M/Pieces - Ligs Brilhart Level Air - what reeds?

svCompassRose

New Member
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6
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Leland, NC
I recently bought a 60s vintage tenor sax. Someone in the family who sold it played alto and there are some alto reeds in the case. The horn came with three mouthpieces - one is clearly the original tenor and the second is clearly a basic alto mpc.

The third mouthpiece is a stainless steel Brilhart. It is labelled "Designed by Arnold Brilhart" and "10772 4" which I believe is the serial number and tip opening. I'm pretty sure it is an old Level Air.

The mouthpiece fits the tenor neck, but it is very narrow. It will take a tenor reed and play OK, but it is so narrow that a tenor reed sticks out well beyond the rails. Interestingly, an alto reed fits perfectly and plays well, but the mouthpiece is way too large to fit an alto neck - it literally falls off.

The first question is whether it is a tenor mpc or is there something missing to make it fit an alto?

If it is intended as a tenor mpc, did Brilhart intend the old Level Airs to use an alto or tenor reed?

I don't see any reason not to use an alto reed, but it just seems odd.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
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3,642
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Betelgeuse
Some pics and measurements would be helpful.

Years ago I had a Brihart Level Air. They were a very distinctive mouthpiece with a bright tone. I'm pretty sure I just used tenor reeds on mine, but I do dimly remember them sticking out a bit over the sides. I'd tend to use whatever reed fits best. If an alto reed plays well, use that.

Incidentally, the serieal number on these mouthpieces acts as a date code, showing your to be made in 1972.
 
OP
S

svCompassRose

New Member
Messages
6
Location
Leland, NC
Some pics and measurements would be helpful.

Years ago I had a Brihart Level Air. They were a very distinctive mouthpiece with a bright tone. I'm pretty sure I just used tenor reeds on mine, but I do dimly remember them sticking out a bit over the sides. I'd tend to use whatever reed fits best. If an alto reed plays well, use that.

Incidentally, the serieal number on these mouthpieces acts as a date code, showing your to be made in 1972.
Here are pictures of the mouthpiece with a tenor reed and an alto reed. Not the best pictures, but you can see that the tenor reeds sticks out beyond the edge of the mouthpiece and the alto reed (although not perfectly centered) doesn't quite come to the edges.

I've been playing the horn using tenor reeds and it works fine. It probably seals against the rails better than an alto reed. It would be too simple to have all my horns use the same reeds.

alto reed.JPG


enor reed.JPG
 

Pete Effamy

Member
Messages
771
Location
Hampshire
Yep, that's a classic Level Air shape. Only ever seen/played one - was very interested but it was only a 5 tip as I remember and thus way too narrow. Quite a buzz about these mouthpieces if you find the right players.
 

jonf

Well-Known Member
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3,642
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Betelgeuse
I think I'd rather have a reed going slightly over the edges than one which didn't cover the rails.
 

Pete Effamy

Member
Messages
771
Location
Hampshire
I think I'd rather have a reed going slightly over the edges than one which didn't cover the rails.
The Level Air isn’t alone in this. Can’t remember which of my pieces was like this - probably the Beechler. Could cut your lip too. Take the sand the outer edge of the reed lightly if so.
 

David Roach

Senior Member
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612
Location
London
I had a couple of Level Airs in the 80s, handed on to me by friends. I played the alto one a lot and I still have it although it really needs a re-face. The original lig broke and they are a pig to find a suitable lig for because of the outer shape.

The tenor one I played less because it was never as good to play as the alto, in fact I found it quite stuffy and used a classical reed on it to get some response and edge, but that made it tend to squeak. If I had known then what I know now I would have had it re-faced.

But both pieces are skinny and the reeds overhang as a matter of course.

The reason I liked them (apart from Sanborn's use) was because there was no other mouthpiece apart from the Beechlers and ARB metal pieces (Arnold R Brillhart) that could produce such a heavy centre to the sound but with good funky edge. None of the the other modern high baffle pieces get it quite right IMO apart from maybe Theo Wanne's Mantra - which is now discontinued and maybe the Retro Revival 'Eric Marienthal' mouthpiece - clip here

BTW, according to the Beechler site, a #4 tenor piece could be somewhere in the .080"/.085" range, which is what we would call a 5*/6 tip opening, so not very open, but not as closed as you might imagine.
 

