Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor Mouthpiece

Today, I m reviewing a tenor mouthpiece that I have been wanting to try for a very long time.  This is the Bob Mintzer Bebop Special tenor mouthpiece made by Rafael Navarro.  The one I am reviewing today has a 7** tip opening and is made of hard rubber that has a red marble look to it.

Most serious tenor saxophone players know who Bob Mintzer is.  I first met Bob Mintzer back in the 80’s when he came to my college for a clinic.  Our big band was playing a bunch of his charts and Bob was going to play with us.  I don’t think I even knew who Mr. Mintzer was at the time but I remember being blown away when he played with our big band.

Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor Mouthpiece

If I remember correctly, I think Bob was playing a metal Berg Larsen back then.  (I’m not totally sure of that as I wasn’t a mouthpiece nut back then)  Sometime later in the 90’s he switched over to a Freddie Gregory mouthpiece.  I remember thinking that he made the right move going to the Freddie Gregory as I loved his tone so much more on it.  It was rich and thick sounding and I loved it.  Over the past year, Bob has again switched to a new mouthpiece, the Rafael Navarro Bebop Special.  My first thought when I heard this news was that Navarro mouthpieces must be pretty amazing to get someone to switch from a Freddie Gregory (these have a reputation of being some of the best mouthpieces out there………).

Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor Mouthpiece

As you can see from the pictures, this Bebop Special has a very cool and unique red marble look to it.  The tip, rails and table look great.  This Bebop Special has a tip that doesn’t quite match my Rigotti Gold reeds.  Rafael thinks that this mouthpiece was from the first run he made of the Bebop Special which had a slightly different tip shape.  It has what I consider to be a pretty high rollover baffle that slopes down into a large chamber.  The unique aspect of this mouthpiece is the facing curve I believe.  From talking to Rafael, I have learned that Bob Mintzer likes a pretty unique facing curve on his mouthpieces.  It is not your typical facing curve that is for sure.   I don’t know what the specific numbers are but I can tell you that this curve loves harder reeds. The reed I am playing on in the clip below is a Rigotti Gold 3 Strong.  On all my other 7** tip mouthpieces this reed feels too hard but on the Bebop Special it feels perfect.  I actually think I would like to try a 3 1/2 on this piece but I didn’t have any on hand.

Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor Mouthpiece

The Bebop Special was great to play.  I found it brighter and more powerful than the Navarro Maestra that I reviewed earlier this year.  It’s also brighter and more powerful than my Early Babbitt hard rubber Otto Link.  It’s not like a Guardala Brecker mouthpiece bright but has more of a richer thicker brightness to it. The unique facing curve gives it a unique resistance that I really dug.  The resistance made it very easy to blow against and shape the sound.  I felt like I could blow all the air I had and the mouthpiece would compensate with volume.   Sometimes I feel like I hit a wall volume wise with mouthpieces but not with this one.

The tone was  rich and powerful.  I also felt like it had a dry quality to it.  The altissimo was especially easy on this mouthpiece and it was very smooth between the notes which makes the fast passages easier to play.  I could very easily play a jazz gig or louder funk gig with this mouthpiece.

Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor Mouthpiece

The Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor Mouthpiece was a complete joy to play. If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then give it a try. You can contact Rafael on his website at http://rafaelnavarro.com/. Tell him Steve sent you………….

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

Rafael Navarro “Bob Mintzer” Bebop Special Tenor 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. Hey Steve,
    I met Bob last night and my friend talked to him about his piece and Bob told him that the new run of Navarro Be Bop Specials are darker than the first one.

  2. Austin Zhang says:

    Very informative review, and awesome clip. Thanks steve!!!

  3. JackLi, Cool. I think I am going to order one. It is my favorite of the Navarro mouthpieces I have played so far. My only concern was that it was a little too bright but if what you say is true then that won’t be a problem. I love the facing curve on this piece as it allows you to play harder reeds if you want to………

  4. Yeah you sound great on this, and Bob sounded absolutely amazingly last night. I would probably email Rafy and ask if it’s available yet but that’s what Bob said to my friend and I last night.

