Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing my third hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece from Ken Okutsu in Japan. It is the Traditional model and has a 7 tip opening which is .104. ( I call it a 7* tip in the recordings below because .104 is close to the traditional 7* size).   I already reviewed my first two Okutsu mouthpiece which were the High Baffle Model and the Tradition II Model.

Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Sax Mouthpiece

Here is the description and features from the Okutsu website:

Features

  • Medium rollover baffle and large chamber
  • The beautiful vintage sound.
  • All mouthpieces are crafted by CNC machinery for incredible accuracy and finished by hand carefully.
  • Concave Table. It makes the tone full and rich. The practical life span of reeds is lengthened.
  • Material is the highest quality(hard rubber).

Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Sax Mouthpiece

The Okutsu mouthpieces are hard rubber and come in a protective plastic case.  Within the case they are wrapped in a black velvet bag.  I received three tenor mouthpieces and one alto mouthpiece from Mr. Okutsu.  The tenor mouthpieces are the Traditional model, the Traditional II model and the High Baffle model.  I kind of like how simplistic and straight forward the model names are.   The Traditional model looks to the darkest, then the Traditional II looks to have a slightly higher rollover baffle.  Finally, the High Baffle model has the highest baffle as the name implies.

The mouthpieces look good to my eye.  The hard rubber is shiny and without any imperfections. The gold engraving is neat and clean.  The rails, tip rail, table and baffle look very well crafted and even.

Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Sax Mouthpiece

The Traditional  model was very reed friendly to me.  I had no trouble trying different reeds on it and all the reeds passed the suction test when first put on and then later after playing awhile.  The Okutsu mouthpieces have a concave table which many player’s and mouthpiece manufactures have preferred over the years.  In recent years,  it seems like I am getting a lot of mouthpiece with flat tables instead of concave.  Now that I’m writing this review, I am curious  as to what the differences are  between the two table in regard to playability, response and sound……….In the Okutsu bullet points above, the Concave table is listed as making the tone full and rich and increasing the life of reeds………….Interesting!

 

Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Mouthpiece

I thought the Ken Okutsu Traditional tenor sax mouthpiece played great although after playing the Traditional II all day yesterday, the Traditional didn’t at first feel powerful to me.  That happens a lot to players that are used to a higher baffle mouthpiece, they try a lower baffled piece and it seems like it isn’t powerful or is dead. Many times the issue is that the player is used to a weaker and smaller airstream.  They didn’t have to blow as hard and as much with the higher baffle and became used to that air stream.  The solution is to spend time on the new mouthpiece to readajust to the air requirements of the new mouthpiece.  The Traditional mouthpiece became very powerful and full sounding as I played it for about half an hour.  (In fact, I just took a break from typing and played my tenor with the mouthpiece still on it and the sound is huge and powerful……now I can’t believe my first impression was that it had no power!)   I’m now used to the Traditional model and going back to the Traditional II or the High Baffle Model will be an adjustment for me probably.

Although this Tradition Model has a lower roll over baffle than the Traditional II I would still consider it a medium baffled mouthpiece.  You can see in the picture below how it still has a pretty substantial baffle to it.

The Okutsu Traditional model had a nice focused core to the sound like the Traditional II but it is slightly darker and more spread to my ears.   The low notes are fatter I think and high notes have less of that brassy ring I noticed in the Traditional II and High Baffle models.   I would say the tone was still in the middle of the dark to bright spectrum like the Traditional II but this mouthpiece leaned a little further to the dark side.  That being said, if I blew harder and made my bottom lip flatter and harder against the reed,  I could still get a nice bright edge from this mouthpiece when I wanted. Lay back a tad and soften up the bottom lip and it has a great vintage hard rubber Otto Link vibe to it.

One aspect I loved about all three Okutsu saxophone mouthpieces is their smooth buttery sound. Even though each mouthpiece could get brighter to varying degrees, I felt like the tone still had a soft edge to it that I really liked.  All three mouthpiece felt as smooth as “butter” when playing fast throughout the range of the horn.

Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Sax Mouthpiece

The Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece was great to play.  This is another great mouthpiece for players who want the best of both worlds.  It’s not as bright as the Okutsu High Baffle and Traditional II mouthpieces I reviewed earlier but it still has plenty of power when you blow hard.   I would suggest this mouthpiece to guys who love hard rubber and love playing jazz but maybe have to delve into the more pop stuff once in awhile.  If you play and even balance of pop and jazz you could go with the Traditional II and if you play mostly pop with not much jazz maybe the High Baffle model.  That is just my opinion though, if you like a brighter kind of jazz sound like Brecker playing a standard then I think the High Baffle model could get you in that ballpark also………….

