4/18/07

My latest mouthpiece strategies-original and small

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?

6 comments:

Biby Cletus said...

Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

Warm Regards

Biby Cletus - Blog

Anonymous said...

Im not a fan of the Ralph Morgan school of refacing. Every piece Ive ever played by him or the MPC GUYS seem to kinda play nice but have no "zip" or "vibe" for lack of a better word.

The Internet has spawned a new slew of self-styled refacers & mpc gurus who seem to charm all the SOTW guys and have some success.

Most of the people that are recommending these guys CANT PLAY and, frankly, dont know what great mpc is.

Refacing is not rocket science, but once-in-a-while a refacer will make a good one, law of averages & hit-or-miss means you hit sometimes

I think you need to look at who their clients are: mostly students, weekend warriors & lawyers or adult hobbyists with too much money and who read the newsgroups.

IMHO Theo was won of the good ones & I would take a chance on a Slant that he did before buying something and sending it out to Brian Powell.

William said...

Actually, Theo Wanne now has another guy working for him who recently worked on my Link that had gotten all rusty from my time living in the jungle on Maui. I thought that he did pretty good work.

My only complaint is that he opened the mouthpiece up a little bit too much and while the top of the horn sounds fantastic, the bottom end is extremely unforgiving. Someone recommended a guy here in Portland named Jeff Holman. Anyone know anything about him?

Also, does anyone have any information about the custom rubber links being sold on saxquest? Are they any good or is it just more take $350 and flush it down the toilet??

cheers, Bill

David Valdez said...

Bill Holman is a very good saxophonist with a real concept of sound. He's been working on mouthpieces for a while and I just heard from Warren Rand that his custom pieces have gotten really good. I don't think he would mind if I posted his number here, it's 503-245-5933.

The costom Links from Sax Quest are made from slant Link molds (supposedly) and are finished by Doc Tenney. You can buy those same slant blanks from places like Sax Alley for about $120. I don't know about you but $225 seems like a little too much to charge to finish a piece, even if it plays good. You could get the same blank yourself and have your favorite guy finish it for way less. The blanks themselves vary widely and are pretty rough and almost unplayable without work. Most of them have more baffle material than the new Links, but not all of them. My buddy Nathan just ordered two of them and one had a high baffle and the other one had almost no baffle to speak of. I would think that those blanks would still be a good way to get something close to an early Babbit of slant Link without paying an arm and a leg. Right now I'm waiting on one of them to come back from Brian Powell for a student of mine.

I've also been hearing talk about a guy here in Aloha, Oregon named 'Brancher' (I think). I've heard good things and am going to try three piece by him this weekend. I'll keep you posted.

William said...

Hey Dave,

Did you try out any of those pieces? Who is this Brancher? It's past "this weekend," so I was just wondering what your take was on this guy's work.

My last mouthpiece guy worked out of a shop in Berkeley when I was living there, and I find it much easier to have someone local make minor adjustments on the spot then to send it off into the never-never land of mouthpiece adjustments.

Hope this finds you well.

Cheers, Bill

David Valdez said...

I never did make it out to Brancher's place. Tomorrow I have an appointment to try some of Jeff Holman's mouthpieces. I'm going to take a few for my students out on trial and who knows. I may even find one that I like. I will give you an update tomorrow for sure.

At the moment I'm also waiting for a slant Link HR tenor piece and a HR Dukoff to come back from Brian Powell.

I got to try one of those 'Doc Tenney' style new Link blanks that Brian also refaced. The second time he worked on it it came back much better. For me the baffle in the new Slant copy Link blanks is a little much. It can give them an edge that I don't like.