIDOW” hard rubber: Brighter, punchier, more focussed and powerful than the BW above.
The 10MFAN “Super Widow”: This will be released the summer of 2018
The SW offers contemporary players a very comfortable and colorful choice with more focus and more punch and brights.
The lower beak, flatter and higher baffle will offer metal players who want an option in hard rubber, (who typically play a thinner profile piece), a more traditional feel while being much more comfortable than those “too narrow for me pieces”, in my opinion.
It will offer the hard rubber players a familiar hard rubber feel with enhanced resonance and a very free blowing experience.
Here are some Youtube examples of my 3 tenor saxophone mouthpiece categories:
Below are examples of recordings of some players sounds that fit extremely well in each of my categories. Their “styles” are different, but their sounds fit nicely showing the flexibility within each category. These examples are all on youtube for you to listen to and better understand where i’m coming from with each of my mouthpiece choices:
For the Category 1 “MERLOT and THE CLASSIC” mouthpieces think in this realm:
Hank Mobley on SOUL STATION 1960
Chris Potter LIFT! LIVE AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD 2002
Stan Getz with Gerry Mulligan LET’S FALL IN LOVE 1958
Josh Redman MOOSE THE MOOCHE from WISH 1993
Mark Turner SKYLARK from BALLAD SESSION 2000
Scott Hamilton on TENOR SHOES 1993
Joel Frahm and Brad Mehldau—-AWAY FROM HOME 2004
Dexter Gordon I’M A FOOL TO WANT YOU 1965
Sonny Rollins ALMOST LIKE BEING IN LOVE 1953
Seamus Blake BODY AND SOUL live in Virginia 2010
George Garzone AMONG FRIENDS 2009
Jerry Bergonzi with Dave Santoro ON GREEN DOLPHIN ST. 2007
Zoot Sims YOU GO TO MY HEAD 1961
Josh Redman THE PASSAGE OF TIME
Sonny Stitt I WANT TO BE HAPPY 1950
Richie Kamuca EARLY BIRD 1957
Harry Allen CHELSEA BRIDGE live 2008
Al Cohn SUDDENLY ITS SPRING 1954
Ken Peplowski THE SHADOW OF YOUR SMILE 2006
For the Category 2 “ROBUSTO” mouthpiece think:
Dexter Gordon on GO 1962
Gene Ammons on BOSS TENORS with Sonny Stitt 1960
Sonny Rollins WAY OUT WEST 1957
Johnny Griffin THE WAY YOU LOOK TONIGHT 1956
Chris Potter with Joe Lovano “FOUR” live
Josh Redman Quartet STRAIGHT AHEAD 1994
Seamus Blake THE FEELING OF JAZZ 2009
George Garzone FOUR’S AND TWO’S, FOUR’S AND TWO’S 1996
Booker Ervin GROOVIN HIGH from 1964
John Coltrane BLUE TRAIN 1957
Dexter Gordon LADYBIRD live 1964
Al Cohn I WANT TO BE HAPPY 1989
Brian Scanlon Big Phat Band CUT ‘N’ RUN
Frank Foster Quintet THE HEAT’S ON 1954
Sonny Rollins STRODE RODE from Saxophone Colossus 1956
If you dig a classic straight ahead sound with power, punch and sizzle on top—you’ll love my category 2 “ROBUSTO” mouthpiece.
For the Category 3 “THE BLACK WIDOW” and “SUPER WIDOW” mouthpiece think:
Michael Brecker (Brecker Bros) STRAPHANGIN’ 1980
Sonny Rollins ALFIES THEME 1973
Stanley Turrentine SUGAR live with Sanborn 1989
Pharaoh Sanders HEART IS A MELODY OF TIME 1983
Gene Ammons with Stitt BYE BYE BLACKBIRD 1962
Red Holloway and Plas Johnson PASS THE GRAVY 2001
Josh Redman with The Rolling Stones WAITING ON A FRIEND live 1997
James Carter–JOSHUA REDMAN VS. JAMES CARTER CARNEGIE HALL
Willis Jackson BAR WARS 1977
Ken Gioffre LIVIU POP
Lenny Pickett with Tower of Power BELIEVE IT 1990
Ed Calle DOUBLE TALK 1996
Bob Berg BACK ROADS live 1992, or JIGSAW, IN THE SHADOWS
Chris Potter MEGALOPOLIS 2008
Euge Groove S7ven Large—LIVE IN LONDON 2011
Red Prysock HIDE AWAY 1962
Eddie Daniels SLAM DUNK 1993
Kirk Whalum YOU ARE EVERYTHING
Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis SKILLET from 1958
The great news is that all of these tenor saxophone mouthpieces are completely different. They each stand proudly on their own and fit beautifully into the 3-category system progression I’ve set up.
Sound, feel, balance, and design are in the forefront for me.
This 3-Category system makes your choices much easier.