My Musical Equipment Closet

An opinionated collecton of short reviews of saxophones and woodwinds and the accessories which they require.

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Location: Santa Cruz, California, United States

"Other cultures are not failed attempts at being us. They are all unique manifestations of the human imagination and the human heart." Wade Davis

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The greatest mouthpiece and the greatest saxophone?

At the risk of gushing rhapsodic, which I would rather not do in public, I'd like to share what happened to me today.

I received a package from UPS, delayed by the holidays as everything was this week, from Jody Espina, one of the wonderful young mouthpiece designers who learned his craft under the influence of Santy Runyon. Jody has taken some of Santy's ideas to new heights. I've been playing his “Classic” Alto Sax Mouthpiece in a #8 facing in Sapphire Blue with a Spoiler for a couple years now. As I noted earlier in this blog, that mouthpiece's direct lineal ancestor is the Runyon-designed Conn Comet which Santy designed right before the outbreak of World War II turned Conn into a manufacturer of bombsights. That's the mouthpiece that made Marshal Royal sound like Marshal Royal.

No, I take that back. The Conn Comet didn't make the lead player on the Basie band. He had that sound in his head and he went out and got it, and, to his lasting credit, he had the improved sound of the Basie band in his head, too, and got it out there for all to hear. How he got there were the quality tools he selected, including his Comets. They called Marshal "the General," and the name was an apt one. Some versions of the Basie band before and after Marshal's leadership role in the band, were pretty loose compared to when he was present on the band.

I play plenty of tenor and baritone, and I am fine with playing metal mouthpieces on both of them. (Interestingly, I prefer a large hard rubber 'piece when I play my bass sax, because I want to sound round and tuba-like.) The bari mouthpiece I play is a Jody ESP, and the tenor is a DV 8. Both give more than I expected them to and have been consistently doing so since I ordered the bari (2+ years ago) and the tenor (last year).

So when I got my Saxgourmet alto with its lovely copper finish (it still astonishes my how many civilians come up to me and comment about the visual beauty of these instruments) I played the Jody Custom Sapphire. Not exactly color-coordinated but a very good auditory match indeed for lead playing. Noting how pleased I was, Jody suggested that I try one of his new DV alto mouthpieces. I already play a DV on tenor, but I have this little dichotomy going wherein I play a more modern style with a more modern sound on tenor which the tenor DV gives me, in spades.

No, Jody assured me, the DV on alto is an all-purpose mouthpiece, and, on a page of ecstatic reviews by players was a quote which decided it for me:

DV Alto is for everyone!!!

"Having already the DV for tenor, I was expecting something very good, but not THAT good. I never had sounded so close to my idol, Johnny Hodges, without effort, when I had spent so much time and energy with many other mouthpieces! More stunning, the ease to change rapidly sound colors or styles (playing like Cannonball or Maceo Parker is also cool from time to time). But OK. I could have somewhat expected that from this mouthpiece, knowing the DV for tenor. .....I would have one comment about your website page concerning the DV. It mentions that anybody who plays modern Jazz should try this mouthpiece. To me, this is not true. Anybody who plays MUSIC should try your mouthpieces!" Frederic Preitner - Boston, Massachusetts

Well, well, well. Johnny Hodges, Cannonball and Maceo out of a metal mouthpiece? Metal mouthpieces on alto are more associated with players like David Sanborn, Eric Marienthal and Dave Koz. Hodges, Cannonball, and Maceo, in fact, all preferred hard rubber. I just saw Maceo a few months ago and he was playing a Brilhart hard rubber, I'm almost certain.

I'm about to restart my big band, which is really 11 pieces (but who's counting), so I'm looking for a real specific sound in my alto playing, more specific than the generalized sound you need to lead a section on the ships. It's got Hodges, Marshal, and Benny Carter in it, with a bit of Phil Woods' sound for spice. So with January rehearsals looming large and April gigs looking hopeful, I ordered, right before I went out on the Star at the beginning of the month. They were out of stock. As soon as I got back I ordered again and the day after Christmas it arrived.

Combining the JodyJazz DV with Steve Goodson's Saxgourmet alto is like nothing I've ever experienced before. I'd have to agree with Frederic above in his assessment. I only had a chance to play a couple hours today and tonight, but I can tell this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

For more about the DV Alto Mouthpiece, click here and here. The DV alto mouthpiece delivers what's promised in a beautiful package at a fair price. No wonder Jody's young company is so successful.


Blogger AJFarber said...

The Conn Comet was indeeb the mouthpiece that Marshal Royal played for many years. 1959-?. Prior to '59, however, he played a Lelandais "streamline". All of the years with Hamp (in the '40s) and Les Hite, plus the early Basie (new testament band) years, were done with the Lelandais. There are also some photos and videos, where Marshal plays a Brilhart "Tonalin". He also used on of these Red Runyons in the '70s. He goes back to the "Comet" for his later recordings in the '80s.

I am now blowing lead alto with a Comet on my gold plated Conn 6m tranny, the same model as Marshal had.

11:21 PM  

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