Damien Mastersen and the $1100 mouthpiece

This weekend my buddy Damien Mastersen came into town as he does several times a year. A few years ago I tried to convince him to get rid of his Jumbo Java 8 and get an old Link or Meyer. He first tried one of Brian Powell's copies of my Link, but that didn't work for him. Next he went through a dizzying array of vintage hard rubber alto pieces with very little luck. Recently he settled on a newer Meyer 7. He came to Portland this time with a Vintage NY Meyer for me to try. He had it out on trial and was going to trade several of his pieces PLUS $800 for it. The total price for the Meyer was $1100!!!

It wasn't even original!

It was a 4 that had been opened up to a 7. I told him that usually only original NY Meyers go for over a thousand, not refaced pieces. I really was expecting and wanted to be able to play it and tell him that it wasn't worth $1100, and that he could find a better piece for less.

That didn't happen.

It was one of the best alto mouthpiece I have ever played in my life. It was a little brighter than my Link but the thing screamed. It had a perfectly centered tone and it played effortlessly top to bottom. In fact, it made me want to open my Slant Link up a little more to play like it. I instantly knew that Damien would never find a better mouthpiece no matter how hard he looked, he knew it too.

I was in shock that there were pieces out there that played that well and weren't even original.

When I gave it back to I said," You're screwed."

He had no choice but to spend $1100 on a small piece of hard rubber. If he let it go in hopes to find something cheaper he would always kick himself for passing it up.

After all, what is $1100 when it comes to your saxophone sound?

Poor guy.......


the improvising guitarist said...

The things that musicians have to deal with ;-)
BTW, not being a saxophonist/reed-player, I find your articles on mouthpieces totally fascinating (in contrast, guitar-fetishism sends me to sleep).

S, tig

Steve Neff said...

Man, I did not need to read this. Do you know who refaced it? I'm still playing that link I got from you. I had it refaced by Brian. It plays much easier for me now. I'm really digging it.......although that 1100 dollar Meyer sounds killer!

David Carlos Valdez said...

Damien said it was done by Eric Drake at Sax Craft in Berkeley, CA.

1956 University Ave
Berkeley CA 94704

Eric has a bunch of vintage pieces. His former partner Jey Clark, who recently passed away, was the refacer and repair guy and Eric was the engraver.

Apparently Eric has gotten really good at refacing really fast.

MonksDream said...

God...Eric must have gotten good! I spent 5 hours hanging out watching Jey work on a Selmer mouthpiece for Kenny Garrett. It was quite eye-opening. He would just keep working on the piece note-by-note.

Kenny Garrett's secret is that he plays some type of old Selmer E that's opened up to like an H or something. What was really interesting to listen to was the fact that he was basically shedding on excercises from the Larry Teal book, but with that fantastic sense of phrasing!

Anyhow, Eric's a totally stand-up guy and was working with Jey for the last few years when they shared a shop on University. I'm not surprised that he's doing a great job as he has a good sound and is both a very intelligent man and a really stand-up guy.

Kudos to Eric!!

cheerio, Bill