Vintage Selmer Soloist Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece

Ever since the 1980’s I have been a big fan of Kenny Garrett.  I can’t remember the first time I  heard  him but I remember having a record in the 80’s entitled “Introducing Kenny Garrett” that I loved. (I was an alto sax player back then)  Soon after this, I remember also hearing Mr. Garrett with “Out of the Blue” as well as Miles Davis.

I was always intrigued by Kenny Garrett’s sound.  It was very different than any alto sound I had heard before.  I listened to every alto player I could find and I have to say that Kenny Garrett’s sound is very unique and distinctive.

Years later when I started getting into mouthpieces,  I remember hearing that Kenny Garrett played a Vintage Selmer Soloist that was opened to .096 by Fred Rast. (I’m not sure if this information is solid but this is the gossip going around the internet)  I have wanted to try one of these mouthpieces ever since I heard that Kenny was playing on one…..

Vintage Selmer Soloist Alto Mouthpiece

The mouthpiece I am reviewing today is also a Vintage Selmer Soloist.  This one has been opened from a B tip opening to a .080 tip opening by James Bunte.    When Mr. Bunte put one up for sale at a great price, I was quick to grab it.

The Selmer Soloist looks vintage to me although I don’t know what year it is from.  It’s got that old hard rubber smell to it……kind of  a sulfur type smell.  Mr. Bunte did a great job on the table, rails, facing and tip which all look spectacular.

Vintage Selmer Soloist Alto Mouthpiece

The Selmer Soloist mouthpieces are some of the most interesting to play for me.  They are such an enigma of mouthpiece design and attributes.  I have played some on tenor that were soft, mellow and dark.  I’ve played others that were incredibly bright and powerful.  All of them have looked the same to me and it was always a mystery to me how they would play until I tried one.

This alto saxophone mouthpiece is the same.  I had no idea what to expect.  It has a medium high rollover baffle in it that curves over quickly and then heads straight down into a horseshoe shaped chamber.   The Soloists also have straight side walls on them.

Vintage Selmer Soloist Alto Mouthpiece

The design of the Selmer Soloist is so interesting because the smaller chamber gives the sound a tighter more focused core to it.  I have played some with less of a rollover baffle that played much darker but still had that very tight core with a dark tone.  I’ve played others that could get so bright my ears would hurt…….

Like I said earlier, this is the first alto soloist sax mouthpiece I have ever tried.   It was very easy to play with 4 different reeds I have tried on it.  I used 3 Rigotti Gold 3 Mediums and one Vandoren Java 3 (this is the one I did the sound clip with)

The tone is what I would consider brighter and edgy.  Very powerful but with a dry quality about it.  Like Kenny Garrett’s tone, it has a “hollow”  almost “nasal”  sound to the tone.  I’m not sure how else to describe it but that’s what comes to my mind when I hear it.

Vintage Selmer Soloist Alto Mouthpiece

I know people always say that the mouthpiece doesn’t matter and that you sound like “you” on any mouthpiece you play but I find myself sounding very different on this mouthpiece.  Maybe you will agree, maybe not.  You can judge for yourself and compare it to some of the other alto clips.

I really enjoyed playing this Vintage Selmer Soloist alto saxophone mouthpiece. If you like the sound and look of this mouthpiece you can try contacting James Bunte to see if he can hook you up with one.  You could also try finding one on ebay that you can  have opened up by one of the great refacers out there today.

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

Vintage Selmer Soloist Alto 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 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. Phil-Tone also does a great job with these

  2. Avatar Ivan Romero says
  3. Thanks Ivan. I did not know that……….now I’ll have to find a good short shank to review………

  4. Just bought an espresso alto tip 5 : 0.075″ from Brian Powell , honnestly there is so few differences with the vintage one ???? just amazing !

  5. Just tried recently an espresso tip 5 from mouthpiceguys, it is astonished compared to a true vintage one please ckeck also

  6. I’ve always thought that Kenny Garrett’s sound is basically John Coltrane on alto. But modernized.

  7. @ Ivan,

    Kenny has tons of soloists .. But he of course only plays one and it is not a short shank model, but the same being reviewed. It was opened ( prior him owning it) to a .095 tip
    Thou the baffle is slightly different than the one being reviewed, if I go by sound, this piece here sounds like a fantastic Selmer soloist should. Great job from Mr. Bunte.

  8. Avatar Adrian Chia says

    Steve
    This is probably the best alto sound I’ve heard from all your alto reviews. I love that throaty “hollowy” core to the tone. I hear it on Kenny Garrett and Kim Waters. Kim is the first smoothjazz guy playing that piece and it also sounds killer.
    On a Mark VI, this throaty tone seems to bring out the horn’s tonal core. But on your horn, I can hear it too.
    For many alto purists, the Meyer has been the standard bearer. Now Meyer fans can hear what you’re missing.
    This alto tone could KILL on all ballads you play. It is a very expressive piece.
    The smaller chamber, straight side walls AND horseshoe chamber could be factors.

    Great sound, Steve.
    Can we have another clip?

  9. Avatar Moriconi says

    Hi Steve,

    Kenny Garrett plays a Selmer Soloist opening : E

  10. Steve, you killed it. That’s all I have to say.

  11. I actually talked to Kenny Garett before his concert a few years ago in Seattle. He was kind enough to share what he was playing. I assumed he played a short shank and he said no it was a regular long shank that was worked on. Not sure how a lot of us including myself thought he was playing a short shank but the rumor definitely has made the Short Shank vintage valuable?

