Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Alto Mouthpiece Roundup Review (Part 2): D'Addario Select Jazz, Marantz East Coast Legacy, Jody Jazz Jet, Mouthpiece Cafe NYC


Alto Mouthpiece Roundup Review Header Photo


In part 2 of this alto mouthpiece roundup review, we'll be taking a look at the D'Addario Select Jazz, Jody Jazz JET, Marantz East Coast Legacy and Mouthpiece Cafe NYC. Make sure you read Alto Mouthpiece Roundup Review - Part 1: Introduction first, or use the navigation drop-down menu to jump around.








Photo montage of the D'Addario Select Jazz alto saxophone mouthpiece
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Following the success of the Reserve Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece, D’Addario has created the new Select Jazz mouthpiece for alto saxophone. This new mouthpiece captures the playing characteristics of the most sought-after vintage mouthpieces: providing classic sound and response, with even intonation across the entire range of the saxophone. Select Jazz mouthpieces offer a full, focused, and fat sound with great projection and are available in the three most popular facing models: 5, 6, and 7.

Our production model started off as a prototype copy of a very old New York Meyer Bros which we obtained unmodified, in original condition. From that mouthpiece, we iterated to develop a model that was more in line with the demands of modern jazz alto players. We compared our prototypes to the baseline Meyer throughout the development to match the desirable sound quality that the original mouthpiece had. The baffle was designed to be a bridge between the popular darker early models and the much brighter NY USA models. The tip rail is moderate, and we avoid allowing it to get too thin, because this creates a wildness that was not preferred by our test artists. Also, as saxophonists’ tastes evolve, they may want to alter the mouthpiece to suit their preferences and a thin tip rail would limit any future customization. The chamber and facing are both considered medium, and are similar to the original. The blank itself is quite similar to the vintage model although the table and tip radius were adjusted to best suit our Select Jazz, Hemke, LaVoz, or Reserve reeds.

D’Addario has brought a level of engineering expertise to mouthpiece making that is unrivaled in the industry. The proprietary manufacturing process is so precise it requires no hand finishing. Select Jazz mouthpieces are milled, not molded, to the tightest tolerances, delivering incredible consistency. We experimented with molding as a more affordable alternative to milling but the variation from part to part was simply too great and there were numerous defects that could be created in the process. We at D’Addario pride ourselves on our ability to make products consistently. So it was essential for us to ensure that this trait would be present in our new Select Jazz mouthpiece.  

The D'Addario Select Jazz is a well crafted mouthpiece with a middle-of-the-road approach that will no doubt fulfill the needs of a wide variety of saxophonists.

The mouthpiece comes in a cardboard box sporting the same new D'Addario Winds branding that has come up on Select Jazz and Reserve reeds. The insert slides out to reveal the mouthpiece cradled securely inside. The mouthpiece comes with no accessory.

The exterior of the piece is tastefully finished in an understated way. The shank features two gold colored rings, a stamped model name on one side, tip opening and serial number on the other, as well as the D'Addario logo. Another gold colored ring is present on the body, right before the break to the beak.

The machining marks inside the mouthpiece were clearly visible in the baffle, floor, sidewalls and chamber areas. The floor and baffle had a textured appearance. The side and tip rails looked carefully finished although maybe not as gracefully as some hand finished mouthpieces. Sidewalls were generously concave and the chamber seemed of medium size.

My first experience with the D'Addario Select Jazz was that, unfortunately, the bore was very, very tight. I had to use a ton of cork grease so that I could push the mouthpiece far enough to be in tune. Removing the mouthpiece was also quite a challenge. I would definitely have someone expand the bore.

Once in the proper position on the neck of my Mark VII, the Select Jazz was an instantly satisfying mouthpiece. The very even and medium low amount of resistance was a logical match to the balanced, medium bright and slightly more focused sound of the piece. Every register spoke well, with ease, intonation was very good and tone quality changed logically through the different ranges. The Select Jazz has a very rich and airy mid-range and upper mid-range resonance which I feel gives this mouthpiece a distinct color. This quality extends to the lower high harmonics. That's not to say the mouthpiece has no edge but it's not its tonal priority. This would make this piece a great match for players trying to tame a brighter horn without sacrificing either projection or a nice balance of colors.

