Lately I've been trying to find backup pieces for my alto and tenor. I know that I need old hard rubber Otto Links or I just will not be satisfied. My first thought was to find an early Babbit HR for alto, rather than pay the big bucks for a slant Link like my main piece. If you haven't noticed early Babbit hard rubber pieces are going for as much as $700 lately, insane. I found a mint condition original 6 early Babbit on eBay and pounced on it, getting it at a great price. It turned out to be too bright for me, though a good candidate for a refacing. Brian Powell has all my measurements for my Slant Link and can put the same facing on any alto piece that is close to the same shape. I getting ready to send that one off to him.
Around the same time I found a rubber Slant Link tenor piece for $450, which seemed like a good deal. It was an original 5* and I had it sent directly to Brian. I also bought an old rubber Dukoff alto piece that looked really close to a Zimberoff. This one also had great old hard rubber. For those on you who may not know the rubber formula that was used for mouthpieces
up to the slant Link period is much different than the rubber that was used after that and up to the present. The manufacturing process to make the old rubber was too toxic and dangerous and it was made illegal sometime in the sixties. There is no comparison between the old and newer rubber, the old rubber sounds much warmer and darker, with much more complexity. Some mouthpiece makers today use a compound with a higher rubber content than other manufacturers, like Zinner and Vandoren. But even the best hard rubber today is nothing like the old stuff. I say- why not just more the Otto Link factory to China or Mexico where environmental laws are more lax? A small sacrifice of Mother Earth for better saxophone tone is a small price to pay. Better a sacrifice for saxophones than for SUVs, right? Are you with me?!?!?!?
Anyways, I got both the slant Link and the Dukoff back from Brian and they didn't play great. You can't expect anyone to read your mind when refacing a piece and it may take a few tries to get it just the way you like it. I decided to put a longer lay on the Dukoff and to take some baffle out of the Slant Link. At this point I have almost a thousand dollars tied up in vintage rubber mouthpieces and none of them really work well. The potential is there though. I will give updates as this saga progresses.
The theory that I was operating under this time was that it is better and more affordable to buy vintage pieces that had original facings that were too small rather than pieces that had been worked on by master refacer Joe Schmo. Who knows what Mr.Schmo did to the piece?! Who really knows for sure if Mr.Schmo knows what he's doing. I know one thing for certain, some of the guys who are working on pieces and are even well known have no idea what they're doing. Do they even have a good concept of what a saxophone should sound like? Can they get a good tone themselves? It's too much of a crap-shoot to buy refaced mouthpieces.
It's not really a slant Link anymore if Theo Wane carved it up like a pumpkin, is it now?