Bejamin Allen Dagradi Model Tenor Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing two more hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpieces from Benjamin Allen. These are the 20TD model (also known as the Dagradi model after the great sax player Tony Dagradi).  Benjamin Allen was nice enough to send me 3 Dagradi mouthpieces to try and today I am reviewing two of those for you. (The 3rd one is a 9* tip and feels more open than I am used to……)

Benjamin Allen mentored under “Doc” Tenney and after Doc’s death decided to carry on his tradition and dedication to the mouthpiece making craft. I reviewed 3 of his 10E model tenor mouthpieces a couple of months ago which were also great mouthpieces……….

Benjamin Allen Dagradi Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Here are some bullet points from Ben’s website about the Dagradi 20TD model tenor saxophone mouthpiece:

BULLET POINTS ABOUT THE DAGRADI MODEL:

Each Tony Dagradi Signature Model is played by a world-class saxophonist (Tony Dagradi himself).

        • The tip opening is 2.60mm, which is ~.10236″ for those who prefer U.S. style measurements.
        • The chamber size is “ML/L.”
        • The facing length is ML.
        • Each mouthpiece is handmade and hand adjusted to ensure each piece approaches playing perfection.
        • All steps are completed in the United States.
        • Each mouthpiece is made of American hard rubber–sorry, but there is no plastic in my pieces.

Here is also a snippet from Benjamin Allen’s website about the Dagradi 20TD mouthpiece:

“I had the distinct honor and privilege of directly working with Tony towards achieving this mouthpiece concept during the summer of 2013, and I am still in awe at Tony’s capacity to detect the most subtle mouthpiece changes. While many people can detect a slight baffle change, Tony could detect the slightest chamber alteration and could describe with great precision the impact of each change.

Then he could musically express the change and its impact on the mouthpiece’s responsiveness, harmonic complexity, brilliance, and overall sound quality. In short, the education he provided is unsurpassable–quite literally second to none.

Beyond Tony’s musical and technical virtuosity, Tony knows mouthpieces and has one of the most comprehensive mouthpiece and ligature collections around, which consists of a fraction of the mouthpieces he has tried. This mouthpiece was not only compared to the pieces in his collection, it was compared to the totality of his experience. I have altered tip rails, side rails, baffle and floor heights, chamber size and shape, and beak profile changes. I have varied the facing curve aspect ratios. I have changed the facing length, and I have moved up and down on the tip opening. Amazingly, Tony instantly detects almost every change, but sometimes I have to wait about 10 seconds for him to notice others. But while Tony is the perfect saxophonist for picking things apart, he keeps going back to the piece we initially developed together seven months ago.

So what is this piece, and what makes it great? Tony’s input sure as heck is foundational, but so is his expansive and dynamic repertoire. The mouthpiece has been thoroughly tested in every imaginable venue and gig New Orleans can provide, and this mouthpiece works perfectly in every single venue. Tony knows what players need and want, and it’s my very humble pleasure to provide a skill set to “engineer” a piece that satisfies his demands.”

Benjamin Allen Dagradi Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When you open the package, the 20TD Dagradi mouthpiece looks like your average black hard rubber mouthpiece with the words “Benjamin Allen” and “New Orleans” engraved on the top.  When you turn the mouthpiece over and look at it in the light it looks perfect though. Not one ounce of asymmetry or imperfection.  The table, rails and tip look even and perfect.  The tip rail is thin and even as are the side rails and baffle.

This Dagradi model tenor saxophone mouthpiece has a higher rollover baffle than the Benjamin Allen 10E model I reviewed a couple months ago.   The baffle scoops down into what I would say is a medium-large chamber.   The side rails are scooped out smooth and evenly.

The two models I am reviewing today are both Dagradi models with a .10236 tip. (I call them 7*’s in the mouthpiece clips) Although .10236 is technically smaller than my usual .105 7* tip opening these two mouthpieces felt very comfortable and like .105 tips to me.   One mouthpiece is the standard Dagradi model and one is a version that is slightly more spread sounding.

 

Benjamin Allen Dagradi Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

OK,  on to reviewing the sound and playability of both these Dagradi models. The regular Dagradi model has a brighter focused sound in my opinion with loads of power when pushed.  It has a tight core of tone that gets brighter as you push it harder.  At soft or even medium levels the tone is hearty and rich to my ears although it does lean to the brighter side of a tenor tone.  It isn’t too bright though……….  I could easily play this on a jazz set although you would just have to be careful with pushing it too hard. I have played mouthpieces in the past  with high baffles like Guardalas, Sugals and Ponzols that sounded amazing on a loud dance set but were pretty rough to play in a quieter acoustic setting.  They would just get too loud and edgy when you pushed them.  This Dagradi mouthpieces seem like a great compromise to those other high baffle pieces.  It blends the power and edge of a baffle with a thick core sound that can be scaled back a bit more than other high baffled mouthpieces.  In my opinion it’s like a mix between the Otto Link concept and a high baffle concept………

The other aspect I like about the Dagradi model is the focus of the sound.  Sometimes with mouthpieces that try to do everything you get too spread of a sound that gets lost in the mix in live situations.  This Dagradi model seems to have enough core and center to the sound that I believe it would carry and cut through the mix of a live band in a great way! Of course, you never know until you get out there on a gig but in my office here the Dagradi seems to have that balance of power and tone many are looking for in a gigging mouthpiece……….It’s a great mouthpiece if you have to morph some straight ahead playing with funkier more modern soloing in my opinion.

