Phil-Tone Solstice Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

This is a Phil-Tone Solstice alto saxophone mouthpiece.  It used to be called the “West Coast” model but is now called the Solstice.  It has a .076 tip opening.  I have reviewed Phil Engleman’s mouthpieces before and every one has been excellent! Phil has just come out with a new website and a few new mouthpiece models that I will review in the next few days.

Phil-Tone Solstice Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone Solstice alto mouthpiece looks great right out of the box.  The table, tip and rails look perfect.  The engraving and logo is nothing fancy but it does the job.  It has a slight rollover baffle the declines into what I would consider a small to medium chamber.  The side walls are straight and not scooped like many Meyer type mouthpieces are.  The baffles rollover is right near the tip and very slight.  It does it’s job and then gets out of the way.

Here is a description of the mouthpiece from the Phil-Tone website:

“A solstice signals the change in the seasons, just as this mouthpiece marks a departure from the traditional jazz alto setup.  The Solstice harkens to the days of the ”West Coast” school of sound, made famous by such greats as Art Pepper, Lee Konitz, and Paul Desmond.  The sounds and styles of these greats inspired the creation of this mouthpiece.  The Solstice has a rich core and a full harmonic palate, while also possessing a lively and lyrical quality.  There have been several modern attempts to approach the West Coast sound but the majority leave the player with a stuffy, dull, and resistant piece. The Solstice plays open, full, and with ease.  Its ringing, centered tone provides a unique avenue towards expression and opens the door to new possibilities.  From flowing bossa novas, to the jazz quartet standards, to a beautiful, lyrical, emotional ballad…the Solstice does it all..”

Phil-Tone Solstice Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

I really enjoyed this mouthpieces a lot.  I didn’t read the description on Phil’s site before I played it but the first thing I thought when I played it was “Paul Desmond”.   I actually went into “Take 5” on the clip.  Later when I went to his site and read that it was modeled after a west coast Paul Desmond type vibe I smiled.  Phil did a great job with this.

The tone is light and on the brighter side.  It does indeed lean towards that Paul Desmond type sound.  When I played it I felt like I should be smoking a cigarette and drinking a Martini  (I’ve seen pictures of Desmond doing this).  The tone has a dryness to it just like you associate with that west coast sound.   The intonation was great and the sound was nice and even throughout the range of the horn.  I did feel  that if I pushed the air too much it would get too bright and edgy for my tastes.  It reminded me of how a Selmer Soloist blows.  If you play soft,medium and loud it is beautiful but if you push it too super loud it can get really bright.  You have to really push it to the  max to hear that though.  To be honest, if you are in to that west coast Paul Desmond sound you probably wouldn’t push it like that anyways…………..

This mouthpiece doesn’t get as big and fat sounding as some other alto mouthpieces I have played but it does what it does really well.  To put it in perspective, I have played other mouthpieces that have reminded me of a Cannonball type sound.  Big, fat and  loud.  Imagine Cannonball playing next to Desmond…………..  One isn’t better than the other. They are just different.  What you like and want to sound like depends on your personal preferences and tastes.

I have played hundreds of alto mouthpieces and this is the closest to a Desmond sound I have ever come.  Well done Phil!

These mouthpieces are very reasonably priced.  Right now, I have 4 of my students playing on Phil’s pieces.   If you like the  Phil-Tone Solstice alto saxophone sound then visit Phil Engleman’s website and check one out for yourself! .

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks, Steve

Phil-Tone Solstice Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

 

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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. Martyn Wood-Bevan says:

    I purchased one of these some weeks ago from Phil. It has such a lovely tone, all that you describe above. I also play it with Rigotti Gold Reeds and an FL ligature – just working on the rest. You produce a lovely sound on that set up.

    Keep up the good work, Steve! (and Phil!)

  2. Hey, that’s great. If you have time later come back and write a review on it with stars for the different ratings. It’s right below this comment box. The more good reviews the better for the craftsman making these mouthpieces. I’m glad your really liking yours. Steve

  3. great review! thanks steve. I should consider this mpc in the future.

  4. Bariandyf says:

    I also bought one of these about a month ago from Phil, and am full of compliments for Phil’s work. I was looking for something to give me a warm, lush tone, without sacrificing any liveliness, to go on my Selmer Series III alto, and this piece is absolutely perfect. It’s just beautiful.
    I now have two mouthpieces that sit at both ends of the bright/warm spectrum, a Mouthpiece Cafe NYC and the Phil-Tone Solstice – I’m a happy chap.

  5. Phil made one 0.80 for me and I can say only good about this mouthpiece. Piece can be very elastic and versatile.

  6. Klaus Willkomm-Wiemer says:

    I got a Solstice one week ago. It is almost unbelievable, but it sounds like Desmond. Although I am not a professional saxplayer the sound is great, particularly if I play slow songs as ballads or slow blues tunes. Very nice sound and responsive too.

  7. Martyn Wood-Bevan says:

    Just been playing the Solstice off and on for just over a year, and just been giving it a play today. I tend to produce a slighter darker sound on it that Steve seems to, which I love very much – using Francois Louis Excellence Reeds and Marc Jean Ligature this time. It is so flexible and responsive that it has stood the test of time and really enjoy the sound that I make with it! Do get one if you ever have the chance!