  5. This was an early run of the Bebop Special so if what you are saying is true then the new ones will be darker than how this piece plays………

  6. Jack Li says:

    Yeah Bob just told me it was a really recent change, and when I talked to Rafy he usually offers pieces in the different runs.

  7. What a sound, Steve, and what a great soundclip. The Navarro Bebop Special definitely comes alive in your hands and lips. It’s amazing how rich and evenly the partials lie under the actual note.

  8. Austin Zhang says:

    Can you do a comparison to the Freddie Gregory Mark II? I believe that’s what Bob was playing earlier,thatwhatbeinteresting.

  9. Alright! Sounds awesome. Yeah, it does sound brighter than I thought, but good. I wonder how much darker the new one is, if there is any difference in baffle and facing curve, and how it would affect the playability of the piece. I had no idea there was two different runs of the BBS. Thanks for another great review!!

  10. I just heard back from Rafy, and he said he only did 20 pieces with this concept at the beginning of the BBS, I think over a year ago. The rest have been the same since.

  11. Thanks Chris. That’s good to know.

  12. Austin, I don’t have a FG Mark II to play side by side with the BBS. To me the FG is darker and rounder sounding. Maybe has a prettier tone. The BBS is brighter and has more guts and power. I could push it way louder than I could ever push a Mark II…………

  13. Austin Zhang says:

    What would you give this mouthpiece in your “star rating” system?

  14. Mario Fedele says:

    I’ve had the same question Austin. I would assume five stars all the way.

  15. Yes, I would give it in the 5 star range. The plugin I use to do the star reviews was broke when I did this one. I’ll add the stars when I get a chance.

  16. Ivan Romero says:

    Hi Steve:
    Could you describe the difference between the Mintzer and the Maestra HR? Which one is louder?
    Thank you,
    Ivan

  17. Hi Ivan,
    All the Navarro mouthpieces that I have tried have been great. The Mintzer Bebop Special was louder and brighter than the Maestra for me. There is no question about it. The Maestra had a darker sound that was full and fat. I could get good volume out of it also. The Mintzer I could just push a bit further and get extra volume. The brightness gives it that extra projection and highs that can cut through the mix of a loud situation better. The Maestra had a clear pure sound compared to the Mintzer. The Mintzer and a dryer sound with a lot of character in the sound. I think you can hear that in the clips when you compare them. They are both great mouthpieces that players looking for these different aspects will love.

  18. Sam Morgan says:

    WoW! Must be nice to be able to afford one of these mouthpieces you have reviewed…
    Is there anyone who makes quality, for budget prices…
    I mean what sax player can afford a $500+ mouthpiece/
    How about some reviews on quality mouthpieces for resondable price that the rest of us can afford?
    Thanks
    Sam

  19. Hi Sam,
    Yes, Many of these brands can be pretty expensive. The cheaper mass produced mouthpiece can many times have quality control issues so I usually don’t suggest those unless you can try them out first. Usually, I will have my younger alto players go to a local music store near where I teach and try a bunch of Meyer and Vandoren V16 alto mouthpieces to find a good one. I’ll have tenor players try the Otto Links and Vandoren V16 HR and metal tenor mouthpieces to see if they can find one that works for them. Other than those, another maker that is really affordable are the Kanee mouthpieces. I have tried a few of his mouthpieces and they are reasonably priced and the ones I have tried play well. I also did a review of a Bari Hybrid mouthpiece a few months ago that I believe was only 125.00. I’m not sure what price range you are looking for but there are great playing pieces out there for under 200.00. Maybe even 100.00 if you can try them out and find the right one for you. Hope this helps, Steve

  20. Hi Steve,

    how would You rate the Navarro Mintzer model compared to Mark Sepinuck’s Robusto (besides it’s a different baffle-concept)?
    And what would You state concerning tip opening with it’s special facing curve? I’m always 0.110 on Tenor – but would that fit here?

    Cheers, Walter

  21. Walter, I loved the Bob Mintzer piece! It was my favorite of all the Navarro pieces I tried. I would get one of the same tip that you are used to. The Robusto is a very different piece than the Bebop Special. It’s hard to compare them. They both have a thick core sound that can get brighter when you push it. The Robusto has a cleaner clearer sound to my ears. The Bebop Special has more artifacts in the sound. Both are very good pieces.

