Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Alto Mouthpiece Roundup Review (Part 6): Selmer Metal Jazz, JodyJazz DV, Phil-Tone Rift

Alto Mouthpiece Roundup Review Header Photo

In part 6 of this alto mouthpiece roundup review, we'll be taking a look at the Selmer Metal Jazz, JodyJazz DV the Phil-Tone Rift. 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 Selmer Metal Jazz alto saxophone mouthpiece
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The Selmer Metal Jazz mouthpiece for alto saxophones is principally intended for jazz and big bands; easy blowing and more responsive tone make it a very versatile mouthpiece.

The Selmer Metal Jazz is a mouthpiece with a strong and focused voice that remains deep and thick wherever you decide to take it.

The piece ships in a similar packaging as the Soloist and Spirit mouthpieces. However, you have the option to get the Selmer Metal Jazz mouthpiece with a matching silver plated ligature and cap which both ship in separate boxes which again use the same classy matte black finish.

I have always liked metal mouthpieces. There is something about their weight, how they feel in the hand and how they look that has attracted me since I started playing saxophone. The Selmer Metal Jazz is no different and looks like fine jewelry. The silver plating is very high quality on the mouthpiece itself of course but also the cap and ligature. The piece is set up with a rollover baffle right after the tip, sidewalls that were almost straight although slightly carved out and a medium small chamber.

As much as I like metal mouthpieces it seems way more common to see people playing hard rubber on alto. I'm sure it is due to the fact that the range of the alto makes it a naturally brighter instrument and a lot of metal mouthpieces are designed to emphasize the upper partials of the horn. This is, however, not the case with the Selmer Metal Jazz.

This piece has a rather focused tone but remains warm, with just enough harmonic content to create a fantastic balance. As the higher partials remain focused, there's not a lot of buzz or air in this frequency range which contributes to the strong centered tone of the Selmer Metal Jazz. The presence and thickness of this piece was truly inspiring and formed a very agreeable match with my Mark VII which has a more spread quality. The mouthpiece didn't sound overly bright when pushed and kept its incredible thickness and focus. I could get quite loud on it although I felt somewhat limited by the amount of back pressure built into the design. The strong focus made my VII vibrate in my hand even at a medium to medium high dynamic and nothing can beat this organic feeling.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, the amount of resistance of this piece was substantial. This was especially apparent while playing in the low range of the horn. I had to use a significant amount of additional air to make those low notes speak, whether sub-toning or playing them with a full sound. The rest of the horn was easier to play but still had some back pressure. I wonder whether the straighter sidewalls and smaller chamber contributed to this or it was more a result of the facing, and if I may have been more comfortable playing one size up. Playing the same strength reeds I'm used to felt right though. Another possibility could be that this particular mouthpiece may just have slipped through the cracks of quality check.

In spite of this, I feel the Selmer Metal Jazz is a mouthpiece with a unique voice and strong presence that is worth looking into even though it is possible you may have to try a few before finding one that is free-blowing.

The Selmer Soloist is available for purchase through every major retailers for $670 MSRP ($370 street price) with ligature and cap. For more information, check out the product page

Photo montage of the JodyJazz DV alto saxophone mouthpiece
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Jody Espina has introduced the concept of Golden Section Proportions to the art of high end saxophone mouthpiece design. This perfect chamber/bore/facing combination results in an extraordinary playing experience, effortless power & beauty.

Nature, science and imagination combine to create this revolutionary new saxophone mouthpiece designed by Jody Espina (U.S. Patent No. 7,470,844). One of the goals when creating the JodyJazz DV Alto was to make it the most efficient mouthpiece possible. We also wanted to eliminate the annoying shrillness that is associated with loud bright metal alto saxophone mouthpieces. This is achieved through a mouthpiece voiced with a wide and thick mid-range and bottom end. These attributes have never been present before in an alto mouthpiece with such a strong projection and rich harmonics.

The new facing curve results in absolutely no dead spots in the vibration of the reed. All notes in all ranges respond equally. The JodyJazz DV has a husky barrel-chested tone while being able to sing and soar over the top of any band. Sub toning and low notes are effortless while navigating the altissimo register has never been so easy. Intonation is spot on. Be prepared to have possibly the most fun you ever have had on the saxophone.

The secondary window of the JodyJazz DV allows moving sound waves inside of the mouthpiece to strike the vibrating reed above the bore of the mouthpiece. This contributes greatly to the full resonant sound of this mouthpiece.

We have invested in new CNC technology and have come up with a proprietary way of putting on a new facing curve, which is perfect every time. The JodyJazz DV is manufactured on the most sophisticated computer controlled lathes and mills, yet the DV benefits from a high degree of hand finishing. The attention to detail in design and finishing given to the DV results in a stunning work of art that plays like a dream come true.

The JodyJazz DV is definitely an atypical mouthpiece with a radical look and construction.

The mouthpiece comes in a cylindrical wood case which is itself quite unique. It contributes further to the premium look of this mouthpiece. Inside the case, the JodyJazz DV is wrapped inside a branded felt pouch.

What really stands out in the construction of the DV is of course its patented secondary window, which is an opening through the table's surface. The secondary window was inspired by the golden ratio. This secondary window is employed to solve the problem of smaller chambers which, although allowing for more power, tend to sound shrill. The JodyJazz DV is 24K Gold Plated inside and out. The shank is stamped with the JodyJazz signature and tip opening while the side of the mouthpiece features the embossed Greek letter Phi. This letter is found on the bite pad which is embedded inside the beak of the mouthpiece. Included is a Rico H ligature and FF cap. It would have been a nice touch at this price point to include a more premium ligature, especially since JodyJazz manufactures its own "Ring" model available for purchase separately.

