Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

In an effort to mix things up a bit,  I am now reviewing a new J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece made by Fred Lamberson. Earlier this week, I reviewed the Ted Klum London model tenor mouthpiece which was probably one of the loudest and brightest mouthpieces I have played but now I turn my attention to the darker side of the saxophone tone.

I have always been a fan of Lamberson mouthpieces and throughout the years I think I have owned all of his models at one time or another.  I have a J7  that I think was probably one of my first reviews on this site going back to 2007.  Original Lamberson J7 Review  If you look at that review, I think it’s pretty funny how far I have come in my reviewing skills.   The original review is one paragraph, one picture and one :25 second sound clip.  I didn’t even know what to write about.  I basically said “It’s awesome!”  Check it out!”

As I say in that old review, that J7 Lamberson is a very versatile mouthpiece for me.  I’ve played tons of jazz gigs on that piece plus lots of dance sets.  Looking at it, you wouldn’t think it could cut a loud dance set but I could get enough highs and edge out of it to make it work.  Here’s a clip of the old J7 with a loud wedding band.

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

A few weeks ago, I heard from a friend that Fred Lamberson had a few J7’s he had just made ready to be bought.   I immediately jumped on that as I loved mine so much I wanted to try some more.  As Fred and I exchanged emails, he said he was experimenting with a new hard rubber for him called “1920” hard rubber.  He was still feeling it out but he said it seemed darker and more resonant than the old hard rubber he had been previously using.  I was immediately interested as my old Lamberson seems to really like soft 2 1/2 reeds and tends to get a bit bright when pushed.   I was hoping to find something with the same texture and character of tone but slightly darker so I ordered a 1920 J7 to try out.  Fred cranked out the 1920 J7 and I got it a couple of weeks later.

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I immediately opened the package when I received it.  The mouthpiece looked great and had that same hard rubber smell all his hard rubber pieces do. (I love that smell…….)

Many times the chambers on Lamberson mouthpieces have signs of being worked on.  You can usually see scratch marks and sanding marks where Mr. Lamberson had been working on them.  I don’t mind this as it is the way a sax mouthpiece plays that is important to me.  My original J7 mouthpiece has marks all inside it and the chamber is not perfectly round but it plays incredibly well and is one of my favorite pieces so who cares!

The truth be told,  I kind of like the idea of each mouthpiece being different and unique.  We live in a world these days where everything is CNC produced to a cookie cutter mold and a perfect design replicated a thousand times……There is nothing wrong with that but there is something about owning a mouthpiece that is unique and individual.  A mouthpiece that is the only one like it in the world!  That is kind of cool.  Fred Lamberson has high standards from what I can tell after playing so many of his sax mouthpieces but I get the distinct impression that each of his mouthpiece is a unique creation in it’s own right.

It makes me wonder if Mr. Lamberson works on a piece, plays it, works on it, plays it, etc…..and at some point plays it and says “That is perfect!  That is what this hard rubber was meant to be!  I’m not going to touch it anymore.”

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Although there are signs of work inside the chamber, the outside of the mouthpiece looks perfect.  Beautifully made and perfectly engraved.  The tip, rails and table are perfect.

My original J7 sax mouthpiece plays well with Vandoren Java 2 1/2 reeds so I tried one of those on this new J7 mouthpiece but it was way too soft.  I started trying different Rigotti Gold reeds on it and ended up with a 3 Light that was perfect.  That is what I am playing on in the sound clip below.

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

This piece plays very DARK for me.  If Batman, Darth Vader or Sauron played saxophone, I’m pretty sure this is the mouthpiece they would use. (Sorry,,,,,,,,nerd reference to Dark Knight, Dark Side of the Force and Dark Lord)  I don’t know if it is the 1920 hard rubber or the design of this specific mouthpiece but it is about as dark a piece as I have played.  Even up high in the range of the saxophone and into the altissimo the piece still stayed dark, full and vibrant.

