JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am reviewing the JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece that is said to be similar in design to a Miami Dukoff 8 soprano sax mouthpiece like Kenny G plays.    This is made by Jianxing Li in Guangzhou, China.

A number of months ago, I was contacted and asked if I would consider reviewing the saxophone mouthpieces in the photo below for Mr. Li.  They look like an impressive set of saxophone mouthpieces and I couldn’t resist at least trying them out.

  • On the bottom you have the JXFL tenor sax mouthpiece which is made as a replica of a Francois Louis tenor saxophone mouthpiece similar to what Bob Berg might have played on.
  • The second piece from the bottom is similar to a Guardala Studio tenor saxophone mouthpiece and is called the JXDG.
  • The third mouthpiece from the bottom is fashioned after a double ring Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece.
  • The fourth mouthpiece from the bottom is the JXRO alto sax mouthpiece that is similar in concept to the Miami Dukoff mouthpiece Dave Sanborn used to play that I already reviewed.
  • At the top of the photo is a JXKM soprano saxophone mouthpiece that is designed to be similar in style to the Miami Dukoff 8 soprano sax mouthpiece that Kenny G plays. That is the sax mouthpiece that I am reviewing today.

JX Custom Line of Mouthpieces (from top to bottom: JXKM similar yo Kenny G’s Dukoff Soprano Mouthpiece, JXRO-similar to Dave Sanborn’s Dukoff Alto Mouthpiece, JXDR-similar to a Double Ring Florida Link, JXDG-Similar to a Guardala Studio Model, JXFL-Similar to Bob Berg’s Francois Louis Mouthpiece

The descriptions of the designs of these saxophone mouthpieces were given to me by Zhu Haiming who sent them to me to try out.  I want to make that clear in case any of you disagree with how they are described or represented in this review.

I am told that Mr. Li bought quite a few original examples of each saxophone mouthpiece to study before he made his own line of sax mouthpieces including five Miami Dukoff soprano saxophone mouthpieces in preparation for making the JXKM soprano saxophone mouthpiece.

All of the JX Custom mouthpieces are made of stainless steel.  I feel sorry for Mr. Li if he works on these by himself as I have heard that working with stainless steel can be incredibly brutal on the hands. The good news is that stainless steel is incredibly durable and resistant to corrosion.

The JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece looks nice to the eye. The facing of 8 is stamped into the rear of the table and is equal to a .075 inch tip opening.  This is a little more open than I am used to as I usually play a .070 tip opening on the soprano saxophone but the .075 tip opening felt comfortable to me with the right reed.

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece

The JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece rails and tip look thin, even and precise.  The width of the mouthpiece tip and rails are exactly the width of the reed up near the tip.  The table is a little narrower at the rear of the table and the reed overhangs the sides a little bit on each side at the back.  This doesn’t seem to be an issue though since the reeds seem to seal fine for me.  The mouthpiece tip rail flares out a little more on the sides than the tip shape of my Vandoren Java soprano sax reeds but the tip is symmetrical and it is easy to center the reed with the tip.

The side walls are straight and look like they angle inward as they head towards the small/medium chamber.  The reason I might consider the chamber to be small/medium is that the chamber opening has an oval shape to it because it is longer up and down than it is side to side.  I have seen many soprano sax mouthpieces with a small round chamber opening so this might be considered more of a medium opening because of the oval shape.

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece

The inside of the bore of the mouthpiece look smooth to the eye and it fits on my neck cork easily. I was afraid the high baffle and smaller chamber would make the JXKM soprano sax mouthpiece sit too far out on my neck cork to be in tune but the JXKM mouthpiece needed to be about half way down the length of my neck cork to be in tune which is a good place to be.

The mouthpiece came with a nice silver ligature that fits the mouthpiece well.  My only criticism of the ligature is that the screws are so close together that they can be hard to grab on to and turn because the other screw is in the way.  The ligature still works well so it is not that big of a deal.

