Revisiting a Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece Review

Today, I am again reviewing one of my favorite tenor saxophone mouthpieces, my beloved Lamberson J7 hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece that I have had for about 14+ years.  I reviewed the Lamberson J7 many years ago here on the site but the original Lamberson J7 review is pretty lame compared to my standards for reviews these days.  I wrote one measly paragraph that had few specific details about the Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece I was reviewing and only provided a short 1:36 minute sound clip demonstration of the J7 mouthpiece.

Now, 14-15 years later, I figure it is time to revisit this fabulous Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece and post an updated review with more photos, details and sound clips.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

I had read  a lot about Lamberson saxophone mouthpieces back in the early to mid 2000’s on SOTW (Sax on the Web) and was very curious about these Lamberson mouthpieces.  Until that point in my life, I had always played metal mouthpieces on my tenor sax but was interested in finding a hard rubber tenor saxophone mouthpiece that would still give me the power and volume I needed to cut through when gigging with loud bands.  The talk and chatter on most saxophone chat rooms and forums back then about powerful hard rubber tenor mouthpieces was mostly focused on Lamberson and RPC tenor sax mouthpieces.  I decided I wanted to try a Lamberson tenor sax mouthpiece………

I purchased this used Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece from a seller online after communicating back and forth about it.  I had never tried a Lamberson sax mouthpiece before and although I was nervous about the purchase, the seller seemed pretty excited by how this mouthpiece played for him. He didn’t sound like he was just pumping the hype to sell this tenor mouthpiece so I took a chance and bought it from him. (Thanks G!)

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is a 7 tip opening which on the Lamberson tip opening scale is a .110 tip opening (this is usually an 8 tip with most other tenor mouthpiece makers).

Lamberson describes the J7 mouthpiece on his website as:

The Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece is an L model(This is my traditional jazz mouthpiece. The bore and baffle are a copy of a 1950’s metal Link that Pharoah Sanders gave me. It has evolved somewhat over the years, but is still as close as I get to the old Link sound), modified to have almost no baffle, it is my darkest piece. It has an almost imperceptible amount of baffle, but I have heard from many players that say the sound is so huge that they don’t need a baffle.-Fred Lamberson

Basically, the Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is designed like a 1950’s metal Otto Link but with less baffle in the mouthpiece.  Fred Lamberson describes it as having almost no baffle!


Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

When the Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece first arrived, I was disappointed in how bad the chamber of the J7 tenor mouthpiece looked (see photos below).  I held it up to the light and was alarmed to see major gouging and pitting all over the chamber.  Instead of immediately freaking out, I decided to give the J7 mouthpiece a try.  I had played other mouthpieces throughout the years that looked rough in the chamber that played incredibly well, so I knew that the cosmetic look of the chamber did not necessarily mean that this Lamberson J7 mouthpiece would not play well.

The tip, rails and table look even, flat and well crafted.  The tip rail is nice and thin, and it’s shape perfectly matches the shape of the saxophone reeds I used on it.

The baffle of the Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece is probably one of the lowest baffles I have seen of all the sax mouthpieces I have reviewed over the years.  From the tip of the J7 mouthpiece to the chamber is almost a straight line.  There looks to be a very slight rollover at the tip but then the baffle heads straight towards the rear of the mouthpiece chamber.  The baffle floor has a side to side scoop to it and the sidewalls are scooped out as well.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece has a thinner beak profile than many other tenor saxophone mouthpieces.  It feels much thinner than a typical hard rubber Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpiece beak profile.  I actually find the Lamberson J7’s thinner beak profile to be much more comfortable for my tastes.  It also seems like the thinner beak profile gives me more resonance through the hard rubber when playing that I can feel through my upper teeth and hear inside my head.  This is especially noticeable when I don’t use a mouthpiece patch.

The body of the J7 tenor sax mouthpiece is slightly larger than a typical hard rubber Otto Link tenor sax mouthpiece body.  I find that typical hard rubber tenor sax ligatures that fit on hard rubber Otto Link tenor saxophone mouthpieces will just barely fit on the front of the body of the J7 tenor mouthpiece.  If you like to position your ligatures more towards the rear of the saxophone reed and mouthpiece like I do, then you will probably need a slightly larger mouthpiece ligature.  I find that my Francois Louis Ultimate ligature fits perfectly on the Lamberson J7 and I can easily move it towards the rear of the reed when I choose to.

I have also found the Francois Louis ligature to be my favorite ligature on the Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece because it seems to add more focus to the warmer more spread tenor sax tone that I really like when comparing it to other ligatures.

