Attack of the Killer Monster Links on Steroids Part 1

We have all heard of Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory.  From my memory of Science class,  it basically said that evolutionary changes occur in a species and those changes that benefit or make the species stronger endure while those who are eliminated in the struggle for existence are the unfit.  A similar evolutionary process started occurring in the 1970’s with Otto Link mouthpieces.   Some of these changes were subtle and had small effects on tone and volume.   Other evolutionary changes were more extreme and at times had horrible results!

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Attack of the Killer Monster Links on Steroids

The changes I am talking about here can have deep impact both good and bad but the fact is that these changes could not always be seen by the outside observer.  The genetic changes I am referring to occurred in the hidden underbelly of the mouthpiece world.  The world unseen by the casual observer.  The world known as the “baffle” and “chamber” area of the mouthpiece.

Who knows how the first changes occurred.  It could have been a piece of chewing gum that an ingenious player stuck on his baffle for the heck of it.  We will never know………..but what we do know is that these evolutionary changes occurred at just the right moment in time and at an alarming rate.

In the 60’s and 70’s, as more music was becoming electronic and amplified, the saxophone was being drowned out by amplified guitars, bass and keyboards.  These instruments had a seemingly endless amount of volume available to them.  Was this the end of the saxophone in modern music?   How would it compete? How would it survive?…………

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Attack of the Killer Monster Links on Steroids

Players and their Otto Link tenor mouthpieces were developing psychological problems and inferiority complexes all across the world.  It wasn’t uncommon to see a tenor player in the 1970’s laying on a psychiatrist’s couch sharing statements like:

“I feel like no one is listening to me”

“I feel like I am screaming but no one is paying attention”

“I feel like I can’t hear myself even think”

“Why am I even playing in this band?  Who am I?  Why am I here? What is my purpose?”

Out of these questions arose an answer to these lost tenor player’s questioning souls…………..mouthpiece evolution!   A change at the very heart and soul of many Otto Links.  These invisible changes created more volume, more brightness and more edge.  They seemed to miraculously turn a beautiful jazz ballad player into a wailing funk and soul player overnight.

Sometimes the evolutionary process had devastating effects though.  Many player’s in the 70’s and even 80’s became increasingly brighter and brighter.  There tone bordered on the very edges of sanity.  Crass, obnoxious, overbearing, belligerent……..nothing subtle about them.  They had become “monsters”.  “Killers” even.  I have heard unsubstantiated rumors of whole crowds of listeners dying during tenor solos in NYC.  The coroners finding only blood dripping from their ears and signs of severe trauma.

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Attack of the Killer Monster Links on Steroids

It’s one thing to talk about natural selection and evolution,  it’s another to talk about “steroid” abuse.  Many player’s and mouthpiece maker’s at the time simply got carried away!  “Once you start down that road,  it’s hard to stop” said one anonymous mouthpiece maker.  They started thinking obsessive thoughts like  “I can be the loudest sax player on the earth!”  “My sound could be so bright that even the very sun would be eclipsed by my brightness” and   “I will rule this puny planet and my dominion will last for eternity!”

Even to this day, we still see the aftermath and effects of that steroid abuse.  Baffles so high that they can’t get through a doorway or scratch their nose with their finger.  Chambers so small and puny that they don’t even know if they will ever be able to have kids.  One blow of these mouthpieces and windows shatter, animals run in terror and kids scream.   What had we done?  Was there any going back?

In this series of posts we will be comparing some of these Mutant Monster Killer Links on Steroids to a lone Link of humble beginnings.  It is a simple Link born on a factory floor, cared for by it’s maker and gently treated by it’s owners over the years.  It is an Early Babbitt (Florida) Otto Link that had been refaced by Eric Greiffenhagen and is one of the darker Otto Links I have played over the years.  Here is the review I made of it years ago.

Up against this simple Link of humble beginnings,  are 5 modified Links of varying degrees.   Some brighter some darker, some louder some softer.  The one thing they have in common is that they have all been modified.  Each will be doing battle with the “normal” Link.   This is a “no holds barred” match.  Each mouthpiece will be  free to use everything at it’s disposal to take the other out.  As each match is posted, we will be looking at the differences physically as well as sound wise between each mouthpiece.  We will be weighing the pros and cons of each mouthpiece in an attempt to discern the line between right and wrong, good vs. evil.

It’s time that the public understand what these “Killer Monster Links on Steroids” that we see on Ebay truly are.  This is not a joke!  Whether good or bad the truth will be revealed for what it is……………Stay tuned for part 2 and the first face-off!

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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. Hi steve,
    this is a funny thread and I’m really curious about part 2… :-))

    Walter

  2. Mats Granath says:

    Great Steve! Seriously interesting ( even though I never tried a Link that I like)and at the same time really funny! Can’t wait for part 2!

  3. Thanks Mats, Sorry for the delay. I have had upper back and neck issues with pinched nerves and haven’t been able to play my tenor for a few months. I’m slowly getting better and hope to finish this blog post with the rest of the posts soon.

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