This quality in the medium and high partials felt somewhat restrictive in the sense that it was a challenge to manipulate it to my liking. However, it's not something I'd necessarily want to get rid of as it balances the darker core of the Select Jazz and helps with projection.

I found the D'Addario Select Jazz felt slightly smaller than its size both in terms of how reeds felt on it, and in its resistance. I would have been happier one size larger for sure. Even with this restriction, it was quite easy to produce a loud, projecting tone on it. The fact that this piece puts naturally more emphasis on the mid frequencies means that it won't sound too bright and nasty when pushed while helping carry your voice across a room. The medium low resistance wasn't the easiest to modulate dynamically in the lower register but it was very manageable and I'm sure it would have gotten out of the way after spending more time with it.

The D'Addario Select Jazz is a great value in a piece designed in the classic lineage of the great mouthpieces of the past. Its balanced feel, medium resistance and medium bright tone rich in harmonics will appeal to a wide variety of players, students and pros alike.





D'Addario Select Jazz mouthpieces are available through a wide variety of retailers for $149 MSRP. For more information, check out D'addario's product page or use the web form to get in touch with customer service. You can also reach woodwind product specialist & saxophonist Kristen McKeon directly through email.


Photo montage of the Marantz East Coast Legacy alto saxophone mouthpiece
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A variation on the classic NY USA medium-chamber design, the Marantz East Coast Legacy alto mouthpieces strive to capture the characteristics of these vintage pieces with a little bit more character and warmth than the originals. The Marantz East Coast Legacy mouthpieces start as custom blanks sourced in England and the US. These blanks are CNC machined from a 3D CAD design of an actual vintage, original piece. CNC milling yields very consistent results to use as a platform for the extensive hand finishing performed in the next step. The hard rubber formula used is based on a recipe from the 1920's which calls for all natural ingredients, carbon based coloring, and a natural curing time of up to a week. This makes for a material that plays and resonates beautifully. We haven't found anything that outdoes it so far in the modern world for use on sax mouthpieces!

The internal design of the Marantz East Coast Legacy mouthpieces differs very slightly from its inspiration, and yields minor but essential improvements. The sidewalls are a little more sculpted and the chamber, although based on the NY USA, has some unique characteristics that bring a little bit more depth in the tone while still providing all the projection you'd expect. The classic medium-rollover baffle design is hand-sculpted and polished to a glass-smooth sheen that promotes smooth response. Facing is setup with a medium length radial curve for maximum efficiency and ease of playing. Finally, the thin tip rails and detailed side rail corner transitions contribute to the instantaneous response of these pieces. Each of them is play tested and the facing and baffle fine tuned to play as absolutely best as possible before leaving the shop.

Marantz mouthpieces are made to pay tribute to the great designs of the past and make them available again for players who seek a classic sax tone with a consistently responsive facing, detailed finish work, and high quality materials.

You sometimes get a pleasant surprise from something you had no particular expectations from. Every so often, the high expectations you had are fully met, becoming a confirmation of consistency and high standards. Rarely do you have high expectations and still get blown away. Playing the Marantz East Coast Legacy alto mouthpiece by Matt Marantz was one of these rare occurrences.

I had met Matt a few years back in New Orleans while he was with the Thelonious Monk Institute and he did some work on a piece for me. He did a great job with a highly developed attention to details. It also transpired through our conversation that he's someone with a genuine passion and respect for the craft. I also knew he was a great saxophonist and discovered he had started developing his own line of mouthpieces through his “Marantz Mouthpiece Work” Sound Cloud stream. Needless to say my interest was piqued.

