The never ending quest, or the obsession......

I realize that I've really been lagging on my posting lately. Sorry to all my regular readers.

Well, I finished mastering my CD project and it sounds better. Mastering bought out each individual instrument, generally just giving everything more of a ring. Now the search is on for a record company to put it out. There is always the option of releasing it ourselves, and that would only be about $1500 more for manufacturing.
  • The important most things that you want a record company to do for you are-
  1. Get you press/reviews- you could also hire a PR company to do this for you if you want to independent. A good record company already has a network of press contacts that will at least take the time to consider writing up new releases.
  2. Radio airplay- you need a solid network of broadcasting contacts in place in order to get wide airplay. I've seen driven independent artists do a good job at this themselves too. There are a few companies that charge you a couple of hundred dollars, plus a few hundred CDs and postage to get your music directly to DJs and programmers. I've had other friends who have had good results this way.
  3. Distribution- It's sometimes nice to actually sell some disks at some point and you can't really do this without good distribution. CD Baby can only go so far. You can find distributors without being on a label, for the DYI types.
  4. Tour support/booking- In the Jazz realm this can be totally nonexistant, but many labels will work with booking agents to send bands around the festival circuit. Personally, I'm only interested in touring Europe, so this is what I'm looking for. It is said that only about five booking agents book almost all of the European Jazz festivals.
  5. Legitimacy- Look at the artist rosters of the labels you are considering. Are these artists going to make you look better or worse. These will be your label-mates and these folks will be what people think of first when they think of the label.
Right now I'm just sick of hearing the CD that I just finished. When people ask me if I'm happy with it, I can't help wanting to say that I'm sick of it and never want to hear it again. I've totally lost my perspective. All I hear is my poor articulation, out of tune notes, repeated phrases, and sloppy lines. Hopefully I will get over this phase, maybe not though. I've been giving mastered copies out to musicians I respect in hopes of getting a better perspective on the recording.
Enough of that.....

The real quest I want to talk about is the elusive quest for the perfect setup. For years all I played was alto. I've played the same slant Otto Link hard rubber 6 for 17 years and the same Vandoren Java 3 1/2 reeds for 23 years. My buddy Tom Pereira was the one who finally corrupted me. Tommy is a late stage gear addict. He looks at gold-plated five digit Mark VIs on eBay as compulsively as porn addict with a T1 internet connection. I'm sure everyone knows at least one saxophonist with this compulsion. They are never happy with their setup. Of course there are many variables to a saxophone setup; the horn, resonators, mouthpiece, neck, ligature, reed. Any of these factors can drastically affect the sound of the horn. I've heard that Don Mensa does a clinic where he dumps a pile of mouthpieces out on the table and then proceeds to play every one, sounding exactly like Don Mensa on each one. I know that for me there are very few pieces that I can sound good on, let alone be comfortable playing on. Getting back to Tommy, for years he suggested that I try other Mark VIs to solve the problems that I was having on my Starsky and Hutch era Mark VI. I finally gave in and found a horn that destroyed the horn that I was so very happy with for 15 years. I had found my holy grail and that was the begining of the end for me.

I figured that the next step was to try the tenor once again. I'd had intermediate tenors before and never played them because I just couldn't get the right sound. All I needed was the right horn ,right? My first try was a Keilworth stencil from eBay. It had a richer sound than most intermediate horns but not good enough to take out of the house. Next I bought a Mark VII from eBay. It was much better than the first horn, actually sounding closer to what I was hearing, but it was just too dead and spread. The Mark VII sold on Craig's list and I impulsively bought a 121xxx sn Mark VI on eBay for $3350. The horn was a relacquer and had had some body work done on it. It had a very rich and warm sound, even though it needed some more work. After putting about $600 worth of work into it the horn played and sounded great.
Still, I felt it could be a little better. I just wanted the tenor to feel as comfortable as my alto and the response just wasn't quite there yet.