Even though the included ligature fit well, I opted to go with another one screw metal soprano ligature made by Atti Sound in Italy because of its ease of use.  Ideally, I wanted to use a Rovner soprano mouthpiece ligature because I believe that is what Kenny G uses on his Dukoff soprano saxophone mouthpiece but I couldn’t find the one I used to have. (I’m pretty sure I gave it to a student who needed a soprano sax ligature.)

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece

The JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece has a pretty high rollover baffle as you can see in the photos.  You can see some scratches and what look like brush marks on the baffle where it was worked on.  The baffle looks pretty smooth and even to the eye.  It gets a little more rough half way down the baffle where it hasn’t been worked on but it is still smooth to the touch.

The tone of the JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece is definitely on the brighter side of soprano saxophone tone in my opinion.  I’ve always considered Kenny G to have a bright tone on soprano so if this is a copy of his mouthpiece, that makes sense.

The only saxophone reeds I had for soprano sax were Vandoren Java 3 and 3 1/2 saxophone reeds. Those both felt too hard for the JXKM soprano mouthpiece so I dug around in my used reed box and found an old Vandoren Java 2 1/2 soprano sax reed that played well on the JXKM soprano sax mouthpiece. I think it might have been a tiny bit too soft but I could work with it.

The intonation on the JXKM was really good.  It plays differently that my usual soprano mouthpiece so at first I found myself being a bit flat in the upper register.  I realized pretty quickly that I had to be a bit tighter up there to be in tune than I did on my other soprano sax mouthpieces.  It wasn’t a big deal but just an adjustment I needed to make.

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece

I’ve provided two samples of the same clip below.  One is a sound clip which is dry (no reverb or effects added) and the other has some Kenny G like reverb (check out Breathless by Kenny G 1992) added to the recording.  I think it’s important to add the reverb clip just so people can get a sense of what the sound is like with some reverb since the added reverb tends to soften the edge and fatten the tone a bit.

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece

How did the JX Custom JXKM play?  Well, first off, I want to warn my listeners that the first 2 minutes of the sound clips are 100% Kenny G tunes.  I start with a tune I used to play in the 90s called “Forever in Love” which Kenny G just played for Kim Kardashian a few days ago on Valentine’s day.

I then go into another one I used to play called “The Joy of Life” which is a very joyful and happy song I used to love playing.

Why the warning then?  Well, I know some of you might not be Kenny G fans.  That’s OK.   If you aren’t, just skip to the 2:20 point in the sound clip and you will skip all that stuff.  I know there are others out there that love Kenny G and that is OK also.  We all have different tastes and preferences and that is ok. (Inside I am praying to God this review doesn’t turn into another Kenny G fight to the death…….)

If you like Kenny G then feel free to check out from :21-2:21.  I know I am in no way able to measure up to Kenny G on these tunes but I do think that with an hour of practice I do get in the same ballpark as him tone wise.   I know it is not there yet but I think there are aspects of it that are getting close. Maybe?

One thing I have realized from this experiment is that it is not easy to play like Kenny G!  He gets a lot of flack from the saxophone community (small % of the world) and Pat Metheny (smaller % of the world) but it seems like the other 99.9% of the world adores him!

I found that playing like him is similar to playing classical music in that I was trying to copy what someone else does.  I haven’t really spent any time on it, but I listened to Kenny G play each of the songs I played and then I tried to copy what I heard.  I haven’t played soprano like that in a long time and it was hard!  To be honest, I wasn’t 100% happy with the first 2 minutes of the recording,  but it is what it is. (I did have the thought of transcribing one of his cadenzas and recording it but quickly gave up on that idea when I realized how much time and work it would take……….)

A couple points you might be interested in:

1.)  I found that my normal jazz articulation (tonguing the offbeats and slurring into the downbeats) did not work well on the JXKM soprano sax mouthpiece.  For some reason it just sounded really heavy and cumbersome.  Tonguing sounded like a nail into the coffin of whatever line I was playing.  Basically, it was killing it…….or more like burying it six feet under.  It was horrible.  Most of the fast lines you hear on this clip are either slurred or very very lightly tongued, if at all.  My normal tonguing did not work so I adapted……..