  12. Thanks for that info Harry. I too had always heard that it was a short shank………

  13. …maybe the short shank version is so sought after because of Joe Henderson having played one on tenor.

  14. tengo una boquilla slemer solista long shank, pero no se a donde mandarla a abrir más, vivo en mexico

  15. Mario,

    James Bunte o Brian Powell hacen un gran trabajo en Solistas.

  16. Avatar Hagen McCombs says

    Ivan Romero, that is actually not true. There is a lot of myth that he plays a short shank, but if you look at pictures of him playing, it’s clearly a long shank. On soprano he does use the short shank, but on alto it’s actually the long shank.

  17. Very clean tone Steve on the modified Selmer mouthpiece. Funny I should find this site for I just came in from the garage where I practice both tenor and alto. I am trying to get as close as I can to Joe Henderson’s sound on tenor and Kenny Garrett’s sound on alto. I do have a Selmer long shank E and have been recording my sounds with it along with Kenny. My imagination thinks I’ve got it at times but when I really listen closely, I know that I’m still missing something. I liked Kenny the first time I ever heard him, years ago, and the older Joe Henderson tenor sound is the absolute sound for tenor to me. Later recordings of Joe are not the same to me. His older sound has a “quack” in it and hard to explain but I know what I mean by it. I heard Joe in person years ago and he didn’t sound like what I was expecting. I’d better stop now ‘cuz I could talk about this for hours because I have been working on timbre for so long.

  18. Sam, I know what you are saying. Those Soloists have a very unique and interesting sound. If you love that sound then they are the mouthpieces to play on. Take Care, Steve

  19. Thanks Steve! I’m beginning a hunt to find a piece that will work for playing/getting the 20s/30s “characteristic” sound as I’m playing a lot of that music. I wondered if this would be a starting point? My alto is a silver bell King Super 20 from the 50s. It’s a pretty bright horn. Ideas? I know the conception is most of the “game” here.

  20. Hey Steve, how would you consider a vintage soloist opened up to an Aizen SO? I’m looking to getting a soloist-type mouthpiece

  21. Manny, I don’t think you would go wrong with either choice. They are similar in sound and how they play in my opinion. The only difference I recall is that the SO was more free blowing and had a clearer more pure tone to it. I really liked the SO because of that pure tone but I didn’t end up buying the SO though because it was a little too free blowing for my tastes. I like to have a bit more resistance when I play. The good thing about having a Soloist opened up is that you can tweak it to play like you want by the refacer you choose and what instructions you give. I actually just received a Vintage Soloist that I won on Ebay that Brian Powell refaced. Can’t wait to try it……..

  22. Chris,
    I think this would be a good direction to go in. The thing you have to remember about Soloists is there can be a big difference between each mouthpiece in regard to whether the tone is darker or brighter. I have played some Soloists that were super dark and some that were really bright. Other more in the middle. Sometimes you have to go on a search for the right one for you. Once you find the right Soloist for your tastes though it is heaven! I have a Vintage Soloist sitting on my desk right now that I just one on Ebay. Brian Powell refaced it. Can’t wait to try it……. Good Luck!

  23. Avatar Douglas Hachiya says

    I’m a big time Selmer Soloist fan because of one my biggest heroes and mentors, Lanny Morgan, who uses a very modified Short Shank.

    There are 3 vintage eras of the Selmer Soloists:
    1. The Short Shank of the later 1950s
    These had a slightly larger chamber than the 1960s version. My guess for them being worth more than the other versions is because they’re older and because Joe Henderson used a short shank.

    2. The Long Shank of the 1960s
    These tend to be the brighter of the three because they had more baffle than the Short Shank and 1970s version. This is the era that Kenny Garrett uses with his alto.

    3. The Long Shank “Soloist Style” of the 1970s.
    Of these three, the 1970s versions tend to be much darker sounding because they have less material in the baffle. The modern remakes tend to copy this version than they do the Short Shank or the first Long Shank.

  24. Avatar Jairo Alfonso says

    Hi Steve. Nice Review.
    I play a Meyer 8 for my alto and a Lebayle Metal Jazz Chamber for my tenor. I like to play both with Vandoren Java Red Reeds; 3.5 for both, alto and tenor.
    I’m extremly happy with my Lebayle for tenor but I want to buy one mouthpiece for my Alto. I feel it could be with a higher tip opening, because sometimes i find my meyer 8 too closed.
    I live in Bogotá, Colombia. Here is very hard to find mouthpieces and, I would say, impossible to find a craftman for refacing or opening them.
    So I’ll have to risk and buy something on eBay without trying it.
    If I do, which tip opening would you recomend on those Selmer Soloist for alto? I mean, What do you think that is good having on mind that I use a Meyer?
    Other question is, why people buy closed mouthipieces like Soloist B or E and open them?? It’s not the same to buy and original opened one? like a G or H??
    And, I see that those mouthpieces are very expensive. Do you have in mind more brands similar to the Soloist.
    Thanks!

  25. Jairo,
    I think those bigger tip openings are not as common. I have seen very few over the years compared to the smaller tip openings. James Bunte does great work on Soloists in my opinion. They are very unique mouthpieces and have a unique sound and vibe to them. I prefer them around .080. Off hand I can’t think of other cheaper alternatives to the Soloist although there might be some out there. Good Luck! Steve

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