Phil-tone JZ Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing another great mouthpiece by Phil Engleman at Phil-Tone mouthpieces.    Phil Engleman is the founder of Phil-Tone mouthpieces and I have reviewed a number of his excellent mouthpieces in the past.  The Equinox, the Eclipse, the Solstice, the Tribute, the Sapphire, the Mosaic, the Rift etc…………… Phil has even more models that I have not had a chance to review yet but today I am reviewing a new model called the JZ Series alto saxophone mouthpiece.  I reviewed the excellent JZ tenor mouthpiece a couple months ago also.

Phil emailed me a few months ago and said he was working on a new mouthpiece for players that couldn’t afford to pay three hundred plus dollars on a mouthpiece. If you have been to my site before and researched some of the mouthpieces I have reviewed,  you might have noticed that finding a mouthpiece under three hundred dollars is getting harder and harder these days. Especially,  when you are looking for something that is custom made,  faced to exact measurements by hand, play tested before it leaves the shop and actually plays well.

Phil-tone JZ Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

As a teacher, it can be really difficult to  suggest a mouthpiece for a budding high school sax player. I can’t tell you the number of times a student wants a new mouthpiece and asks “What are you playing Mr. Neff?”  “Well Johnny,  this mouthpiece is very good but it is 300-800 dollars and if I tell your parents to get it they will have a heart attack.”  Usually, I talk about getting an Otto Link, Meyer or hard rubber Vandoren V16 mouthpiece but always with the ominous stipulation of  “You have to try a few out and make sure you get one that is good?”  Today, with fewer and fewer local music stores that can be next to impossible for many students.   It’s kind of a pain to deal with if you really want the best for your students.  Because of all this, when Phil told me about this project of his, I was very curious to try these out and perhaps review them.  Phil was nice enough to send me a free sample of the JZ tenor mouthpiece and the JZ alto mouthpiece to review for all of you.

Phil-tone JZ Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

When I received the package from Phil and opened it up, my first thought was that the mouthpiece looked pretty “bare bones”. Nothing special to entice the eye. No 14 karat gold engraving, no sparkling jewels or bite plate made from a Javan Rhinoceros horn.  None of that.  Not even any engraving or other identification to be had except for a lightly written “Phil-tone” on the lower side of the body. Just a bare bones hard rubber alto mouthpiece.

Here is Phil’s description of the alto mouthpiece from Sax on the Web:

The JZ Alto is a lot harder to nail down in terms of description. It isn’t a Meyer, its not a link. I just think of it as a full sounding, rich alto piece that is expressive and has good power. Sidewalls are concave but not deeply cut so its not super spread. The chamber is medium. The floor is fairly straight and medium height…not an S curve. Its got a nice zippy feel and vibe.

Phil-tone JZ Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The JZ model alto sax mouthpiece looks to have great rails, table, tip and baffle.  Nothing out of the ordinary or out of whack.  The tip rail matches my Rigotti Gold reeds pretty closely.  It has a short rollover baffle that quickly rolls over and shoots straight down into the chamber.  The straight fall goes all the way to the back of the chamber area as opposed to ending at the beginning of the chamber.  The side rails are scooped out slightly.  The chamber looks very similar to a typical hard rubber Meyer size chamber to my eyes although the side rails don’t look as scooped out as a Meyer. The hard rubber is polished to a satin sheen and is very smooth to the touch.

The body of the JZ alto saxophone mouthpiece is smaller than most hard rubber alto sax mouthpieces out there.  I used a Rico Compass ligature because it was  one of the few ligatures I could find that would fit it.  I also had a Rovner ligature and a couple of clarinet ligatures that seemed to fit as well.

Phil-tone JZ Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

If you read my review of the JZ tenor mouthpiece,  you will see that I was surprised by how good of a mouthpiece it was for being at a lower price point.  I have to say that I am just as surprised by the Phil-tone JZ alto sax mouthpiece also.  I played it with a 3 light Rigotti Gold reed the other day and recorded a clip with it.  The tone was focused and powerful.  I would say it leaned to the brighter side of an alto tone but it still has a very classic bop sound to the tone.

I think the side rails and extended ramp of the baffle through the chamber give this mouthpiece a very direct in your face kind of sound.   Some mouthpieces have a more spread kind of tone and I find myself having to play into a wall to hear the center of the tone bounce back at me.  I didn’t have to do this with the JZ alto mouthpiece.  It has enough focus to the tone that while playing it out into the room I could still hear the direct and focused sound when it reached my ears.

I would feel great about recommending the JZ alto sax mouthpiece to any high school student looking to step up from his Yamaha 4C or stock Meyer.   I could get enough volume and power out of it that I feel like it could be used as a lead alto mouthpiece but it’s not so bright that it couldn’t be used in a small group setting.

Just for kicks, I also tried the JZ mouthpiece with a new Marca Superieure reed (I just got a bunch of the Marca reeds in to try out………) and did a second clip on that reed.

Phil-tone JZ Series Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Phil-Tone JZ Series alto saxophone mouthpiece was a complete joy to play and I’m glad I have had a chance  review it.  If you like the sound of the clip below and the mouthpiece catches your interest then give it a try.  Right now, Phil is selling this mouthpiece for 199.00.

Now, before you start complaining about that price, remember that many of the mass produced mouthpieces out there are selling in the 120-180 dollar range.  For a few dollars more, you are getting a piece that is handmade to exact measurements and play tested.  It doesn’t come off a conveyor belt and put in a box for you to play test it after you buy it.   If you are into a shiny gold mouthpiece then this isn’t the mouthpiece for you, but if you don’t care about that and you want a more affordable mouthpiece that plays great, the JZ alto mouthpiece is a great option to consider.

You can contact Phil on his website at www.phil-tone.com.  I don’t see the JZ model on his website yet but if you send him an email I’m sure he can hook you up with one.  Tell him Steve sent you………….Great work Phil!!   I’m waiting for the Beyonce Series to be released………….

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

Phil-tone JZ Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Rigotti Gold 3 Light Reed

Phil-tone JZ Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece-Marca 2 1/2 Superieure Reed

Disclosure: I received the sample mouthpiece mentioned above for free in the hope that I would try it and perhaps review it on my blog. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also.    Steve
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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. Hey Steve, sounds nice and centered. I liked the Rigotti reed much more. What is the tip opening on that?

  2. Yes, I liked the Rigotti Reed much more also. I’ll have to check on the tip. I can’t remember what it was.

  3. John Zangrando says:

    Steve, i generally dont play them but i like the Marca sound on this piece better. Fuller and warmer- more classic Phil Woodsey. Rigotti is a little thin. just an older guys opinion.

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