2.) Just for those who are curious, at the 3:50 mark in the sound clip, I take a little more mouthpiece in my mouth.  It does change the sound and make it bigger and louder but I honestly don’t know if I like the before 3:50 sound better or the after 3:50 sound.  I think I like the before 3:50 sound because it felt more controlled and focused but I liked the after 3:50 for how much bigger and bolder it sounded.  I would have to play the mouthpiece more to figure out where I would like it best.  I included it so you could get an idea of how it sounded with more mouthpiece in your mouth.

3.)  I felt totally uncomfortable using that much reverb on the reverb sound clip.  It seemed the closest to the Kenny G tracks reverb though.    When I listened to it just now it just seemed like way too much……but if that is what Kenny does then……….

4.) Lastly, Kenny G has state of the art mics and effects. I have bottom of the line equipment compared to that. Please understand this when comparing his top of the line studio recordings to my bottom of the line mouthpiece sound clips.  I already know which is better, but is the JXKM mouthpiece in the same ballpark as far as a mouthpiece?   You decide……….

5.) Kenny G uses a Rovner ligature and Hemke 2 1/2 reeds from what I have read.   I used a metal ligature and Vandoren Java 2 1/2 reeds.  From my experience, I think I would get a darker sound with Kenny G’s setup as the Rovner ligature and Hemke reeds tend to play darker than my ligature and Java reeds. (I also use a Yamaha YSS-62 soprano sax and Kenny uses a Selmer Mark VI)

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece

The JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece is a great example of a well crafted high baffle, small/medium chambered soprano mouthpiece.  If you have been on the search for a soprano sax mouthpiece that will give you a bright “Kenny G” type sound this is a great soprano mouthpiece  to consider.

Thanks to Jianxing Li and Zhu Haiming for working together to get me these saxophone mouthpieces to review.  If you are interested in the JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece you can email Mr. Li at jxmouthpieces@163.com (I tested the email to make sure it works).  At the writing of this review, JX Mouthpieces do not have a website but I am told they are working on one.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and if you get a JX Custom JXKM 8 soprano saxophone mouthpiece be sure to come back and let us know what you think below………Thanks!!

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece-Added Reverb (AKA Breathless 1992 Kenny G CD)

JX Custom JXKM 8 Soprano Saxophone Mouthpiece-Dry Recording

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 30 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. Avatar Tom DePalma says

    Hey Steve,
    You’re right on point with sounding like Kenny G with this piece. Not going to get into the whole Kenny G debate and I also understand having to play like him on many gigs (I use a YSS-62 with a Yanagisawa metal mouthpiece). Hey, if they’re paying, I’m playing. I’m sure if you spent more time with this you would sound even better once you fine tune your setup.

    I would love to hear reviews of the JXDG and JXFL. Are you planning to post reviews on them?

  2. Tom, Yes, I am planning on doing a review of those next. Hopefully later this week……… Steve

  3. Does Jianxing Li have a website or something where I can contact him to ask some questions about the tenor mouthpieces?

    Egil

  4. Egil,
    No, I say that at the bottom of the review and give an email address to contact him in that same paragraph. Steve

  5. Now I see it, thank you very much!
    Sorry, but I skipped that section to listen to the recordings.

    Egil

  6. Hahaha! You’re not alone. I have probably 20 people ask me how to order one……….

  7. Avatar Walter George says

    Steve,

    Thank you for this review. You sounded quite good in my opinion.
    One thing I am not sure you aware of is that Kenny G reportedly used a lot of sound processing equipment when he played per my music teacher who saw him playing with big rack of equipment by his side and heard others joke about it, so it may not be possible to perfectly mimic him with just a horn and mpc.
    Hope this helps . Good luck!

  8. Walter, Thanks! Yes, I am aware of that. That is the hard part about trying to copy another player’s sound from recordings as there is effects, EQ, compression, reverb and other things applied to the sound. Thanks for listening! Steve

  9. LOOKS LIKE IT HAS A SWEET EASY DROP OFF INTO THE CHAMBER

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