Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen Review

Today, I’m lucky to be able to play and review a vintage New York Meyer medium chamber alto saxophone mouthpiece.  Jimmy Jensen at Tenor Madness was nice enough to send me what he called a “mouthpiece funbox”.  This was a box of special and unique mouthpieces that Jimmy thought I might find interesting.  Among the nine mouthpieces sent was this gem of an alto mouthpiece. A vintage New York Meyer 4M alto sax mouthpiece that Jimmy Jensen refaced to a .071 tip opening.

Jimmy told me that this has been his main alto saxophone mouthpiece for the last five years which made me incredibly nervous to be borrowing it.  It is one thing if this was a sax mouthpiece sitting in his drawer for 40 years but this is his main alto sax mouthpiece he was sending me to try out. I have been handling it with “kid gloves” as I  want to get it back to Jimmy in the same condition as it came to me.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

There is a lot of talk on the internet about these vintage New York Meyer alto saxophone mouthpieces.   If you are lucky enough to find one of these for sale you will probably have to pay a hefty price for it (I have seen sellers asking 1000-3000 for one of these…….) Here is how Theo Wanne describes these vintage NY Meyer alto sax mouthpieces on the “mouthpiece museum” page of his great website at theowanne.com.

1960 MEYER NEW YORK USA – EARLY MODEL

The NYUSA mouthpieces retained the deeply rounded inner-side-walls of the Meyer Bros. mouthpieces.

The body of these mouthpieces got thinner. The thin body produced a very nice resonance but sacrificed the solidity inherent to the Meyer Brothers mouthpieces.  Many players prefer this resonant quality though.

The baffle on these rolled up all the way to the very tip of the mouthpiece, leaving almost no tip rail.  This also added to the slightly brighter sound.

The finish work on the baffle of these mouthpieces is impeccable, true masters refaced these.  This impeccable finish work is part of the reason these mouthpieces play so well.

1970 MEYER NEW YORK USA – LATE MODEL

These mouthpieces look identical on the outside to the earlier New York USA models.  Inside they are very different. They have less of the rounded inner side-wall than the earlier model but do retain the same amount of baffle.  The interior finish work is good, but not as good as the earlier model.  This interior design is the same as the later ‘Made in USA’ model.

I’m not completely sure which year Meyer mouthpiece this is but Jimmy Jensen thinks it is probably the 60’s model because of the substantial rollover baffle near the tip.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

The vintage NY Meyer USA 4M sax mouthpiece looked to be in good shape.  The tip rail and side rails look blemish free and even.  The baffle looked smooth and symmetrical. The table looked flat and problem free also.  There are slight tooth indentations under the mouthpiece patch on the beak of the mouthpiece but these are not noticeable when playing with the patch.

The mouthpiece was refaced by Jimmy Jensen to a .071 tip opening.  This is a bit smaller than my preferred alto mouthpiece tip opening of .078-.080 and felt smaller to me as I played it. When I first started playing it, the mouthpiece felt like I couldn’t blow all my air through the tip opening.  Almost like it wasn’t big enough for me.  After playing the mouthpiece for a few hours however, I didn’t really notice this feeling anymore and it felt very comfortable for me.

I had to use a harder saxophone reed because of the smaller tip opening and I found an Ishimori Woodstone 3 1/2 alto sax reed that worked great on this alto mouthpiece.  To keep the vintage vibe,  I also used a vintage Sumner Acousticut metal alto sax ligature that I had lying in my ligature drawer.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

Before I get into how this vintage NY Meyer alto sax mouthpiece played, I want to convey how excited I was to play one of these.  I played one about 16-20 years ago that Bob Ackerman had for sale that was pretty amazing sounding. Bob was willing to sell it to me for 400 bucks but even back then, I thought it was way too expensive.

There is all sorts of talk on the internet about how there is something special and unique about the hard rubber these are made from.  People proclaim that this hard rubber has special resonant qualities that are impossible to attain with the formula for todays hard rubber mouthpieces.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but can only write about my experience playing this specific NY Meyer mouthpiece.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

The first thing I noticed about the tone of this New York Meyer alto saxophone mouthpiece was how focused it sounded.  This is probably one of the most focused alto sax mouthpieces I have played.  I also felt like the focus and core of the tone stayed locked in even when playing at louder volumes. On many modern Meyers I have played, I felt like the tone got a bit more spread and brash when I played at full volume.  This NY Meyer stay nice and focused at all volumes whether playing soft or at full volume.

The other characteristic I loved about this sax mouthpiece is the bright sizzle and sparkle it has in the tone.  It has a bright crispness to the tone that makes it very beautiful and sweet to my ear.  It also has a ton of character and expression in the tone that I loved.   That sweetness even inspired me to take out some of my old classical sax solos to play before I wrote this review.  My classical chops are not what they used to be, but I had a great time using this NY Meyer alto mouthpiece for that kind of style and vibe.  It’s not a dark sounding alto mouthpiece but I thought it sounded great!