  22. Steve, I have been playing the Navarro Bahia metal 8* for about one and half year now….how do you compare the mintzer with the Bahia if you have tried both…I’m waiting on a new Navarro piece not advertised yet bop boy piece, heard is even better than all his pieces

    Cheers

  23. I play in my gigs SSF, ASF, TSF and FL. If your other MPCs have normal facing lenghts, you might find it difficult to switch to TSF after ASF or SSF because of the different facing lenght. I play Navarro Bob Minzer 7* and it sounds very good on Mark6. My other tenor is Yani 9937 solid silver tubing and I like with it Ponzol SS M2 105 more than Navarro Bob Minzer model. I ordered Navarro Maestra for tenor to check the effect of the facing lenght. I measured the Ponzol and the Navarro pieces, Navarro Be Bob model has almost 5 mm longer facing than Ponzol SS M2.

    I like Navarro Maestra #6 in alto, Yani 9937 solid silver tubing. I switched to Navarro from Ponzol SS piece. It was a bit too bright for woodwind orcestra work in my opinion.

    In my experience Navarro pieces are great MPCs.

    regards from Finland

  24. Hi Jouko,
    Yes, Rafael told me the Bob Mintzer model has a longer facing on it which is what Bob likes. I guess I like it too as I loved the one I played……………

  25. Roger, I’d love to try the Bop Boy. I emailed Rafael about it but he has been so busy with orders that he hasn’t had time to send me a piece to review. The Mintzer is unique of all the Navarro piece I think because it has a longer facing curve and blows different than the rest. I really liked it! I could get really nice volume out of it. When I see one on the used market I plan on picking it up because I like it so much………

  26. kledbet@sbcglobal.net says:

    Steve if you had to buy one now, would you get the 7** or go with an 8 so you wouldn’t have to use harder reeds? I play a Jody Jazz HR 8 right now.

  27. I’d go with the 7** i think just because I know how that feels and I felt comfortable on it.I’m actually gravitating towards just 7*’s lately…….

  28. Steve,
    I have a Bebop Special black HR 8 up for grabs. Nearly brand new. It’s too dark for me and the Bahia fits me better. Let me know if you’re still interested in one.

  29. Tim,
    I’ll have to pass for now. Money is a bit tight with the holidays………Thanks for thinking of me. Steve

  30. Kevin Ledbetter says:

    I went mouthpiece crazy these last 3 months and got the Mintzer Bebop 7** in red marble,
    and 2 10mfan’s… Robusto Hard Rubber 8 and Boss 8 metal.
    All of these are just amazing pieces, some of the best mouthpieces ever made are being
    made today! The Mintzer just does it all. Warm when you want and can add edge and
    real projection when needed. As Steve says you can give it all the air you want and it
    doesn’t back up on you. Very special mouthpiece indeed.

  31. As a player & also dealer for Navarro the Bopboy 8 has sold best,a bit warmer & ‘classical’ tone,which cans be pushed to whatever you want. The Bebop Special has more edge,and for some horns works better than Bopboy. Both are excellent,so 1 of each is the best solution 😉
    The marble are brighter than the HR,and the metal are super clean,but miss some of the ‘overtones/artifacts’ of the HR ones. Only problem is I can’t get enough of these 🙂

  32. Hi Steve
    Most of my customers have taken the Bopboy over the Special,most with under 100K VI’s, I find the Special on newer horns like Mauriat 66RUL works better.But the bopboy has a larger dynamic range for me,almost classical to cutting edge/power. The 8 or 8* were better than 7*,opens up at 8 it seems with this one.
    And the alto maestra is well worth checking out,like a 1940’s sound that’s easy to play & responsive.
    Thanks for the great web site you have 🙂 sax players dream

    Cheers Shanti

  33. I’ve played many pieces during the last 25 years and went crazy the last 6 months trying about 7 of these boutique pieces but always went back to my Guardala. However, I still wanted a warmer sound without losing the Guardala type of projection. I’ve heard of Navarro’s work but for some reason never pulled the trigger on one of his pieces.

