Interview with Aaron Drake- part I

DCV: I see from your bio that you attended Eastman. Who did you study with there? 

AD: I was at Eastman from 1986–1993 (took a year off between my undergrad and grad work to go on tour). I Studied with Ramon Ricker (saxophone, clarinet, and flute), Rayburn Wright (arranging) and Bill Dobbins (history, improvisation, and pedagogy).
DCV: What kind of mouthpieces did you play before you started making them yourself? 

AD: Well, like most saxophonists who are “searching” for their sound… many. When I got to college I was primarily an alto player, and had a Meyer 5M made in the 70’s.  When I got into studying classical saxophone I use a Selmer C* and D. Around my junior year of college I switch to tenor and had a Florida link 7*.  From here the list goes on and on, but here are a few that I dug:  Dukoff Stubby 7, Selmer short shank D (when I was transcribing a lot of Joe Henderson), when I started working professionally more I got a Guardala Traditional Model (one the original “handmade” ones), but eventually went gravitated back to vintage pieces. Slant Links etc...

DCV: I think it's important to know what kind of ideal sound concept a MP maker has because a guy who's way into Kenny Garrett is going to make something radically different from a guy who really digs Lee Konitz. By the sound of your demo audio clips on your site you obviously have a very good saxophone sound. Personally I can't see how a MP maker or refacer for that matter can ever hope to do really good work if they aren't able to get a great sound out of the saxophone themselves. How would they even if apiece even played well?   What are some sound ideal saxophone sounds to your ear and are you thinking of these when designing your different MP models?

AD: Thank you!  This is a really great and important question.  My whole passion for making mouthpieces is really about a deep love for music and the sound of the saxophone.  In my studies of the saxophone I did many transcriptions of the great players.  Basically all the greats have influenced my sound concept in one-way or another.  Starting with Coleman Hawkins, Webster, Lester Young, Bird, Cannonball, Getz, Rollins, Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Eric Dolphy (not necessarily in that order), and the list goes on. Then the modern cats like, Mike Brecker, Jan Garberek, Dave Liebman, Steve Grossman, Bob Berg, Kenny Garret, Bob Sheppard, Rick Margitza, Chris Potter…there are so many guys that I dig, it’s hard to list them all.


DCV: How long have you been making MPs?

AD: I started making mouthpieces in 1990.  The first ones I made where sort of experiments.  A few years later I got really obsessed with figuring it out.  I guess I had made about 500 or so (out of ceramic) before I even thought about trying to sell them.

DCV: So you started by refacing MPs and keeping notes of MP specs. Did you just keep track of the pieces you liked or did you record all of them?  
AD: Yeah, lol.  I have binders full of facings.  Crazy, but I think each mpc taught me something.  I eventually found some favorites that stuck with me.

DCV: Do you still do refacings for people, or did you stop when you began to make your own MPs?

AD: Yeah, from time to time.  Now I usually refer guys to my brother Eric Drake, he has a shop in Berkely Calilfornia called Saxology and he is a master craftsman.  His website is www.Saxcraft.com

Drake Mouthpieces website

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