Charlie Parker “Bird” Legend Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here is another mouthpiece in the Legend series made for RS Berkeley by Drake mouthpieces.   A number of months ago I reviewed a copy of  Stan Getz’s mouthpiece.  This mouthpiece is a copy of Charlie Parker’s mouthpiece.   Les Silver (a member of my site for the last 2 years ) called me up a few months ago and he was super excited.  He told me the story of going to see Charlie Parker’s daughter and borrowing the mouthpiece from her.

“The story really begins with our initial conversation, in which Bird’s daughter Kim and I talked about the venture between RS Berkeley, Drake and Beverly Getz, while sharing stories about the influence her father had on my education and career. After a few conversations, Kim had expressed interest in the project and told me she had Bird’s white mouthpiece in her possession. She offered to host a face-to-face meeting with our team to discuss the project in greater detail and I accepted without hesitation.

With an amazing sense of accomplishment and excitement, I contacted my friend Tim Ries to discuss the magnitude of the situation. After all, Charlie Parker was an icon, personifying the conception of the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist. With Tim’s tireless dedication towards RS Berkeley, I felt it would be valuable to have him accompany us to the meeting. On the other hand, I knew Tim wouldn’t want to miss out on pursuing anything related to Bird.

 

A gracious host, Kim welcomed Aaron Drake of Drake Mouthpieces, Todd Feldman of RS Berkeley, RS Berkeley Endorser, Tim Ries and myself into her home on a snowy February day. As we sat and talked in Kim’s living room, she politely excused herself for a few minutes and came back stating, “I have something I want to show you.” With a red saxophone case in her hands, she carefully placed it on a coffee table that Bird had once owned. As my heart pounded, we opened the case and discovered Bird’s Super 20 King Alto Saxophone and white mouthpiece. As exhilarating as this was for me as a Charlie Parker fan, we examined every aspect of the case and its contents. We were intrigued to find a number of used reeds played by Bird himself, as well as two neck straps. Although one neck strap was damaged at some point, we were able to see where Bird repaired the strap, tying knots in key areas, providing himself with consistent and accurate horn placement. Considering Parker passed in the fifties, his saxophone and accessories were in meticulous condition. In what ended up becoming a historical event for us, we spent a good part of the day watching, listening and seeing personal Parker family treasures, including videos of Bird playing, a recording he made at the age of sixteen, personal interviews and family photos. One of the most exciting items we observed was an original portrait Bird painted himself. The painting, a portrait of Bird’s late daughter, Pree, was his interpretation of what he envisioned her to look like when she was older. As our five hour meeting came to end, we expressed our sincere appreciation to Kim for sharing her family’s history with us and for providing us with Bird’s white mouthpiece.”

Bird Legend Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Les Silver had Aaron Drake of Drake Mouthpieces copy Bird’s mouthpiece as close as possible.  Les sent me 3 mouthpieces to try a 4* (.060), 5* (.070) and a 6* (.080).   The 4* is the copy of Charlie Parker’s mouthpiece.  The 5* and 6* are adjusted to have bigger tip openings.  I have heard that Charlie Parker had two white mouthpieces.  One was a Runyon 22 and the other was a Brilhart Streamline.   I’m not sure which this is a copy of.

The mouthpiece is white and looks great.  It has a medium baffle that slopes down into a small to medium size  squarish chamber.  The table, tip and rails look great on all three mouthpieces.

The coolest thing about these legend series mouthpieces is knowing that they are replica’s of the original.  I love to close my eyes and think of Parker while I played them.  It’s as close as I will ever get to being in a room with him and trying his mouthpiece.  Of course, that will never happen but I can still dream about it………………..

The sound of this mouthpiece is on the medium bright side and very focused.  The smaller chamber focuses the air and creates the focused tone.  I played the 4* first and I really felt like it pulled me toward that Parker type of bebop tone.  The focus and brightness of it really lets the accents pop right out which is one of the things that Parker was known for.  On both clips I go into a slower ballad type phrase and you can really hear how the tone just sings out.

When I played the 4* I had to use a Rigotti Gold 3 Medium reed.  To be honest, the reed felt a bit soft on it but I didn’t have any harder reeds on me.  When I tried the 5* the same 3 Medium reed was perfect. I loved the way the 4* and 5* played and responded for me.  The 5* had a thicker sound to me and the 4* had a clearer brighter sound to my ears.

Bird Legend Series Alto Sax Mouthpiece

On these sound clips I’m playing bits and pieces of some Charlie Parker tunes.  Ones a blues and I think I play a bit of Anthropology and Kim at times.

Bird Legend Series Alto Sax Mouthpiece 5*

Bird Legend Series Alto Sax Mouthpiece 4*

If you are interested in trying one of these mouthpieces,  here is a list of the Legend Series Dealers around the world.