    Last December, I decided to get a Bebop Special in Marble rubber and I really can’t believe how good this piece is. It is bright and dark at the same time and it’s got such great projection and control through out all registers. I have to say that its got more volume than my Brecker I went I want too BUT, I can still play smooth and quiet when needed. The edge is quite similar for me and I am really very happy with this thing. Navarro told me that he will make his bebop in metal again very soon. Now I am wondering how that one plays against the rubber. Perhaps another one to try before buying a spare rubber.

  34. That’s great to hear Carly. The Navarro Bebop Special is the one mouthpiece I think the most about because I regret not buying the one I tried. It had a unique sound and response in my opinion. It’s still on my bucket list to get one of these from Rafael someday…………

  35. I just purchased the BBS Black HR in 7*, as they didn’t have the 7** in stock and I wasn’t willing to wait… I usually play a 7* anyway (Gaia HR 7*) I’m hoping the 7* BBS will be ok.. Also I’m reluctant to move up to 7** as after trying so many pieces and setups, 7* suits me the best.. Steve, did you ever get a chance to try the BBS in 7* ?? Great site bty !!

  36. Mervyn, I never tried a 7* but the difference between a .105 and a .107 or .108 is so small I don’t think any difference would be huge. Let us know what you think when you get it. Steve

  37. Hey Steve,

    Just got the BBS 7* today.. only played it for a short while so hard to come to a full conclusion. I’m glad I ordered a 7* as compared to my Gaia 7* it’s a little more resistant, or should I say takes a little more air. The longer beak forced me to adjust my embouchure, once I got the hang of that it really began to sing. I’m using a RJS 3m which seems just right for me on 7*.. I really like this mouthpiece, altissimo is very, very, easy. Tone is very full through out the horn. Just the right amount of edge for me. It seems to have a lot more scope than the Gaia regarding versatility.. But to really appreciate it’s features I’ll need a few weeks and various gigs.. I’m looking forward to getting to know this mpc a bit better it seems a winner 🙂 Thanks Steve.. ps your devastating minor lines are devastating 🙂

  38. Mervyn,
    From my conversations with Rafael, Bob Mintzer tends to like a unique amount of resistance in his Bebop Special. I also encountered that extra little bit of resistance when I tried the one I reviewed. I found using a slightly softer reed and getting used to it over a few days really helped me become acclimated to it. I actually loved the resistance and found it hard to go back to a more free blowing piece afterwards. I feel like the resistance helps me to have something more to push against and shape to be more expressive while playing. I’m glad you like it! Steve

  39. Ha, thought it was my imagination, so it is more resistant.. I can already see how it helps shape my sound… I’ll drop down to a lighter reed for a while.. Love the mpc.. Thanks as always Steve… Your site is invaluable to sax players.. Appreciate your communication.. Keep on keeping on 🙂

  40. Great! Hope it works out for you. The “Bebop Special” is on my list of pieces that I want to get someday………..

  41. Owen Thomas says:

    In the mid-90s, I had lessons in London with Steve Gregory – a pop session player with ridiculous credentials (“Careless Whisper” was him, and here’s a fun fact on that: it opens with a gliss up to the tenor’s high F#, but because Steve’s was an older Mark VI with no F# key, they slowed the tape down and he played it all a semi-tone lower). He’d been playing the same mouthpiece for years (I think a Berg Larson), though he’d bought a Freddie Gregory, which he never got on with. One day, I was fortunate enough to buy one of the then hard-to-come-by Guardala mouthpieces – the “studio” model – which I naturally asked Steve to try out at my next lesson. He loved the mouthpiece, so much so that at the end of the lesson, and much more like a keen student than a seasoned pro, said “can I try your mouthpiece again” – which he did. It played so much better than his Larsen, and in particular down through the lower octave, that he said “I think I’ll take my mouthpiece back to Freddie and ask him to have another go at it” (don’t know where he is now, but he was in West Hampstead at the time – I did go to his workshop once) – which, I think he did. Mostly, I was thrilled that I – of all people – should be the reason that Steve Gregory decided to change the set-up he’d been using for a good 10 years or more! (Had no idea at the time how privileged I was to be able to visit Freddie Gregory at his workshop.)

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