The altissimo was easy to get and the mouthpiece responded well to expressive playing as far as bending and manipulating the notes.

The other Dagradi model I have played below is a more “spread” version. To my ears,the tone sounds fatter and indeed more spread when compared to the regular Dagradi.  It still has a nice focused core of sound but the outside edges of the tone are more diffused and spread.  This isn’t scientific obviously but that is how I perceive the sound while playing.  The more “spread” Dagradi is less edgy and punchy when pushed compared to the regular Dagradi model.  It’s almost like the edges of the tone are softer.

The intonation and evenness throughout the range of the horn was great on both mouthpieces.  They are very smooth sounding when playing fast which I really like.  As I played and recorded the sound clips I felt like I liked the spread Dagradi  more than the Regular Dagradi but interestingly enough I felt like I liked the regular Dagradi more when listening back to the clips.  Both were recorded exactly the same and with the same Rigotti Gold 2 1/2 strong reed and Marc Jean ligature.  I tried to keep the audio sample somewhat similar although there are differences………..You’ll have to listen for yourself to decide which one you liked more and why……..I’d be interested in knowing what you think in the comments below.

Benjamin Allen Dagradi Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Benjamin Allen Dagradi Tenor Saxophone Mouthpieces were wonderful to play. After reviewing 5 of Ben’s mouthpieces so far it is obvious that Ben knows what he is doing and was a great student of “Doc” Tenney!

If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then please contact Ben and give it a try. You can contact Benjamin Allen at his website at Allenmouthpieces.com.  Tell him Steve sent you………….Great work Ben!!

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

Benjamin Allen Dagradi “Regular” Model Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Benjamin Allen Dagradi “More Spread” Model Tenor 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. Mike Gallagher says:

    Steve,
    Plenty of bite and pop to both.
    Thank you for your review.
    Ben’s mpcs are fabulous, my favorites.
    I have the two 20TDs in your review and the 10E, which is no slouch either.
    Love all of them.
    I liked your comment that the 20TDs are,”like a mix between the Otto Link concept and a high baffle concept….”
    They play fat with substantial power too, huge sound.

  2. Mike, Yeah, they are great mouthpieces! Which 10E do you have the regular one or the brighter one that I reviewed. i really like both of them as well as both Dagradi models. the problem with them all playing so well is it is hard to decide which one I like the best………….

  3. Richard van de Pol says:

    Steve,
    Very nice reviews and ofcourse great playing. Like Mike says plenty of punch here.
    I have the regular 20TD and also use either Rigotti Golds or Regal Queen reeds on it.
    The clips of the 10E’s appear to be considerably softer. Did you use a different recording technique
    or is the Dagradi indeed that much louder?

  4. Hi Richard,
    Yes, the Dagradi’s were quite a bit louder. I tried recording them at the same settings as the 10E’s but they were maxing out the mic settings. I turned down the gain to record them in the black and then later turned up the volume. I think I might have turned it up louder than the 10E recordings perhaps. I went in and turned the 10E recordings up to what I believe is the same level as the Dagradi. If you listen again to the 10E recordings they should be louder. Thanks, Steve

  5. Steve, thanks for the volume level adjustment. Now they indeed compare much better.

  6. Mike Gallagher says:

    Steve,
    I have the regular 10E.
    I tend to blow bright and the regular 10E sounds great for me.
    I get substantial volume from it.
    All of Ben’s mpcs play fabulously .
    I have a hard time too, deciding which to play,lol.
    Nice “problem” to have, I’d say.

  7. Arya Boustani says:

    Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the review. So if you have to pick one, which one would it be. 10E or Dagradi?
    I think 10E sounds more classic. Dagradi sounds more modern, more animated, especially the spread version sound is more flexible so I imagine it has even more tonal possibilities. I imagine it has slightly longer facing curve. just guessing.

  8. Arya,
    You are exactly right in your comment about the Benjamin Allen pieces. I guess it depends on what direction you want to go. Personally, I’d go with the Dagradi but I have to play more modern pop solos at times so I need a mouthpiece that can get me there for those gigs……….. Steve

  9. I’ve been using my Dagradi full time since last August when I received it. I’ve tried hundreds of pieces over 40 years but this may be my favorite ever. I don’t even think about it anymore or about playing anything else no matter how good. Ben and Tony have achieved something special here.

  10. That’s great to hear Jim. They are great pieces, no question about it…………

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