About a month ago Tom located a beautiful 141xxx sn Mark VI for $3900 on the Sax on the Web forum (SOTW). I sprung for it and it WAS better. This horn had muy grande huevos! After a bit of work it was screaming (in a dark, fat, rich sort of way).

Am I done searching for tenors?? Shit, I hope so. If I do keep looking for one should I admit my powerlessness over my gear addiction?! I can clearly see what this addiction has done to my friends. Oneof my buddy's girlfriend dumped him because all he talked about was Otto Link mouthpieces. She even knew his favorite facing by heart,"a seven star", she said. This guy still hasn't found a really great Otto Link yet and he's been searching for a good 25 years. Well, maybe he did, but he probably messed it up by dicking around with the facing with a file.

Here's a poem from a MySpace page, one of my friends pages named Otto Link-

I'm an Otto Link.

I'm the Otto Link.

I'm the Otto Link you dreamed about in the Berklee dorm, all those years ago.

I'm the Otto Link that old man, in the dumpy, rat-hole apartment, filed down for you & ruined.

I'm Trane's Otto Link.
I'm Dexter's.
I'm Sonny's & Stitt's; Stan & Wayne's too.

Grossman & Liebman's,
Bergonzi's & Garzone's
and all those other white guys' Otto Link.

I'm George Coleman's Otto Link on "My Funny Valentine" and also the new one, the one that you made your 14 yr old student buy, even though he sounds terrible on it.

I'm the Link with a baffle,
the Slant Sig,
the early Babbit, late ToneMaster & Pompano.

I'm the Otto Link.

So as for my mouthpiece addiction right now, I'm still searching for the perfect Otto Link!
I'm looking for a slightly more open alto slant Link than the one I'm now using. I have an early Babbit 7 that's a little too open. I'm also waiting for Tommy to send me an early Babbit hard-rubber 7 tenor piece, in hopes that it will project better than my rare Zimberoff hard-rubber. If that doesn't work then I might buy a blank and have Brian Powell make me a tenor version of my alto piece.

I looked at my reed orders for last year and I actually had a few $400-600 months!! This was just for reeds. I hope my wife still isn't bothering to read this blog. I still haven't even mentioned the baritone yet.......

This is meant to be a cautionary tale for all of you saxophonists that are happy with your setups. It starts out at first by trying different reeds, then maybe a new ligature, then you might start just typing Selmer into an eBay search once and a while. This disease progresses fast and is incurable, it can only be arrested. It just might be cheaper for me to switch back to using drugs again, at least there are no PayPal fees.

Seriously though, it's hard to know when you've crossed the line from upgrading your equipment in order to improve your sound, to a compulsion that eats away your heart if you don't put a higher bid in on a Slant Link. Usually it's far too late when you've realized that there could be a problem. Hopefully by this point you at will least have a killer sound.

Just repeat these words over and over to yourself," My setup sounds fine, why change anything?".

Otto Link Millennium Edition Tenor Sax Mouthpiece


Anonymous said...

Dude, Don Menza is a cool dude & wrote some great charts for Buddy R. & has his style of playing, for sure. He's a classic & great player, But I wouldn't list great TENOR SOUND as one of his attributes. Didn't he make his own MPCs in the 60s & 70s? (I think Sal Nistico played on one for awhile)

I think you might want to check out Ted Klum's work, as opposed to Brian Powell. (IMHO, Powell's work is too conservative for Tenor, he, like Morgan, seems to make mpcs NICE, but never anything that really has that "IT"--good for the college & hobby crowd, but not for real players)

David Carlos Valdez said...

I'd have to agree with you about Menza's sound. I didn't say that I agreed with his mouthpiece philosophy though. You need a really good mouthpiece to get a really good sound, period.

Morgan's pieces have not impressed me at all, tenors pieces even less than his alto pieces.

Brian did a great job copying my great Link. When he tried to do his own thing instead of copying mine exactly the piece played like Ralph's.

My Zimberoff that Brian refaced plays great, it definately has 'it'. Of course hard hubber Zimberoffs are some of the best pieces ever made.

