Ken Okutsu Traditional Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing my first hard rubber alto saxophone mouthpiece from Ken Okutsu in Japan. It is the Traditional model and has a 6 tip opening which is .075.   I already reviewed four Okutsu tenor mouthpieces which were all excellent so I have been very curious to review these alto mouthpieces also.

Four New Ken Okutsu Traditional Alto Sax Mouthpieces

Here is the description and features of the Traditional alto mouthpiece from the Okutsu website:

Features

  • Medium rollover baffle and medium 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 ebonite (hard rubber).

Ken Okutsu Traditional Alto 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 four alto saxophone mouthpieces from Mr. Okutsu.  The alto mouthpieces are the Traditional model, the Traditional II model, the Focus Core model and the High Baffle model (listed in order from darkest to brightest).  I kind of like how simplistic and straight forward the model names are.   The Traditional model looks to be the darkest of the four, then the Traditional II looks to have a slightly higher rollover baffle.  The Focus Core has an even higher baffle and the chamber is much smaller. Finally, the High Baffle model has the highest baffle as the name implies although the chamber is bigger than the Focus Core model.

The mouthpieces looks great upon first inspection.  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 Alto Sax Mouthpiece

The Traditional  model was very reed friendly for 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 a while.  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’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 which I think is interesting…………..

The roll-over baffle on the Traditional model is small.  I would say it is a good half inch in length before it starts to descend smoothly into the medium chamber.  Just from viewing the baffle by eye, I would say that this Traditional model would have some brightness and punch to the sound if I had to guess.

 

Ken Okutsu Traditional Alto Sax Mouthpiece

I thought the Ken Okutsu Traditional alto sax mouthpiece played great with a Rigotti Gold 3 Light reed. Although it is the darkest of the four Okutsu mouthpieces I received, I would not label it as dark at all. It has a bright crisp sound to it and can get some nice volume when pushed. Although it leans to the brighter side, it still has a nice round, full sound to the tone that is very nice……….

The intonation was very good and it’s tone was very even and smooth throughout the range of the horn.

Ken Okutsu Traditional Alto Sax Mouthpiece

The Ken Okutsu Traditional Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece was great to play.  This is another great mouthpiece for players who want the best of both worlds……..a sound that can be used for a brighter traditional jazz and bebop sound or even a bit brighter for lead alto or funk music.

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 Alto Sax 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. John Hicks says:

    Hi Steve,
    I play lead alto in a (not professional but very active) Big Band. Recently, one week before we were to record a concert for a local TV show (I live in Germany), I broke my best mouthpiece… it was a “Gottsu HR”. Fortunately I did have a “Jody HR” that I use as a back up or when ever I have reed problems. Anyway, I have been listening to a lot of your mouthpiece reviews clips on the Net trying to find something I like. They all play well but with most of them I don’t care much for the sound. To me most are too bright.
    With the exception of the Philtone “Rift”.

    However I seem to have a completely different opinion from most people of what can be described as dark or bright. I have been playing alto for the past 10 years in the Big Band but am a retired classical orchestral clarinetist and teacher. Maybe that has something to do with it.

    Today I found your clips of the Ken Okutsu mouthpieces. I have never heard of them or seen one in any music store here in Germany. Perhaps I can find them in Holland.
    Anyway, I just wanted to say that of ALL the clips of yours I have ever listened to, I find these to have the sound that I like best. I would probably choose the Traditional, but the other ones sound great as well. I find them clear sounding with a ringing tone, but not too bright and very smooth sounding without any feeling of dullness. I have collected a lot of mouthpieces since playing in the band, but most of them are either too bright or too dull for my taste. I would now like to try the Okutsu in person if I can find some.

    Have you had anymore experience with these mouthpieces and do you think they would be good for lead alto in a Big Band?

    Have you ever reviewed the Gottsu mouthpieces. The one I had that got broken I liked because of the the sound, but it didn’t play as well as my son’s Aaron Drake NY Jazz. I could never get the top “F” and “G” which made several of my solos rather difficult. The Drake plays well for me, but is for my taste too bright. I think the Okutsu sounds better. I would be interested in you opinion about this if you have time to reply.

    Many thanks for your time and attention. Your sound clips are very informative and helpful for those looking for buy a new or better mouthpiece. Thanks !!

    John Hicks (nope… no relation to the pianist !!)

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