Every time I review a bunch of mouthpiece from the same maker I always have some readers email me and ask “…..but which one is the best, or which is your favorite of the three?”  In this case I really can’t answer that question.  Seriously, when I first received the mouthpieces I played all three and immediately loved the High Baffle model.  When I was reviewing it I thought, this is my favorite of the three.  Then when I was reviewing the Traditional II model I thought the same thing.  Now today I played the Traditional and thought the exact same thing.  I would hate to be in a store trying to decide which of these to buy!!  I’d be in there for hours!!

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

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

Ken Okutsu Traditional Tenor Sax Mouthpiece

Share : Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on GooglePlusShare on LinkedinShare on Pinterest
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. Bill Bryant says:

    Very nice. Price? Availability in USA?

  2. Warren says:

    Love your contributions Steve, keepsw aus well informed….and of course your playing is so good!!!

    ps
    hate the reverb, dry is best lol
    no reverb pleeeeezzzzzze !!!

  3. Tim Zannes says:

    Steve. This one sounds (and you sound) great! I think I like you on this piece the best of anything you have put up here.

  4. Bob Wagner says:

    After hearing your clip on the Trad II I went ahead and ordered one. It took a little less then 5 weeks to get it in the mail. It has quickly become my favorite piece, especially on my old Martin Comm III. The workmanship is absolutely first rate. It’s very easy to order one through Mr. Okutsu’s website. With the current exchange rate the cost in US $ came to just under $230. I consider that to be an outstanding value. Thanks for reviewing these.

    I really hear only a slight difference between the Trad and the Trad II, but I’m wondering if you felt a difference playing them? You sound great on both, regardless. Have you tried the alto version?

  5. Hi Bob,
    I’m so glad to hear of your great experience with Mr. Okutsu and am glad you love the mouthpiece! I did feel and hear a difference when going from the Traditional to the Traditional II but I would hate to have to only choose one to take to a desert island that is for sure. I really like both of them. I actually have 4 of the Okutsu alto mouthpieces on my desk as I write this. I’ve been playing the Traditional for the last week. It plays great and gives a great Phil Woods type bop sound. Hope to put up a review in the next few weeks. Thanks, Steve

  6. David Mastin says:

    hello Steve.
    I have been trying for years to find a vintage berg in the attempt to get a sonny rollins style sound, but I am having no luck. Do you know of any mouthpieces that could help me out with achieving a sixties sonny rollons sound

  7. cornelius campbell says:

    First things first, Steve I greatly appreciate your mouthpiece reviews! Based on your reviews I have purchased the TM42, and the Ken Okutsu traditional. After falling completely in love with the Okutsu I wait like a kid on christmas morning for your reviews of the okutsu alto mouthpieces. C’mon Steve let me hear it.

  8. That’s great to Cornelius. I’m working on the alto reviews this week so hopefully you can hear them soon. Steve

  9. Bill Bryant says:

    I just got a Traditional in *7 facing. Very nice. Just the sound I was looking for.

  10. Hi Steve,

    Yet another great mouthpiece review. I was so impressed by the colour and thickness of tone I contacted Ken and ordered a piece from him. Lovely chap, I said I heard your clip. 2 month wait but it will be worth it.

    In the past I bought a Phil Engleman and an Eric Falcon pieces from previous reviews all spot on and perfectly described by you steve.

    Many thanks

    Jim

  11. Dear Steve,

    I love listening to your mouthpiece demo always so interesting. About 3 months ago I listened to your Tenor review on the Ken Okutzu Mouthpiece.

    Oh my gosh, they are every bit of good in the flesh, I ordered the traditional Model from Ken and 2 months later it arrived. I have had in excess of 30 mouthpieces over the years and this one is phenomenal. Rich and dark velvet quality in the tone and is so so so much pleasure to play. People who have known my playing for years are saying my god that’s a beautiful sound. Steve thank you so much. I can finally say goodbye for searching. Ken your a genius.

    Warm regards

    James

  12. James, I agree! Ken Okutsu has something special with his mouthpieces. I still have his tenor pieces that I reviewed. I can’t let them go……….Steve

Speak Your Mind

*

Visit us on FacebookVisit us on TwitterVisit us on YouTubeVisit us on GooglePlusVisit us on Linkedin