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Mouthpieces Some other mouthpieces

My well known preference for Pillinger mouthpiece could be described as an "open marriage". I still like to have some different affairs, like my pretty Absolute STs.

In particular, it is a well known fact that tenor players are suckers for mouthpieces. It is probably due to the huge palette of sounds that a tenor can produce.

I recently had the opportunity to try some mouthpieces not normally available in European shops. On another forum a lot of people rave about them.
Dick Hamer, at http://www.woodwindsalesandrepairs.com/ seems to be the only shop that has some of them available in the UK. The only alternative is to place an order with the makers. Easy with Morgan Fry or Ed Pillinger, more complicated with American producers.

Here they are:
Phil Tone (and TW) Mosaic
Phil Tone (and TW)Tribute
Phil Tone Sapphire
10mfan Merlot
Morgan Fry Ebonite

I willingly do not comment on Pillinger pieces; our long term collaboration and my unconditioned support for his work might influence an objective analysis.

I also left out Pete's PPT and 10mfan Robusto. They are a kind of mouthpiece that is no longer for me. In the last 10 years i have been working to play without an edge that is the main characteristic of these pieces.
Also Absolute will not be compared. Their ST is a unique beautiful animal in a category in its own.

I would define all the mouthpieces I mention here in the "Otto Link direction". Tribute and Mosaic are metal, Sapphire, Merlot and MF are HR.

Tribute is a copy of a Florida Link, a collaboration between Phil Tone and Theo Wanne. It is exactly like a Florida Link is expected to play. Very precise.
Mosaic is more on the Dukoff Hollywood direction. I was expecting a "Dexterish" sound, but eventually I got a warmer and more flexible sound than the Tribute. Like a "better Florida".
Both excellent pieces indeed. I was tempted to order a custom version of the Mosaic.
I must say that I tried a 7* facing, while I normally play a 9. My comparison was with a Florida 7 (EP reface) I seldom play.
Nowadays for a shop having a full range of mouthpieces is financially prohibitive. Tribute and Mosaic are normally only available on a 7*. A very reasonable decision.
They look very similar, with that Theo Wanne finish and ligature, but the Mosaic seems definitely more colorful.

Again it is not my facing, but I think they are a perfect answer to the common question "how would I sound on a Florida 7*?"

Sapphire and Merlot

Another holy grail in mouthpiece history is the Otto Link Slant Signature. A mouthpiece that can fetch stupid money on ebay.
I am perfectly happy with my replica of it, but sometimes, something a bit brighter would spice my life.
Apart from successfully experimenting with epoxy and clay, three pieces attracted my attention: Phil Tone, 10mfan and MF

There are fundamentally two ways of making a hard rubber (as in vulcanized hard rubber) blank for a mouthpiece:
1- You machine a hard rubber bar
2- You vulcanize a molded mouthpiece

System 2 implies an expensive mold to produce the blanks and some engineering issues. Not many brands use it. Mainly Babbitt (Link, Meyer) and a German company called Hamburg NY (Zinner Vandoren).
Phil Tone uses this method, having his exclusive blanks made by Babbitt.
Method 1 is more common in boutique mouthpieces, but implies expensive CNC machines and times. Among others, MF and 10mfan use this system.
A third method does not use hard rubber but other kinds of synthetic rubber, often with a percentage of natural rubber, but it does not require a vucanization process involving sulfur.
If materials make or not a difference is a never ending debate.

All methods imply hand finishing, that is a good chunk of what you are paying for.

The Sapphire is simply a beautifully finished rubber (brightish) Link. You are very unlikely to find a Link like this. Blank is made in the same factory where Otto Links are produced, following Phil's specifications.
It plays beautifully: very responsive and warm. Plus it has that "Link vibe". It can be customized (made darker on request) by Phil but the option is complicated by custom fees if the piece has to cross the pond more than once. Having a custom made piece can be a bad headache for all parts involved, though.
My piece is marked .115 (8*), plays like a .115 but measures .107. No complains. It plays great, a keeper.