The first two Link copies that Brian made were great. The third and fourth were not as good.
I still need to have Brian re-adjust the last two, which he'll do for free.

I'll give an update after I get those two alto pieces back from him. So right now for me I would not recommend a Morgan piece and I am reserving final judgement on Brian's work, since he's 2 for 4 at the moment.

Anonymous said...


thanks for mentioning me & adding my little poem (Walt Whitman I am not!) in your fabulous blog.

I've been blown by the best (&, unfortunately, the worst), so remember, its NOT the mpc, but the guy blownin' it, dig?

best wishing & strive for tone,

The Otto Link

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave, like your blog. We played together 20 years ago at Great America. You got me addicted to Java alto reeds (#3) and I'm still using. Hope you're well.
Jim Jedeikin

David Carlos Valdez said...

Jim! Ah yes, the clown band. Those were some zany times.

You should try Riggoti 3 strongs or WWBW Paris Jazz reeds. I'm telling you they smoke Javas, no question.

I heard you were down in LA, is that right? Good to hear from you.

David Carlos Valdez said...

Otto Link update-
Tommy just found me the Hard rubber Link of my dreams. It's an early Babitt 6*. It plays like my alto piece- responsive, focused, dark, loud, with a zing. Overnight my life has suddenly become a more than a little better. I feel light and optimistic suddenly. The dark shadows have passed and my new life begins now.
Thank you Otto Link!!!

I'm selling my hard rubber Zimberoff and I won't even miss it.

I wonder to myself how other saxophonists get through life without an Otto Link like mine.
They must feel so empty inside, it's so very sad.......

trekkor said...

I have nothing to say about mouthpieces or reeds, but I can say thanks for sending a copy of your CD.

I got it today and have listened to it three times already!!

Fantastic! Really happy music.


David Carlos Valdez said...

Great, really glad you like it. Merry X-mas KT.

Unknown said...

thanks dave, i don't feel so bad buying all those woodwind paris reeds.

wen in santa monica

David Carlos Valdez said...

I'm actually still playing on the WWBW Paris Jazz reeds. I flirted with the Rogotti alto reeds for a minute but they didn't have enough heart.

chicken little said...

I've decided to give up looking at saxophones on the web and ACTUALLY start looking at porn. I think my wife would be happy if I did.

JJB said...


David Carlos Valdez said...

A Selmer C* has a much smaller chamber and is made for playing classical music. A Slant Link has a more open and free blowing sound.
I think of a Selmer Solist C* as having a 'covered' sound, like it's under a blanket in the other room.
The slant link has a clear sound and even though it has a darker sound there is also an edge and a buzz in the sound.

OVASAX said...

I have a Conn 10M LF 1948. I touch with Brilhart Tonalin 5 vintage.
I have possibility of buying one Freddie Gregory that they say to me they are based in Otto Link Slant Signature.
That thinks of sound change that I will obtain?
In Argentina it is impossible to buy one Otto Link Slant.
I have a King that also I like and a Vandoren V16 that not.
Thanks, Osvaldo manciniosvaldo@gmail.com

Ze Pirats said...

Otto Link is the peace! I Just got my peace back from Hamburg Kay Siebols Workshop.
Hi is the master of refacing. Please check Him Out.

ericdano said...

I've seen Don Menza do that mouthpiece thing. Amazing. Not sure if I could handle having my lips make a $5 special sound like a $400 mouthpiece though......but his point is taken though...that being that it's really your lips and you that are making you sound like you, not really the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece simply makes it easier to achieve your sound.

As for Menza's sound. I love it. I've seen him live a couple of times, and played with him twice in college. Even hung out with him for a few hours. Great guy. He was, at the time, doing this thing with old rubber mouthpieces....generally Otto Links. He said he'd take them and tweak them to his liking. I don't remember exactly what he did to them. I think also he is really rough on his mouthpieces and goes through a lot of them....his teeth wearing through them of something? I don't remember. But he said at the time he was always looking to get old Rubber links and stuff to modify.