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The sound is very even throughout the range of the horn and the intonation is very good.  I could get pretty loud with the volume although I think the lack of higher partials in the sound make the loudness less cutting to my ear and the tone more subdued. It still sounds rich and textured to me in the sound clip though.

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

One of the number one  questions I get asked by seekers of new mouthpieces is “Steve, I’m looking for a super dark mouthpiece, what do you suggest?”  This Lamberson J7 1920 is definitely in that category.  That being said, a mouthpiece with this kind of dark lush tone probably isn’t the best choice for a loud rock band but if you are into a darker jazz type sound (think Mark Turner/Seamus Blake) this might be a good choice for you.   If the sound clip below interests you, you can contact Fred Lamberson through his website at www.lambersonmouthpieces.com.

Lamberson J7 1920 Hard Rubber Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Disclosure: I have not received any compensation or products for writing this review. This is a mouthpiece that I purchased from Fred Lamberson for the full price. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces and other saxophone related products that I enjoy and believe will be a good choice for other saxophone players to try also.    Steve Neff
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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. Jeffrey Todd says:

    Dark, yes, but not stuffy at all. Extreme clarity of sound with immediate response. Very attractive sound! Love it.

  2. Really interesting sound..not stuffy at all and not Lovano ish dared! Really quite a complex sound! Loved it! This is one for you to keep Steve as it has a certain something….. Very individual sound and it’s as if you can hear the thickness of the old rubber!

  3. Phil Godfrin says:

    Gotta love that bus seat!

  4. Phil Godfrin says:

    Oops, Donna Lee…

  5. I don’t understand your post?

  6. phil godfrin says:

    silly me. I thought your quote was Clark Terry’s Serenade to a Bus Seat, but it was Donna Lee. My bad.

  7. I don’t know Serenade to a Bus Seat…….I’ll have to check that one out……..

  8. Phil Godfrin says:

    Clark Terry and Johnny Griffin:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STYdkltUzVc

  9. Steve if you decide not to keep this piece let me know please! Simon

  10. Fantastic! Sweet and lush.

    Just received an L7 1920 from Fred, tip opening .110, and it’s got plenty of resistance, pushing me down to a Vandoren 2.5 or Rigotti 3 on soft side of medium. Also dark and covered but with more overtones. A very controlled piece.

  11. Cornelius Campbell says:

    Yessssss! I love it! Do my eyes deceive me?… is the chamber on this piece HUGE? Oh brother, I better start saving my pennies because this one I must have ! Thanks Steve! Thats the sound I’ve been hunting for, for years! Dark, haunting, focused and energetic!

  12. Cornelius,
    It is definitely a large chamber. It is one of the darker mouthpieces I have reviewed all these years. Glad you like it! If you get one let us know how it plays for you……….

  13. Simon,
    I actually sent it back to Fred for a refund. Part of me loved it but part of me felt it was too dark for my tastes. Sorry, I didn’t get you message until afterwards. Fred might still have it if you contact him. Steve

  14. Steve what lig did you use? Is this a typical HR profile piece or is it slimmer like a metal Link? Thanks

  15. Jay, This is a typical HR piece like a HR Otto Link. I used a generic metal lig on it. Anything that fits on a HR Link would work. A Vandoren Optimum for HR is a little too small. Steve

  16. You sound really good with this piece!

  17. cornelius campbell says:

    Aww yeah, after over a year of testing mouthpieces I ordered a J7 and Wow I found it! Im actually now waiting on a J8 to compare but, one will be a for sure keeper. Odd but to achieve “my” sound I’m using using a stronger reed then normal. The sound is so thick,I LOVE IT! Accustomed to free blowing pieces the J7 has opened a new door of playing by it’s slight resistance. Now Im bending, and falling, and playing with colors and tones. Thanks again Steve, I would’ve never knew about Fred Lamberson had it not been for you. For anyone wondering, Fred is great to deal with and is truly dedicated to his craft.

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