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Like most saxophone players I’ve tried dozens of mouthpieces over the years. I’ve played most brands out there and many vintage ones. These include: Beechler, Otto Link, Jody Jazz, Runyon, Lebayle, Francois Louis, Meyer, Vandoren, Hite, Selmer, Guy Hawkins, Dukoff, Woodwind Company, Refault, Brilhart, and Berg Larsen just to name a few. In this time a few piece have stuck with me over the years but have never quite performed the way I wanted them to. After the honeymoon period ended there was always a reason why a mouthpiece would fall out of favor; mouth-feel, tone too bright, tone too dark, reed unfriendly, too much pressure, too free blowing, rapid heat loss, too much condensation settled between songs, or mouthpiece has to use a special ligature.
This changed when I started playing the Vandoren V16 – B9, it is such a great piece that I feel every baritone player should spend time with it. But it too had issues in not being bright enough for my changing sound concept. That’s when I began the search for a high baffled mouthpiece with cut and punch while also having depth and effortless control at all volume levels. I tried a few different piece at a local music store but didn’t quite hit the nail on the head. But that’s a topic for a different day. I then decided that I wanted a brand new, hand crafted, boutique mouthpiece made for me with the qualities that I was seeking. That lead me to Ron at saxmpc.com.
DISCLAIMER/REMINDER: As a general rule, the sound you get from any mouthpiece is dependent on a number of factors. These include the players physiology, the horn, the reed chosen, the mouthpiece and most importantly the players sound concept. The sound concept is the internal tone each player hears in their head. If you prefer a darker tone then no matter what your body will find a way to darken the tone. Consider how Don Menza can sound like Webster, Coltrane, and Hawkins just by hearing the sound in his head. His well practiced body then makes changes to give him the desired tone.
Construction: The material is a traditional hard rubber with his initials carved into the side along with the tip opening information. The finish is satin and very smooth both inside and outside. The rails were even in width and the tip opening was even across its width. The high and long shelf baffle terminated in a steep though not sharp slope into the chamber of the mouthpiece.
Mouth feel: The piece has a slim mouth feel and is suited to most any size mouth. I prefer a bit larger a mouth feel as I feel like it opens my airways a bit more. By adding 1 – 1mm thick rubber mouthpiece pad to the beak it was near perfect. This also has the benefit of protecting the piece from tooth scratching.
Reed friendliness: I think this is one of the places where this mouthpiece is really interesting. The type, cut, and strength of the has an immediate and strong change in the timbre of the tune. A bright reed seems to reinforce the higher harmonics the mouthpiece favors. If you place a darker reed you can achieve a more modest and full tone. The reed strength was also a welcome change. Ron’s pieces are made to be played on a harder reed than many people use for such open pieces. The recommended strength is in the Rico Jazz Select 3S to Rico 3.5 range. I was able to play the piece comfortable on reeds up to a Jazz Select 4H with only a little extra effort.
Sound: This piece has a high baffle. There is no hiding it but to my surprise the baffle did not immediately result in an ultra bright tone. Instead the high baffle reinforced some basic elements of the tone but allowed the tone to be molded by the musician. In general I enjoy playing on Legere reeds as they tend to give a darker tone than the other synthetic reeds on the market. When they are applied to this piece they pull the tone a bit darker and sub-tones feel like a warm woolen blanket but when pushed the tone goes bright and aggressive. Even at higher volumes the tone is full and doesn’t break.
Ligature: Ron ships all mouthpiece with ligatures and caps. Vandoren are you listening? The included is a brass 2 screw traditional ligature. It fits perfectly and does it’s job very well. I prefer Rovner type ligatures so I added a spare tenor ligature and it fits well. The piece is close to the size of a hard rubber tenor mouthpiece so some more expensive ligatures may fit. .
TAKE AWAY: In the end this is one of the most versatile mouthpieces I’ve even owned. It previously served me in my big band and jazz combo. I could blend with the section or fire off a auditorium filling Ronnie Cuber style tone with the same piece. If you are sitting on the fence waiting for one of these to hit Ebay I’d suggest you just go to Ron’s site and order it. There’s a good reason his pieces don’t go to the auction block as often as Wanne’s, Jody’s, Meyer’s and Link’s. When I can afford it I’ll be getting his .105B or .110B Tenor piece as well it’s a monster of a player from what I’ve heard.