Theo Wanne Durga 7* Baritone Mouthpiece (overview)

Theo Wanne Durga Baritone Saxophone Mouthpiece

Theo Wanne Durga Baritone Saxophone MouthpieceIf you can afford this piece then buy it and I’m sure you’ll love it. If you can’t there are other great options at half this price.   I am hoping that Theo will eventually replicate this design in hard rubber at 50% of the price. I’d buy it at $350 – 500.” – MBS Review of Durga 8*

Yes, I said it a few months ago in a review of what was a unique and beautiful bari mouthpiece. I wanted more than anything to tell everyone to go get one but I couldn’t in good conscience do it as I found it to bee much to expensive for what you get even though it’s a great piece. I enjoyed the Durga 8* and had to return it to it’s rightful owner reluctantly.  From that point forward I sent Google Alerts ,Ebay searches, and Amazon wish-lists that included the Durga Bari mouthpiece in 7* tip. I was determined to be ready to buy if a deal arose. It took several months and lots of patience but a deal did arise (ebay) and I scored a brand new in the box Theo Wanne Durga Baritone mouthpiece for 1/2 retail in the tip opening I wanted. A rare opportunity to be sure.

There isn’t much difference between the 7* and 8* except for the tip. As best i remember the & plays the same as the 8. So my review of the Durga still holds but having more time with it has allowed me to play it in more musical situations. This time the musical situation include a newly forming funk group and of course big-bands.  and So is this a jack of trades or simply the master of none?

Going into the funk/R&B setting i knew what the band was after. Something between Doc Kupka and Leroy Cooper. So finding the right reeds were going to be important. if you are familiar with these two excellent players you’ll know Doc has the edge and projection where ‘Hog’ has the bit more warmth and a bluesy feel.  With this in mind I began with a Tweet to Theo Wanne’s account for advice. Representative David  recommended Vandoren Java Green as a starting point. I’d not previously had good experience with them but I figured I’d buy a sample pack and give a go.

As expected the greens were a no go and neither the Java Red or the ZZ were my cup of tea, maybe I need a half strength harder. Unexpectedly the winner was the the one i had the least amount of hope with. The winner was the Vandoren Traditional, or blue box as some call them. It may have been the thicker heart and thinner tip combo that tamed the high partials and warmed the sound considerably. Also the reeds width is perfect fit on the table and side rails. I believe Theo must have used Vandorens to size the table and rails. This has become my big-band setup. I can blend with the section or push a little and cut through. This combo got me many compliments on the bandstand.

In the R&B setting the Vandoren reeds that I had weren’t bright enough. I then turned to my Rico’s.  This included LaVoz (Medium and Medium-hard), Rico (orange box 2.5 and 3’s), and Rico Select (medium and hard). I had mixed results with the Rico 3’s having good punch and articulation but sounded a bit thin. The last from my Rico box was a fresh box of Plasticover (3.0 and 3.5). These seemed to be what i was looking. They are bright, punchy, didn’t change much as you played and got much closer to the Doc Kupka sound. The negative is that they are too thin in width across the tip. You have to center the reed exactly and not move it a millimeter out of place or squeak city.

The last batch of reeds on my list are the synthetics. I love synthetics! I am an enthusiastic supporter of synthetics but this mouthpiece and I just can’t find the right combo to make it work. Synthetic reeds seem to get warmer and softer much quicker on this mouthpiece than any hard rubber or metal piece I’ve ever used. For example, with Légère reeds (2.75, 3), they all do well for the first hour of rehearsal then they feel like turn a quarter strength softer and don’t behave the same. I think this may have to due with the very massive Durga mouthpiece absorbing lots of body heat as I play then warming the reed much more than ti would if it were attached to a more insulating  hard rubber mouthpiece.  I found the same effect with Forestone, my favorite for Aaron Drake mouthpieces, and Bari brand synthetic reeds.

For now this mouthpiece can do 90% of what I need it to do and do it with style.  I’ll keep shopping around for the right reed for the R&B/Funk tone i want. I’m thinking a Harry Hartmann Fiberreed might be the ticket but i won’t know until I buy a couple of sizes and try them out. I’ll update this page with the results.