This vintage NY Meyer alto mouthpiece made it very easy to manipulate and mold the tone also.  I found it easy to bend the notes as well as adding vibrato.   I also felt the the focused core to the tone made it easier to hear the pitch and intonation.  On more spread mouthpieces, I sometimes find it hard to find the center of the pitch within that tone.  With this mouthpiece I felt like the tight core sound made it a lot easier to hear where the pitch center was while playing.

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

The question that you might find yourself asking is whether a vintage NY Meyer is worth the crazy prices people are paying for them.  Are they that much better than modern Meyer alto sax mouthpieces or the new NY Meyer alto mouthpieces that came out this year (2019).  I can’t speak for all vintage NY Meyer mouthpieces but I can say that this alto mouthpiece is without a doubt the best Meyer alto mouthpiece I have played in my opinion.

Is it the vintage hard rubber formula, the way these old NY Meyers were designed and made, or just Jimmy Jensen’s incredible facing work on this mouthpiece?  I can’t say.  There is a large part of my mind that wonders about the hard rubber though.  There is a special resonance and depth of tone that this piece has that makes me wonder. I know many of you are skeptics so I will end my thoughts there, but who knows, maybe there is something to these vintage hard rubber theories out there………

If you like the sound of this vintage NY Meyer alto saxophone mouthpiece, all I can say is start saving your money………  These are hard to find and even harder to pay for once you find one. Maybe you will get lucky, you never know.    If you play one or have any comments you would like to share, I would love to hear what you think in the comment section below.  Special thanks to Jimmy Jensen for letting me borrow this great mouthpiece of his.    Thanks,  Steve

Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece Refaced By Jimmy Jensen

Disclosure: I borrowed this Vintage New York Meyer USA 4M alto saxophone mouthpiece reviewed above from a fan of my site and will be returning the mouthpiece after the review. Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
Share : Share on FacebookShare on TwitterShare on GooglePlusShare on LinkedinShare on Pinterest
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. This is totally true. I bought a vintage Meyer back in 2001 I believe. $400. It was a 4 I believe. The late great Jon Van Wie refaced it to a Meyer 6.

    Absolutely the best thing I play on. Worth the investment

  2. This is a beautiful sounding mouthpiece . The first thought I had is that it would sound great on an
    Alto solo for late great Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett.
    Marvelous quality . PS ( My primary Alto Sax
    Mouthpiece is a Meyer 6M( USA ) from1983 ( adjust by the great John Reilly “ the Mouthpiece Doctor “
    From Orange County Ca.

  3. I recently bought the Retro Revival New Yorker, partly on the basis of your review, and find it easily the best alto mouthpiece ever for me. Listening to you on this one and the RR, I prefer the latter. Which do you prefer? And thanks for the review as ever: I always wanted to hear a contemporary recording of an old Meyer.

  4. Love your site Steve! Thank you for the knowledge you impart in your reviews- it is incredibly helpful to us all. Now to play devil’s advocate for just a second (haha)… I have to raise my hand as one of the naysayers in regard to the “shoddy hard rubber” theory. I do some work with a major company in the mouthpiece market (I won’t name them but I’m sure it’s not hard to find out on thee crazy interwebs) and I can attest through professional experience that the rubber going into most higher end mouthpieces is of equal or superior quality to the mouthpieces or old. People constantly bring up the sulfur content most times this argument surfaces and the fact is that the rubber compound has remained relatively unchanged, especially in those manufactured outside the US. There is definitely less hand facing going into the pieces however. In my opinion this is a good thing, as although some people may have stumbled into “masterpieces” from time to time, the fact is that CNC machines have increased the consistency of mouthpiece production many times over. Case in point: everyone is a little but right! 🙂

    *gets off soapbox* Anyway… thanks again for all your hard work maintaining this site. Few people may ever understand how hard it is doing your job or the level of listening required to adequately review a mouthpiece. You’re amazing! I hope to keep reading your reviews, or even catch you at one of your gigs someday and shake your hand! Have a great weekend.
    -Noah

  5. Avatar Justin Holden says

    Steve:
    I am lucky enough to have been playing on a old NY Meyer which I had refaced by Jon Van Wie many years ago. I bought it used in about 1969. I may have paid as much as $30 for it. Over the decades I have accumulated a couple of drawers of tenor pieces but this Meyer alto piece has demanded my loyalty. Whether playing lead alto in a big band or blowing jazz in a small group, I have never played another alto piece that came close to that sound!!

  6. Avatar Jerrold Pritchard says

    Steve,

    You sound like Phil Woods on this mouthpiece. And it has so much flexibility, it seems like you could play anything in any still on it.

  7. Steve: Very flexible sounding w/a great core and centered sound. How do you think it compares w/the New Vintage NY Meyer that just came out. I’m primarily a tenor player (metal FL Link 8*). However on alto I was using a 1980’s Meyer 6M until I discovered a White Brilhart Tonalin that I absolutely love. It blows the Meyer I have away.