The Merlot is a longer story.
10mfan is a well know ebay seller specialized in very expensive vintage Links. Very active on another saxophone forum.
He recently released his own mouthpieces, in an ovation of overenthusiastic comments. They made you wonder how was it possible for saxophone playing to happen before the invention of these mouthpieces.
Too enthusiastic for my gloomy pessimistic continental taste. When I tried the much celebrated "Robusto" I was expecting nothing less than a self-playing miracle.
Definitely not for me. Beautifully made, but not flexible enough for my taste. I even almost argued with some players that posted too good reviews (like Furlan cafe member Tzadik).
Again all the hype did not put me in good frame of mind about it.

When I started to test the Merlot, I had a close communication with Mr. 10mfan. A lovely and helpful person indeed. Not pushy at all and experienced on the subject. More a player than a seller.
I was expecting a Slant-like piece, since his experience with vintage Links. Instead it is a medium chamber with undercut sidewalls and quite a baffle. First reaction is that it plays too bright (RJS).
10mfan really loves his product, and convinced me to experiment further with that piece.
In his opinion, his design allows to piece to change its character according with the reeds used.
For love of the forum I try: Lavoz, Leuthner Paris, Vienna and Jazz, Rico Reserve, Royal, Gran Concerto.

I must point that the Rico UK representative replied immediately to my questions. I never Played a Reserve or GC before, keeping them in the classical realm. A pleasant discovery.

The Merlot changes not only the sound, but also the feel, with different reeds. To some extent also the Mosaic reacted a lot to reeds, but not in such a dramatic way.
Mr. 10mfan also suggested me to meet a (very famous) London tenor player that plays a Robusto, like the mouthpiece I disregarded so easily few months ago.

Well, the other player was much darker on both mouthpieces, the Merlot being too mellow for his taste. It sounded like a completely different mouthpiece, played by him. Good sign of versatility.
That opens another puzzling issue: some players use H or MH reeds (in this case Lavoz) on very open mouthpieces. Paul Gonsalves, Tony Coe and Willie Garnett come to mind. They seem to do it effortlessly, while I tend to go on the softest controllable strength. I think I am missing something.

Staying on the soft side (2- 2.5) I was really surprised by Rico Royal and Rico Reserve. The Reserve is a solid mellow reed that I wish I tried before.
Another exciting reed is the Leuthner Vienna. I only sampled two reeds of that cut, but I will definitely give them a chance. Their "Paris" model reacts to me in a similar way to Rico Reserve.

On the anecdotal side, "Merlot" (in this case pronounced "Mer-lott") is also a common wine in NE Italy, where it also shares the original etymology of "little blackbird".
"Vienna" on the other hand, indicates what here is the "Frankfurter" sausage.
"Vienna & Merlot" is a nice order to place in an "Osteria"

The Merlot is an intriguing mouthpiece that I will give more time to. An original sounding piece and a lot of colours can be discovered with it. A huge potential.

It also find it really powerful and projecting. Coupled with my Sequoia (a potentially big sounding horn) a huge sound without the screaming character I no longer dig.

I wonder how it would be in smaller tip sizes. Hopefully Dick Hamer will keep me updated about his customers' comments, when he gets one.

Note: due to a current house move, I had to delay the test and review of Morgan's piece. Coming soon.
Author
aldevis
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Excellent review overall, and I agree with the opinion on the Phil-Tone Sapphire, which is the only mouthpiece I have tried, and currently play as main piece, of the lot. Thanks!
Obviously taste in mouthpieces is a personal thing. I have about twenty, including 5 HR Links, 2 metal Links, a Morgan, a Jody Jazz, etc. My 10mFan 6* Robusto is by far the best, and I like it because it is not edgy. I use Vandoren V16 2.5/3 or Rigotti 3, and a Silverstein Works or Marc Jean ligature.

Merlot is a French grape varietal used in Bordeaux wines. Merlot is French for " blackbird".
Extremely informative, subtle and balanced - everything a really good review should be but sadly so few are. For those not planning on investing substantial sums in mouthpieces Aldevis' comments on a variety of reeds is illuminating and useful.
Really helpfully expressive review - i.e. It enlarges my mpc vocabulary and I can refine my neverending search .
Very interesting nice to hear more experienced players views on mouthpieces and reeds.
Comprehensive as ever
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