As you can see from the picture, the finishing on this piece is exquisite. The baffle and floor are buffed to a high shine, the side and tip rails are some of the thinnest I've seen and they transition into one another in a beautiful seamless curve. There are quite a few scratches from the hand-making process deep inside the chamber, but they are so shallow that this area remains smooth. The mouthpiece is tastefully branded at the top with a slanted "Marantz" and straight "LEGACY", gilded in gold color.

The Marantz East Coast Legacy has very deep concave inner side walls and a medium large chamber. The baffle is unlike the typical Meyer which usually rolls over down at a shorter distance from the tip rail. Here the floor is relatively straight, although slightly curved from one side to the other. About half-way through the window this concavity deepens and opens on the deep chamber.

The feeling of next to no resistance you get when playing the Marantz East Coast Legacy is truly unique. I've never personally played a mouthpiece that's so effortless. The free-blowing quality of the Marantz East Coast Legacy allows for an extremely precise control of dynamics & modulation between sub tone, full-tone and every intermediate, which can be a problem when resistance is introduced either in how a mouthpiece is designed or by a leak in the horn. This quality carries through the entire range of the horn. This is a mouthpiece that generates more than you give to it and, in this sense, is literally an amplifier.

The medium large chamber brings an authoritative core tone that is easy to manipulate in any direction. The size of the chamber does not seem to impact resistance at all.

However this free-blowing quality can have a downside: it can feel somewhat harder to control as you'll be more in command. A short adjustment period may be necessary to get the most out of this mouthpiece. Instead of having "some resistance to push against” to help with focusing your air and opening up your throat, you will be in complete control. You won’t have to work hard but you will have to work right to get a good tone out of it. It may, as a result, seem to be more tricky to get a more focused tone out of it at first.

The Marantz East Coast Legacy naturally tends toward a medium dark tone with more lows and a slight edge. Although it is moderately less focused in the mid frequencies than the classic design, I believe you could make it sound however you want because of the lack of restriction built into the design. It may not initially seem like it's not the most projecting mouthpiece but the fact that's it's so efficient means that a louder, deeper sound that carries across the room requires less effort to produce. As you won't have to strain yourself to get heard, your tone will remain deep, rich and consistent even when pushed. The material's resonance also contributes to the width of tone and projection, as well as to the feeling this mouthpiece acts as an amplifier.

The Marantz East Coast Legacy offers a unique experience while remaining in the lineage of the great designs of the past in a mouthpiece with a masterfully executed construction.





You can reach Matt Marantz by email via the contact form on his website or on the phone at 214-499-5706. The East Coast Legacy mouthpiece is available for purchase directly on Matt's website, www.marantzcustommouthpieces.com, for $300. If you're in New York City, you can schedule a shop visit for refacing, facing adjustments, custom alterations, or trying one of the Marantz Legacy mouthpieces for alto and tenor.



Photo montage of the Jody Jazz JET Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
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The JodyJazz JET is a bright saxophone mouthpiece with excellent projection, extremely easy altissimo register and yet can be played with a warm versatile feel. It is a free-blowing, easy and fun mouthpiece to play that captures the full range of tonal qualities of the saxophone.

The JodyJazz JET has a clean, focused sound with strong projection and cut, while maintaining extraordinary versatility. The JodyJazz JET is excellent for Rock, Funk, Blues, Smooth Jazz and Latin Music, Reggae, Ska, Funk, Hip Hop, Top 40, Duranguense, Merengue, Salsa, Cumbia, Compa, Tejano, Musica Popular Brasileira, but at the same time we think that many alto sax players will be surprised at how well it plays lead alto in a big band and due to it's versatility, blends nicely with a concert band or saxophone quartet. In other words the JodyJazz JET is a great saxophone mouthpiece that seems to appeal to a very broad variety of players.

The unique inner shape of the JodyJazz JET Saxophone Mouthpiece gives it a unique sound and feel that contributes to its bright, free-blowing quality and projection while remaining versatile. Our new shorter facing curve, unique to the JET, makes the altissimo register effortless.

