Today, I am reviewing a mouthpiece that is being sold by Tenor Madness. A big “Thank You” to Dr. James Romain who serves as Associate Professor of Saxophone and Assistant Director of Jazz Studies at Drake University. He was kind enough to offer to send me his mouthpiece that he picked out personally at Tenor Madness.
The Tenor Madness Early Babbitt Remake is being advertised as a remake of the “Early Babbitt” mouthpiece that the JJ Babbitt company made in the 70’s. The Early Babbitt model was the model that came after the Slant Signature model that is so popular these days. It was only a few years ago that the vintage slant Otto Link mouthpieces skyrocketed in price. I remember during that time, not being able to afford a slant but buying quite a few “Early Babbitt” mouthpieces because they were only 200-300 dollars back then. Recently, I’ve been seeing the Early Babbitt mouthpiece going up in price dramatically also. I have to say that the Early Babbitt mouthpieces that I have played have been some of the best hard rubber mouthpieces I have played on tenor. What makes these models unique from the slant signature links and the current hard rubber links is that the Early Babbitt hard rubber links have much more material in the baffle area producing a higher rollover baffle. The higher baffle makes the tone brighter and many times more powerful sounding. One negative I have noticed is that it seems like JJ Babbitt changed there hard rubber through out the run of Early Babbitt mouthpieces. The Early Babbitt I own seems to be made of a hard rubber like the slant production but many of the others were made of a darker more oily kind of hard rubber. It might be my imagination but I always felt like this later hard rubber didn’t give as much depth to the sound and brought out the brightness and highs in the sound more. (Just my opinion, not based on any factual data……..)
I’m not sure if you can make it out in the pictures below but this mouthpiece that I am reviewing today does have quite a bit of material in the first half inch of baffle. It does indeed look quite a bit like my Early Babbitt mouthpiece that I own. The chamber and bore looks to be very close in size and shape to my EB hard rubber link also.
Here is the description that Tenor Madness has for this mouthpiece on their ebay ads:
“The TM Custom tenor sax mouthpiece is an early Babbitt blank with a large chamber and a long baffle. The beak radius is comparable to the original Slant Sig. The result is a big, gutsy tone unlike any current production mouthpiece. Here’s what NY jazz great Joel Frahm says about the piece, ” Randy Jones’ new line of Otto Link hard rubber mouthpieces is what saxophonists have been waiting for; a new production mouthpiece that responds as easily as the best vintage jazz mouthpieces, but with a profound depth and roundness of tone that I’ve never found in another modern mouthpiece. My tone is my biggest concern, and Randy has come up with a mouthpiece that completely fulfills my needs. I love it!” These are available in 7 & 7* tip openings.”
Sounds pretty good to me. I was pretty excited as I always am to try this mouthpiece. Before I even played it my first thought was that it was going to be brighter than I like. I’ve probably owned about 10 Early Babbitt mouthpieces and I always ended up selling them sooner or later because they played brighter than I had liked………………..
Tenor Madness “New” Early Babbitt HR Otto Link Remake Tenor Mouthpiece
This was a very reed friendly mouthpiece for me. I put a Vandoren Java 3 on it and it played perfectly. I was so happy I didn’t have to mess with reeds for an hour to find a good one. As you listen to the clip below you can hear that this mouthpiece is a bit brighter than other hard rubber links I have reviewed on here. I found it to have a nice focus and center to the sound that I really liked. Unlike many other bright mouthpieces I have played, I didn’t feel like this one was one dimensional or lacking character in the sound. It has a bit of graininess and air in the sound that adds to the character of it I think. The low notes are nice and round although not as fat and dark as some lower baffled mouthpieces I have played. You can hear a bit of edge in them when I go down low without subtoning. In the first half of the clip I’m just messing around with the changes to Beautiful Love. In the last few seconds I play with more air and volume and try to make it a bit funkier so you can hear that type of style on it. This piece played very easy for me and was a joy for me to play. I’m going to play it some more today and compare it to my Gerber Slant, Early Babbitt Link and Lamberson J7 which have been my favorite hard rubber mouthpieces to date. Maybe I’ll be able to put up a battle post between all four so you can hear the differences………………I think I’d like to order one of these in the future to spend more time with it. Thanks for listening. Let me know what you think below. I love to hear what your opinions are. If you want try one of these out yourself visit the Tenor Madness website. Steve
This is a clip played with a brand new Vandoren Java #3 reed
This is a clip played with a brand new Rico Jazz Select 3M Unfiled Reed
I’ve added this second clip to the post late because on the advice of Jim Romain I went out and bought some Rico Jazz Select reeds to try on the NEB (New Early Babbitt Link). The sound difference was so noticeable to me that I wanted to do a recording to hear what it sounded like in comparison to the Java reed. It was recorded exactly the same. Nothing changed except the reed. This is the first time I’ve strayed from my trusted Java reeds in probably 6 years I think. Can you hear a difference in the two takes? To me the RJS take sounds thicker and huskier. The Java sounds a little smoother to me but maybe not as much meat to the sound. I’m curious what your opinions on these two clips are? Let me know………..Steve