United States

Ackerman’s Music – Wyckoff, New Jersey
Orlando’s Wind Instruments – El Monte, California
Pro Music Outlet – San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rayburn Music – Boston, Massachussetts
Sax Alley – Windsor, Colorado
Saxquest – St. Louis, Missouri
Tenor Madness – Waterloo, Iowa
USA Horn – Union, New Jersey
Viking Instruments – Circleville, New York

International

De Saxofoonwinkel – Deventer, Netherlands
Gakkido Inc. – Kochi-shi, Japan
Intrada – Kielce, Poland
Long & McQuade – Pickering, Ontario, Canada
Mariachi Saxophones Store – Moscow, Russia
Marmaduke Mouthpieces – Chiba, Japan
Musik Bruhin – Suhr, Switzerland
Saxophon Service – Berlin, Germany
Won Music – Ahnyang, Gyunggi, South Korea


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Steve About Steve

Steve Neff has been playing and teaching saxophone and jazz improvisation around the New England area for the last 25 years. He is the author of many effective jazz improvisation methods as well as founding the popular jazz video lesson site Neffmusic.com.

Comments

  1. Masafumi Ogura says:

    Hi, Steve! Thanks for nice reviews always! Both of them have great sounds.
    I know that you like 80 tip opening, but you didn’t mention about 6* though
    you had received it for a review. How about it? Are 4* and 5* not small for you. I would appreciate your coment about difference of blow feel between those and bigger tip opening mouthpiece. Thank you.

  2. I played the 4* first because it was the copy of the original mouthpiece Parker played. Then I played the 5* and really loved that one also. I blew the 6* with a 2 1/2 reed but I didn’t have time to record it because I was going out of town for a funeral for a week. I also had back surgery and was pretty tired by the time I got to the 6*. It would be hard to pick the one I liked the best. I think it was probably the 5*. I’ve been liking somewhat smaller tips on alto so maybe that is why.

  3. Also, The smaller the tip the more focused and tight the sound was for me. On the 4* the 3 medium reed felt a bit soft. On the 5* the reed felt perfect. On the 6* the reed felt too hard and I had to move down to a 2 1/2. If you listen to the clips I think you can hear that on the 4* the sound is really centered and focused. On the 5* it has just a little bit more of a hollow sound to it. I think I would do fine with any of these 3. I would just have to get a harder reed for the 4* if I owned it. I didn’t have any harder reeds on hand when I played it though.

  4. Adam Conerly says:

    Steve,

    Which mouthpiece do you like better, this one or the Klum Acoustimax? Both sound great to me, but would like to know what you think.

  5. Rodolfo Benavides says:

    Are these available for sale yet? If so where?

  6. I received the list of dealers today and added it to the review above. Here they are again:

    United States

    Ackerman’s Music – Wyckoff, New Jersey
    Orlando’s Wind Instruments – El Monte, California
    Pro Music Outlet – San Juan, Puerto Rico
    Rayburn Music – Boston, Massachussetts
    Sax Alley – Windsor, Colorado
    Saxquest – St. Louis, Missouri
    Tenor Madness – Waterloo, Iowa
    USA Horn – Union, New Jersey
    Viking Instruments – Circleville, New York

    International

    De Saxofoonwinkel – Deventer, Netherlands
    Gakkido Inc. – Kochi-shi, Japan
    Intrada – Kielce, Poland
    Long & McQuade – Pickering, Ontario, Canada
    Mariachi Saxophones Store – Moscow, Russia
    Marmaduke Mouthpieces – Chiba, Japan
    Musik Bruhin – Suhr, Switzerland
    Saxophon Service – Berlin, Germany
    Won Music – Ahnyang, Gyunggi, South Korea

  7. I’m not sure. I do have a Acoustimax but I haven’t played it in awhile. On alto I mostly play a JVW Meyer. Both the Acoustimax or the Legend Series Bird mouthpieces are great though. When you get to the high end mouthpieces, it’s hard to say which one is better. They have different qualities and respond in different ways. It’s all about which one you dig the sound of the most and then you have to try it and see if it is for you.

  8. Hi Steve,
    Both mouthpieces sounded great, but it sounded like the response and focus on the 4* was not as immediate as with the 5* (could be just the way I’m hearing it. It just sounded to me that you could articulate a bit faster and cleaner on the 5*, maybe you could push harder). If this is the case, is it because, as you mentioned, the reed being not quite hard enough for the smaller tip opening.? Or did you experience something quite different than what I’m describing?

  9. No, I believe you are right. The reed felt soft so it didn’t have that crisp response of the 5* I think a half size harder would have been perfect but I didn’t have any on hand. I actually ordered a 5*. Can’t wait until it gets here.

  10. Colin Ball says:

    I saw a clip of Bird using an Otto Link Tonemaster mouthpiece (metal)and I think that was the best sound he ever got

  11. Marcia Heffernan says:

    Is the bird series mouthpiece still available?

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