We apply the same cutting edge technology used to make our metal mouthpieces to making the JodyJazz JET. The five Axis CNC Machining allows for extremely precise manufacturing and repeatability. This translates in an affordable mouthpiece of amazing value.

The JET is a powerful mouthpiece with a "take-no-prisoner" approach from the company famous for its DV and HR* mouthpieces.

The JodyJazz JET comes in a heavy purple-colored velvet drawstring pouch with the JodyJazz logo embossed in a handwritten font. The whole thing is nestled in a branded cardboard box.  Every JodyJazz JET comes with a Rico H ligature and cap. The latter is also branded with the JodyJazz logo in gold. The mouthpiece itself has the look of a high quality, premium product. The same logo that's on the Rico H cap is present on the JET's shank. There is a machined engraved model name and tip opening number on the table, and the model's logo, a stylized graphic of the impellers of a jet engine. The logo represents the high speed movement of air that the JodyJazz JET creates thanks to its unique inner geometry.

There are a few visible leftovers from machining outside and inside the mouthpiece: a few straight machine marks on the table, some shallow lines from finishing on the baffle and floor - which are otherwise smooth - and again some more significant marks from machining on the straight inner side walls. The thin side and tip rails are precision finished and transition beautifully into each other. I would say the baffle on the JodyJazz JET is a very short, long and flat baffle that transitions into a flat floor before abruptly falling into the medium small chamber in a step. The exterior of the piece looks beautifully polished.

I have to admit I don't have much extended experience with high baffle mouthpieces on alto, and I have not had much affinity with what they usually offer. However, I tried to keep an open mind when evaluating the JodyJazz JET. It instantly reminded me of Jan Garbarek although he favors tenor and soprano mostly. I suppose I'm just more familiar with his playing than David Sanborn's or Eric Marienthal's. The JET is indeed a rather bright, proud and loud mouthpiece. I'd say it is very different from the other mouthpieces included in this roundup and perhaps more similar to a Claude Lakey, Dukoff or similar high baffle mouthpiece in how it feels and plays.

Compared to mouthpieces with larger chambers and lower baffles, I have always found step baffle mouthpieces rather inflexible and thin sounding. However, the JET was a big surprise in this department. Thanks to a strong focus in the mid-range, and although the high frequencies are enhanced through how this piece is voiced, it never sounded thin. It could easily pass for a more traditional mouthpiece if you held back a little and didn't push too much air through it. The high range of the horn and altissimo territory were incredibly easy to navigate although I found the low end a tad more resistant than I would have liked. Using a softer reed did not completely alleviate the problem. This is probably a drawback of the shorter facing. When pushing more air through the horn in order to make the low end speak, the JET had a tendency to sound rather brash. Again, this may be due to my lack of experience with these pieces and what ears are accustomed to. I have the feeling the JodyJazz JET would really shine in a high volume setting, or trying to cut through a mix with many instruments occupying the low mids and mid-range, while avoiding the common problem of a thin sound that sometimes results from over-emphasizing the high frequency spectrum.

The Rico H ligature provided with the JET, although it did a decent job (and has one of the best caps I've ever encountered), did not sound as full as the BG DUO. This may actually be a good thing if you're looking to cut through, but I found myself enjoying the warmer sound of the DUO better. Positioning the DUO was also easier, and the one screw design was simply faster to adjust.

The JodyJazz JET would be more obviously suitable to R&B and Pop artists looking for a bright, projecting but fat sound but, after all, Lee Konitz plays a Vandoren Jumbo Java and gets quite a complex and dark sound through it. As the JET never thins out, it may appeal to players who favor using a higher baffle piece for more traditional settings.





The JodyJazz JET is available for purchase directly on JodyJazz' website for $179. For more information, check out the JodyJazz JET product page, send an email or call the toll free number: 1-866-JODYJAZ (866-563-9529)


Photo montage of the Mouthpiece Cafe NYC Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
Click for larger version


All Mouthpiece Cafe models are made from scratch, in house, through a proprietary process refined over several years of R&D, listening to feedback from players and implementing changes until we and our customers were satisfied. Although we are always looking forward, and constantly trying to refine our manufacturing process, we believe we've perfected a process that yields consistently great results.

