Shopped for a new Tenor Sax Mouthpiece
Vintage M.C. Gregory 4B 20
I went to Wally's Music today and told them about the mouthpieces I currently use for my tenor sax and what I was looking for. They quickly pulled a tester Meyer, a metal Otto Link, one other metal mouthpiece, and a vintage mouthpiece from the current stock so that I could try them out. I went into the sound room and set up my horn and warmed up on my existing Claude Lakey 5*3 Jazz mouthpiece. That sound in terms of loudness and brightness was the line I would not cross. To be honest, it's kind of tough to get brighter than what that mouthpiece puts out.
The first one I tried was the Vintage M.C. Gregory 4B 20 mouthpiece. It was very easy to play right at first, the airflow was not constrained, it was simply a nice full sound. The next one I tried was the Meyer. It was closer to my other mouthpiece, the Otto Link Tone Edge 6. Although the Meyer was more along the lines of what I was looking for.
I kept playing for a while, switching back and forth between the two hard rubber mouthpieces and trying different phrases on my horn to hear what they sounded like in different styles and through the range of my horn. I finally tried out the metal Otto Link. It was what I expected in a metal mouthpiece. Unpredictable due to temperature, a different embouchure is required, and it would always need time to warm up before playing consistently. The ligature was also a little annoying to mess with since there is only one way it can fit over the reed. The Otto Link wasn't for me. I didn't bother trying the other metal mouthpiece.
After that process for a while I put away my horn and went back out into the shop to see what they could tell me about the vintage mouthpiece. At first they said it was $99. That made me really smile. But they quickly corrected that. They had a nice writeup on it to read over.
M.C. Gregory 4B 20
Los Angeles - 1930's through 1970's
These are a very different mouthpiece than the Model A or Master. They have flat inner side walls (like a Brilhart Ebolin, or Tonalin) and maintain a nice baffle. These have a very nice sound and often have a bit of roll over to the baffle at the tip, giving just a little more growl to the sound. All of these mouthpieces had serial numbers. Interestingly they are made from a fiber filled resin instead of hard rubber like all the other Gregory mouthpieces.
The number and letter on the left side (4B) is the tip opening followed by the lay length. The number on the right side (20) is the chamber size. Chambers came in three sizes, 16 - small, 18 - medium, and 20- large. Hence a 4B 20 would have a tip opening of 4 with a longer lay length and a large chamber. The chamber sizes are not all that different though. A 16 looks very similar to a 20. They are like variations on a medium chamber. The one exception to this is the very last 20 chamber Master Model Gregory's made which did have a really big chamber like an Otto Link. In general, the chamber sizes on Gregory's are very different from the Meyers, which had radically different sized chambers.
Sure, it is expensive and yes, it is used. Someone else's well worn teeth marks were on it. So of course, they cleaned it and I asked that a mouthpiece patch be installed. Most of the best equipment in music comes from another era and is used. The newer Meyer would have been an excellent option. It played like a workhorse and I'm sure it would give as much as it was given. This Gregory mouthpiece was simply the best one I played on today and my first impressions are what I go with a lot of the time. Trust your gut and all that. It ended up being the one I took home.
Now it's time to get on with woodshedding!