Pete Effamy

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771
Location
Hampshire
I've longed for one for years. As I've mentioned before, I've only ever come across a #5 - way too small for me. Didn't Chris Hunter also have one? British altoist with that Sanborn thing in his sound but with more Bebop in his fingers. Good player. The only player that I know who uses an ARB is Scott Garland. I've read that the ARB's don't sound anything like the Level Air, but Scott does on the ARB. He's really got that sound. Then again, he'd probably be able to produce that sound on quite a few 'pieces. Often, a certain setup 'helps' though, and the less you have to fight to produce whatever colour is in your head the better.

Was the Level Air metal on the soft side? Why a re-face?

the Retro Revival 'Eric Marienthal' mouthpiece
Right after the Eric clip is a Brandon Fields clip. The mouthpieces seem well-liked and are getting some big names on-board. Who knows if these guys will actually make the change though.
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,659
Location
Surrey, UK
The first baritone saxophone I owned was a "The Martin" that I bought in about 1996 from Michael White's shop in Ealing. He let me try various mouthpieces with it and a Brilhart Level Air was by far the best match, bringing out a big sound but with surprising flexibility.

I liked that mouthpiece so much that I bought second hand (original, not the Selmer ones) tenor and alto Level Air pieces and used them for a while. It always surprised me how flexible and quite warm they sounded, because that step baffle made me think it would be all edgy, screeching brightness.

I had the tenor Level Air refaced and tidied up by Freddie Gregory who charged me quite a lot, I think because it was made of stainless steel and tough to work on.

I would have bought a Level Air for soprano had one ever been made. I was looking at the ARB (Arnold Ross Brilhart) models made later by Beechler to almost the same design, but they told me that the ARB soprano was actually different internally and basically like their Beechler metal model.

The baritone piece was new and came with the original ligature, cap and box but the alto and tenor pieces I bought from Bob Ackerman in New York and he supplied them with generic fabric ligatures that did the job.

I don't remember any issues with the fit of reeds on any of my Level Air pieces but I did really like them.

Rhys
 

David Roach

Senior Member
Messages
612
Location
London
I've longed for one for years. As I've mentioned before, I've only ever come across a #5 - way too small for me. Didn't Chris Hunter also have one? British altoist with that Sanborn thing in his sound but with more Bebop in his fingers. Good player. The only player that I know who uses an ARB is Scott Garland. I've read that the ARB's don't sound anything like the Level Air, but Scott does on the ARB. He's really got that sound. Then again, he'd probably be able to produce that sound on quite a few 'pieces. Often, a certain setup 'helps' though, and the less you have to fight to produce whatever colour is in your head the better.
The ARBs are not quite the same as the LevelAir it's true, but in lieu of anything else, they are about the closest you're going to get.

Was the Level Air metal on the soft side? Why a re-face?
The facing had been messed with by one of it's previous owners. It had become what refacers call a 'weak' facing, not optimum, and too easy to blow. This meant that I had to use a reed that was too soft in order to get the right (for me) amount of edge: with the right strength reed it was to dark.
 

Pete Effamy

Member
Messages
771
Location
Hampshire
The ARBs are not quite the same as the LevelAir it's true, but in lieu of anything else, they are about the closest you're going to get.



The facing had been messed with by one of it's previous owners. It had become what refacers call a 'weak' facing, not optimum, and too easy to blow. This meant that I had to use a reed that was too soft in order to get the right (for me) amount of edge: with the right strength reed it was to dark.
Ok, thanks for that. I'm probably chasing a ghost, but if the chance came along...
 

rhysonsax

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,659
Location
Surrey, UK
Oh blimey... which alto pieces have you got?
Alto: marked 121080 and 4*
Tenor: marked 31572 and 7*
Baritone: marked 121378 and 6*

The alto tip opening looks by comparison with other alto mouthpieces to be approximately 0.075" (75 thou') and similar to a Lawton 6star. That feels roughly how it blows.

Rhys
 
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