  8. Bill Winter says:

    Hi Steve,

    I recently bought a Solstice 80 from Phil, having used a Rico Metalite 87 to start with. I loved the Fibracell reeds as they are very responsive and easy to play, but with the Solstice, the notes above the high C did not respond willingly. I tried Rigotti Gold 2.5 but they seemed dull and. very hard to play for an old man (74) I then tried Vandoren ZZ 2.5, which are better and respond over the whole range, but still tough to blow. I told Phil about it and he said that he does not sympathise with lazy chops! cheeky sod! A great old Jazz man told me , Bill, if it has not got the “WOW” factor the first time you put it in your mouth, then it is bull. I rather put it to my inexperience as I like its sound. My question; is there really such a great margin in ease of playing between Fibracell and Bamboo reeds, please make suggestions.

  9. Robert Croon says:

    I’ve had my new Phil-Tone Solstice alto mouthpiece two months. The word I sent to Phil … “Wonderful.” It was Steve’s reviews that led me to Phil-Tone. I don’t know Phil, BTW. I thoroughly checked out several non-metal mouthpieces that got really good reviews here and elsewhere. No other mouthpiece got any better reviews for what I was looking for, a dark round sound that could still pump out a great sound for a 5-piece sax section in a 17-piece band , using very little amplification. Also, I searched deeply, but could find NO negative comments on the Solstice. When I first played with the Solstice the lower end of the horn just opened up fat and easy, in spite of a slightly leaky horn. The sound was big and just reedy enough for me. It carries, too, even when I thought not. On the upper end, I’m just learning what the Solstice can do. I’m self-taught, and that comes with many bad habits. This mouthpiece is really helping me find my way more easily than any other alto mouthpiece ever has. It’s, by a considerable margin, the best mouthpiece I have ever played. It blows away a NY Meyer Bros. I’ve have for a number of years. When I emailed Phil to order, he responded quickly and we spent some time discussing what I was looking for. Wonderful!

  10. Robert Croom says:

    OK, I missed the star-rating for my Phil-Tone Solstice alto mouthpiece, not to mention misspelling my own name. (How bad is that!?!). I hate an all 5-star rating, usually, but for me this mouthpiece is just that.

  11. Sorry Bill. I think you are asking the wrong guy as I have absolutely hated every Fibracell reed I have ever played. I do think there is a big margin in sound quality form a Synthetic reed to cane but I much prefer the sound and playabilty of a cane reed. I have yet to try a synthetic reed that gives me that. Steve

  12. Thanks for all the kind words.

    Bill, if you are still having difficulty contact me. Perhaps the piece needs to be closed a little. I didnt mean to put you off nor consider your difficulty lazy. It just might not be a good fit and perhaps it can be made to fit your needs better.

    Thanks
    Phil

  13. Bill Winter says:

    Thanks to Steve and Phil for your comments. After trying many different reed makes from 1.5 to 2.5, in strength. A local musician told me that he uses Hemke reeds, which I tried in size 2.5 and they performed best to date. They are not as easy to play as the Fibracell but have character without sounding effeminate or bombastic. I am using a Yanagisawa SP50 in top condition having played flute and tenor sax for about ten plus years. I am self taught. I will keep you posted.

    Tanks
    Bill

  14. Larry Weintraub says:

    Really like the sound of the Solstice. Its kind of funny because both Art Pepper and Paul Desmond as well as bari player Gerry Mulligan played Gregory of Hollywood mpcs w/the gold ban at the end of the shank. Check out the record covers. I wonder how close the Solstice is to the Gregory of Hollywood mpcs made in the late 40’s – 50’s.

  15. You know, it’s interesting, I had a similar issue as Bill as far as the response in the upper register is concerned. I was wondering if it’s partly because I’m a doubler and sax isn’t my main instrument. As a doubler, an easy, responsive mouthpiece is important. at least it is to me. I’m not really a soloist, but occasionally in pit orchestra for example, there may be some solo lines. Anyhow, I absolutely love the low notes on the solstice (it was a passaround piece and equivalent to a Meyer 6.) However, I did have some issues in the high register. The notes just didn’t speak as easily as when I use my Selmer C*. I have to admit, the high notes come out ridiculously easy on my C* so perhaps I’m just not used to focusing the air and adjusting my embouchure up there. With a little practice however, the high notes did respond much better. I wouldn’t say the response was terrible, I just had to try a bit harder than I do on my C*. I will say though, I really like the sound of this mouthpiece. Perhaps I should try a 5 and see if I notice a difference. I seem to prefer a lower number with a harder reed. Just seems to work better for me. I would like to try Phil’s Aurora and custom Meyer also.

  16. Sheryl,
    I think the high notes might seem easier on the Selmer C* because perhaps the chamber is a little smaller than the Solstice? Not sure unless I had them side by side to compare. Those smaller chambers can make the high notes easier because they naturally focus the air into a tighter stream. That being said, I don’t remember having any problems on the Solstice. I’m curious how you would feel on a bigger chambered piece? Many times there is a transition period where you have to get used to the new mouthpiece…….things aren’t always immediate but you have to figure out what works best with each mouthpiece such as embouchure position, reed placement, types of reeds, oral cavity shape, etc……….all that stuff can take many hours if not days to figure out………..

  17. Ive been a Paul Desmond fan most of my life, the style, structure of his impros have always fascinated me in fact that’s why I decided to play an alto saxophone, When I was much younger people occasionally came up to me at gigs and said I sounded similar to Paul D. which of cause gave me much delight I use a Mayer five star and play around with different reeds, . At the moment I am using a shaved Vandoren 2. Sadly I no longer have the breath to play as I would like . My lungs have somehow become 83 years old. I will be pleased to email with anyone who finds these comments of interest.
    I was

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