The smooth surface of the baffle on the JodyJazz DV features a subtle rollover baffle right after the tip rail. The floor right past it is slightly concave but straight lengthwise until it drops abruptly in a step inside a large chamber. Sidewalls are straight and flush with the side rails. Tip and side rails are finished with extreme precision.

Although the JodyJazz DV could be regarded as a step baffle mouthpiece it doesn't feel like one at all. This may be due to the fact that the drop is deep inside the mouthpiece, thanks to the secondary window or just how the baffle and floor are set up. I found myself more intuitively able to manipulate its tonal palette than the JET. The DV naturally has a very full, authoritative tone, and although there is a slight buzz topping the core tone, it wasn't overbearing and could easily be controlled through manipulating air, subtle embouchure adjustments, as well as reed choice. These high frequencies blended well with the tone full of harmonics that the piece provides.

The JodyJazz DV is a very free-blowing mouthpiece that provides a consistent response in all registers. The low end comes out nice and clear, loud or soft and the consistent feel of the piece brought a feeling of confidence in transitioning from Bb up into the altissimo. I could get a very loud sound without pushing unreasonably. I really enjoyed the fact that the DV responded to change in air stream focus and power by modifying the frequencies it emphasized. In this regard I found the the JodyJazz DV to be the true do-it-all. Hold back a little and the mouthpiece can easily spread out and soften; blow hard and you'll scare your neighbors and put trombone players to shame.

If you read the information found on the JodyJazz website about the DV it advises you to play a reed one size stiffer and my experience with the mouthpiece would agree with this. In addition to feeling softer, brighter reeds tended to flirt with chirping in the higher registers.

The JodyJazz DV is a premium quality metal mouthpiece with a versatile full bright sound that will no doubt be a fantastic match with many players looking for one piece to do it all.

The JodyJazz DV is available for purchase directly on JodyJazz' website for $550. For more information, check out the JodyJazz DV product page, send an email or call the toll free number: 1-866-JODYJAZ (866-563-9529)

Photo montage of the Phil-Tone Rift Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece
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Powerful forces within the earth push against one another creating an upheaval of pressure and heat. That which existed is, in a moment in time, obliterated. This endless cycle brings about the potential for new formations of order. The Phil-Tone Rift delivers these possibilities to the alto saxophone player. The Rift offers more than just sheer power. It is power with purpose, complexity and integrity. With a sweeping dynamic range and formidable projection it cuts through space without becoming shallow or thin. Its voice will not be silenced.

The Rift sports a unique combination of mouthpiece design elements. It utilizes bore modifications with a rollover baffle and a special secondary baffle in the floor. This facilitates highs that are crisp and a deeply resonant low end. With its rich focused core the Rift is an easy to blow, but does offer some cushion to provide excellent control. The Rift is a versatile mouthpiece for those seeking additional power, and dynamics. This is one of the most colorful alto pieces in existence. Even the palm keys, which are too frequently thin, have texture and color.

I wanted a powerful piece with lots of color that could play modern gigs as well as jazz. Fusion players were something I had in mind but preferably offering them a piece that had some warmth and body, not just sheer volume. The baffle shape took a lot to come up with. The rollover in addition also gives the piece a nice familiar buzz rather than just the edge afforded by step baffles.

The Phil-Tone Rift isn't just another bright and loud high baffle mouthpiece, and delivers on the promise of keeping the warmth and thickness of the more traditional Meyer design while delivering much more power.

The Rift was finished similarly to the Aurora and Solstice and the exterior appearance was virtually identical to these two pieces. It would be impossible to tell one from the other just by looking at the exterior. The interior, although not without some rough finished spots, was well finished and the tip rail, side rails and baffle displayed a great attention to details like the other pieces. However the Rift was significantly different on the inside. Although the rollover baffle right after the tip rail looked somewhat similar to the one in the Aurora, it was slightly more prominent. The obvious difference here was the massive step baffle deeper inside. Instead of ending into the chamber with a straight edge like a more typical step baffle mouthpiece, the edge of the step baffle in the Rift is significantly rounded. I believe this is the secondary baffle Phil speaks of. Sidewalls were moderately concave.

I was very surprised the Phil-Tone Rift didn't sound brighter. Compared to the typical Meyer sound, this mouthpiece had a thicker, more centered tone with way more power, and of course more edge, but not as much as you would expect from this type of design. Although there is some nice sizzle, I think the thickness of the lower and medium frequencies helps hearing the edge as an integral part of the Rift's tonal spectrum. This contributes to how even and smooth the whole range of the horn sounds.

The Rift is more free-blowing than the other two Phil-Tone mouthpieces included in this review although not as free-blowing as some step baffle mouthpieces can be. What you put in the Rift is what comes out, which makes playing nuances very intuitive. I found the lower end of the horn minimally more resistant than I like. I had to pay close attention to air support when playing with a full sound at lower dynamics. However, I believe I would have gotten used to it after spending a few days on the piece.

The Phil-Tone Rift is a powerful mouthpiece that doesn't sacrifice warmth and depth for projection. It would be an equally good choice for players looking for a slightly brighter and extremely efficient piece at lower dynamics that can double as a fat and fun fusion piece.

The Phil-Tone Rift is available directly on Phil-Tone's website for $285. For more information, check out the product page. You can also reach Phil Engleman directly through email or through the webform on his website.




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