    Anyway this NY Meyer that you are playing sounds great.

  8. Avatar Ross McIntyre says

    Hi Steve,
    I am a refacer, technician and player in Australia. I had the chance to play with Richie Cole around 15 years ago and he complained that his touring horn (Selmer SA 80) was not at all well.
    I took it home between gigis and re aligned nearly every pad on the horn. I reused any payment and asked him to look out for a NY Meyer for me. He immediately went to his bag and got his original NY Meyer 5 out and simply gave it to me. He said Babbits give whatever he wanted and was playing a different one now.
    I measured both his current piece and his NY 5. The NY 5 is 72 thou tip with a long high baffle. It is awesome and really screams into the harmonics. His current one is 76 thou tip with a smaller baffle and larger chamber. It is basically an RC Meyer. The RC Meyer that you can buy is nothing like his original NY5. The RC Meyer that you can buy is basically the same as what he uses now.
    The very few that have played the NY5 always say “wow”. It is under lock and key and as I are like you prefer an 80 thou tip, I rarely play it. A phone call to Richie would confirm all of this. I am not interested in parting with it but would be interested to know what it would be worth.

  9. Avatar AJ Trask says

    How about some thoughts on vintage tenor or some decent to use on my “C” melody which I basically had to switch to a tenor mouthpiece to get decent sound.
    Thanks

  10. Avatar Ralph Chreiman says

    I have a Meyer 5S (short Facing) alto mouthpiece which I bought new in 1959. I’ve tried other MP’s
    but always go back to my original.

  11. Avatar Erik Cloud says

    The best Meyer I owned was a Vintage NY USA 4M that I had opened up to .76 by Phil Engelman. It was really amazing, kind of like the one you’re playing. (I’ve never played a MeYer Bros).

    When someone refers to “Vintage NY Meyer” I think it’s important to specify MeYer Bros. or New York USA. Both are referred to as “holy grail” Vintage NY Meyers, kind of lumped together, but they are entirely 2 different mouthpieces.

    I believe the recently released Babbitt 100th Anniversary edition was based on original MeYer Bros. design, so I don’t know how comparing it to this NY USA pans out…Steve would have to answer that.

    In almost every Vintage Meyer Mouthpiece review, “a sound like Phil Woods or Cannonball” is attributed to the piece…regardless of whether its a MeYer Bros or a NY USA.

    Which one did they play? MeYer Bros or NY USA?

    From what I understand, both Woods and Cannonball player MeYer Bros and later switched to NY USA when that option was available.

    Any other opinions on this?

  12. On another note regarding Ross McIntyre on the RC Meyer —

    Ross, I had a different experience with the Babbitt RC Meyers. I bought one with such high hopes only to be disappointed. You must have found a great one because the ones I played were absolute crap. The table wasn’t flat, the thickness on the rails was uneven and it played stuffy and stiff.

    I was so pissed off I emailed Richie Cole and told him Babbitt was doing him a great disservice by putting his great name and reputation on a piece of crap. I think it’s just another case of hit and miss with all the modern meyers produced by babbitt. Time will tell if the 100th anniverary version will retain consistent quality.

  13. Avatar Ross Mc Intyre says

    Hi Eric, I think that you may have miss understood me. The Meyer piece that I have is Richie Coles’ original NY Meyer 5.

  14. Ross, that would make a huge difference! That is an amazing story.

    Is RC’s a NY USA or MeYer Bros?

  15. Hi Erik,

    It is a vintage Meyer New York 5MM USA.

  16. Avatar Robert Payne says

    I had a 5M similar to this one but had it worked on by a refacer in Los Angeles named Yokum and had an epoxy baffle added. My other main piece was an MC Gregory, which if you’ve never tried you should if you get a chance. In fact I preferred the MC Gregory just a bit more. Both mouthpieces played great and I would have been happy with either one. I don’t have them any longer (long boring story) and now have a Phil-Tone Rift which I’m totally happy with, it’s one of those mouthpieces that just makes you want to play more. I discovered the Rift reading your review for which I’m very grateful. It’s kind of amazing that you take the time to write these great reviews. I also had a more modern Meyer that I bought in the 80’s. At that time there was a really good local music store which had a ton of mouthpieces and I picked this one out of five or six Meyers. And it was a really good mouthpiece though later I gave it to a friend as a present. He still uses it. I also play on a Ted Klum mouthpiece which has its own thing going and which I really like. These are different enough that I like having both. It’s nice that there are other options to these super expensive vintage mouthpieces, good as they are.

  17. Anthony Ferro.The most beautiful alto sound.Thank you Steve. Peace an good health
    .

  18. Thanks Steve.Great review.Beautiful music. Peace good health. Anthony.

Speak Your Mind

*

Visit us on FacebookVisit us on TwitterVisit us on YouTubeVisit us on Linkedin