The rubber composite we use for our line of mouthpieces was developed with the a goal to contribute to a free-blowing quality and to produce a beautiful resonance.

All Mouthpiece Cafe mouthpieces are hand finished by Eric Greiffenhagen and Brian Powell, ensuring that every mouthpiece that leaves our shop plays as best as possible.

The Mouthpiece Cafe NYC was modeled after one of the finest vintage alto mouthpieces ever made. Flavorful and refined, it is a fine balance of power, projection and edge with all the warmth you need making it a great choice for most any setting. It features a round, medium size chamber with a beautiful roll-over baffle that allows it to project with very little effort. This is a very tasty and extremely versatile mouthpiece indeed.

Mouthpiece Cafe is a grassroots business driven by a passion for music, its community and the craft of making mouthpieces and we believe this shows in how our mouthpieces play.


What sets the Mouthpiece Cafe NYC apart from other Meyer inspired piece is that it offers the most authentic feel, response and sound.

The Mouthpiece Cafe NYC isn't exactly what I would call a fancy mouthpiece but its features and finishing shows a clear attention to details. The "Mouthpiece Cafe" logo is laser engraved on top of the piece while a slanted model name is similarly engraved on the table. There are two punched characters one each side of the mouthpiece: the tip opening - in this case "6" - and the letter R which stands for "Rubber".

Finishing is impeccable on the Cafe NYC: the rails look perfectly straight and all leftovers from the making process have been buffed to a smooth surface. It is possible to guess where various tools met with the material but the finishing blends all of these together quite nicely. The inner sidewalls and round chamber look very similar to a typical Meyer; nicely concave and medium large. The piece is set up with a modestly sized rollover baffle that is a thing of beauty. Every piece I've seen coming from Erik and Brian were equally stunning when it comes to how the rollover baffle is shaped. The transition and curves of the baffle are so subtle they are actually hard to see unless you use proper lighting.

It always takes me a while to warm up to a new mouthpiece, and this was no exception. The neutral feel and voicing of this piece seemed a little unexciting - even bland - at the beginning. The Mouthpiece Cafe NYC, however, played beautifully with a medium low amount of resistance that was consistent through the whole range. I had no problem playing all over the horn at any dynamic from the get-go. It just felt like reuniting with an old friend. The NYC then gradually revealed itself to be quite versatile and the neutrality I mentioned above quickly became one of the best features of this mouthpiece. It's not too bright nor too dark, not too loud or too soft, isn't particularly wild or too conservative, and this means it lets you do whatever you want with it.

The beak angle felt slightly different from what I'm accustomed to. This was nothing extreme but noticeable enough to make a note of it. The .077" tip opening also felt significantly smaller than the .080" I'm used to. The difference was significant enough that I felt it slightly restricted how much air I could put through the horn. I don't think such a small size difference should feel this obvious so it's possible these will generally feel smaller than they are and would advise to consult with the guys at Mouthpiece Cafe before ordering.

The more I played the Cafe NYC, the more I realized it embodies the classic feel and sound so many alto players have been chasing through the years. With a balanced timbre, warm sound with just enough spread, nuanced brilliance and traditional amount of resistance, there is no need to be chasing after an elusive Holy Grail anymore.

The Mouthpiece Cafe NYC doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, favoring a traditional design that aims to rival vintage counterparts. This aesthetic choice combined with the brilliant work and resonant material used on this mouthpiece makes it a no-brainer for anyone looking to get a Meyer inspired mouthpiece that just plays, gets out of the way and lets you focus on making music.





The Mouthpiece Cafe NYC alto mouthpiece is available for purchase directly on www.mouthpiececafe.com for $250. For more information, use the web form on their website.








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1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for making these reviews! if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have have even heard of Mouthpiece cafe, nor would I have bought an Espresso from them :)

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