The hard rubber that Fred Lamberson uses for the Lamberson J7 tenor mouthpiece is excellent in my opinion.  I’m not a hard rubber expert in any way, but there is something about the hard rubber of the Lamberson mouthpieces that I find to be really resonant. It also has that vintage hard rubber smell to it that I have grown to love.

Here is what Fred writes about his hard rubber on his website:

RUBBER, known as EBONITE, is imported from Germany and contains no plastic in its composition. Mouthpieces with added plastic make the sound thin, bright and edgy. They have a notable lack of warmth and control. Also, the pitch of a hard rubber mouthpiece with plastic in it is less stable whereas with genuine hard rubber it is spot on even when you blow hard. Rubber creates a rich warm sound that resonates freely, even with the DD baffle.  Other good qualities of rubber are that it plays well in tune and can be played in a variety of styles and dynamics.

Fred Lamberson also makes mouthpiece out of 1920 hard rubber which is described as producing a darker tone by Fred Lamberson.  I have a review of a Lamberson J7 1920 tenor sax mouthpiece here.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

The Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece has a very unique blow to it.  There is something about the facing curve that likes soft reeds and more specifically, Vandoren Java 2 1/2 tenor saxophone reeds.  I believe that I had someone measure the Lamberson facing curve at one point and I remember them telling me that it had a facing length of 48 which is a slightly shorter facing than most of my other tenor mouthpieces that are at 50.

I also seem to remember that person telling me that the J7 tenor mouthpiece had a unique facing curve on it that created some added resistance in their opinion.  The shorter facing does not perform as well with Rigotti Gold tenor sax reeds and many of the other reed brands I have tried on it.  The Rigotti Gold reeds have a hard edge to the tone with the Lamberson J7 mouthpiece that I really don’t like.  Vandoren Java Green box 2 1/2 tenor sax reeds play incredibly well on this J7 mouthpiece though.  Usually Vandoren 2 1/2 reeds are way too soft for most of my tenor sax mouthpieces but the Lamberson J7 has enough resistance built into the facing curve that the Vandoren Java 2 1/2 reeds feel perfect to me on the .110 tip opening.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece with a view of the rough looking chamber

In my first review of the Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece that I posted in 2007, I described it as having “mystical properties that I don’t understand”.  This is still true now some 14 years later.  The J7 gets way more brights, focus and volume than a tenor mouthpiece with this low of a baffle should get in my opinion.

When I look at the photo of the baffle above, I think that this mouthpiece will be a darker playing mouthpiece that probably doesn’t have a lot of power and volume. What surprised me about the Lamberson J7 tenor mouthpiece was that although the Lamberson J7 is incredibly warm and dark sounding at soft volumes, it can really ramp up the volume and brightness when played at full blast.

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

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece with a view of the rough looking chamber

The tone of the Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece is incredibly rich, thick and organic to my ears.  There is something about the Lamberson J7 that just feels so right to me as I play it.  When I recorded the clips below, I was amazed at how comfortable I felt on the J7 mouthpiece.  I haven’t played it in years, and it just played so easily with the first Vandoren 2 1/2 reed I put on it.

The intonation of the Lamberson J7 is excellent as well.  I usually state that the intonation is good and as expected when the notes that are sharp on my sax are the usual sharpness I have come to expect.  The Lamberson J7 is surprising in that the notes that are usually pretty sharp on my sax, like the middle E, are much closer in tune than usual.  I think this is due to the larger chamber, lower baffle and the unique way the Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece blows.

The altissimo on the Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece is also very easy to produce and work with. I think that the built in resistance in the facing curve lends itself to the altissimo range because you have some resistance to blow against to achieve those altissimo notes and shape them.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece with a view of the rough looking chamber

The Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpieces biggest strength is in the low notes of the saxophone.  I just love playing on the lower range of the tenor saxophone with this J7 sax mouthpiece.  The low notes are full, textured, rich and in a way that is hard to describe, both spread and focused at the same time.  Usually I describe a mouthpiece as having a more spread tone or a more focused tone but the Lamberson J7 seems to be the rare mouthpiece that seems to be able to have both spread and focused qualities to my ears.

The spread tone makes it sound fat and lush during a jazz set but the focus of the tone is enough that the focused tone, brightness and volume can be picked up easily by a mic and cut through on a loud gig.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-view from the bore end of the mouthpiece

On the sound clips below, I try to give a good range and variety of saxophone sounds and textures so that you can hear the Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece perform in different styles.   I have included four sound clips.

  • The first sound clip below is of my usual variety of jazz lines and melodies that I play on most reviews.
  • The second sound clip below is a couple choruses of a mellow Bb concert blues.
  • The third sound clip below is a louder altissimo focused sound clip with added reverb.
  • The last sound clip is a “live” clip recorded from a wedding gig some 15+ years ago on the Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece.  This is a good reflection of how the J7 mouthpiece sounds through a sound system with a loud band.

As has been my habit lately, I have added some reverb to the altissimo clip number three for those of you who like to check out the sax recordings with reverb added also.  I try not to put a lot of reverb on the clip, but just enough to thicken the sound a little bit.  The reason I think reverb is good to add to the clips is that you can get an idea of how the sax mouthpiece might sound in a room with natural reverb like a garage or in a recording studio with some effects added.

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece

Before I close out this review, I just want to address the issue of the incredibly rough looking chamber of this J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece.  In this modern age of ours,  I have talked to so many sax players over the years that have equated physical symmetry and perfection to a perfect saxophone sound.  Although symmetry and balance are incredibly important in facing curves, some of the best mouthpieces I have played over the years have had crooked facings, crooked baffles and mouthpiece chambers that look rough.  What I have learned is that the roughest looking mouthpieces can sometimes play the best.

I have talked to sax players that were upset about a physical imperfection and when I ask them how the mouthpiece played, they say they didn’t play it but just sent it back without trying it. In my mind, the greatest mouthpiece craftsman are the ones who try out their mouthpieces as they work on them.  I don’t know how Fred Lamberson works, but I like to think he tried this J7 mouthpiece while making it and perhaps thought, “This is perfect!” and left it just the way it is rather than make the chamber perfect and perhaps lose the magic of how it played in the process.  That is what I imagine anyways.  Regardless of all that,  I love the way this Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece plays and I really could care less how the chamber looks in the least. What is important to me, first and foremost, is how a mouthpiece plays!

In my opinion, the Lamberson J7 tenor saxophone mouthpiece plays incredibly well! For those of you looking for a tenor sax mouthpiece with a warmer tone that leans a bit to the darker side of the tenor sax tone spectrum but can still deliver brightness and power, this would be a great choice for a tenor sax mouthpiece in my opinion. You can check out the full line of Lamberson mouthpieces at Lamberson mouthpieces.

As of this review, Fred Lamberson offers a two week trial period which is rare in the mouthpiece world.  From my communications with Fred, his main concern and focus is providing the right mouthpiece for each sax player.  I get the impression that that is his mission and passion in life.  In my opinion, he is great at it!  Contact Fred Lamberson and find out for yourself!

If you try a Lamberson J7 tenor sax mouthpiece or have any thought or comments on this review,  I would love to hear what you think in the comments below. Thanks,   Steve

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Various Jazz Lines and Assorted Melodies(No Reverb)-Vandoren Java 2 1/2 Reed

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Blues(No Reverb)-Vandoren Java 2 1/2 Reed

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Altissimo Clip (Reverb Added)-Vandoren Java 2 1/2 Reed

Lamberson J7 Tenor Saxophone Mouthpiece-Live Clip from Gig in mid-2000’s-Vandoren Java 2 1/2 Reed

Disclosure: I bought the mouthpiece mentioned above used in the mid-2000’s. I sold it once, but then pleaded with the buyer to let me buy it back later because I missed it so much.  I have vowed to not sell it again.  Regardless, I only review mouthpieces that I enjoy playing and believe will be good for other saxophone players to try also. Steve
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 Lloyd Whitty says

    I love the sound. Nice and dark

  2. Avatar Chris Mickel says

    Sounds great as always. That piece reminds me a lot of my Navarro. I have a Maestra I’ve been playing for years now. It’s really versatile I use it for jazz, big band, and even funk and rock gigs.

    Chris

  3. Is lamberson still making mpc’s?
    He’s retired I thought. Thx

    • Kenny, I’m not sure. His website is still up. Last time I talked to him and received a mouthpiece from him was in 2016 which was the 1920 J7 that I reviewed.

  4. Avatar Mitch Paliga says

    I had a J6 for a while, and it had mystical features as you say. I sold it, regrets.

  5. Avatar Bob Rockwell says

    I just ordered a J7 from him.

    • Bob, Did you order it online or talk to him on the phone? Someone else thought he was retired and asked if he was still making them so I am curious. Thanks!

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