The Review about Traditional II & High Baffle Tenor
By Dominique J. Morier
Hello. My name is Dominique J.Morier,
I am a saxophone player and woodwind technician from Toronto, Canada. I hold a performance & Composition degree from Humber College in Toronto, and I have studied with Canadian saxophone greats such as: Don Palmer, Pat Labarbera, & Kirk MacDonald. I perform with the Funk & Soul band “The Soul Motivators” as well as other groups in the Toronto area. As a technician, I work for St. John’s Music. I specialize in woodwinds with a focus on saxophone restorations and customization work.
Several months ago I was contacted by Mr. Ken Okutsu via Twitter, and ha asked me if I would be interested in demonstrating and reviewing a couple of his saxophone mouthpieces. Naturally, I said I would be delighted.
Both of these mouthpieces (these ones are both for tenor sax) are made of a hard rubber called “Ebonite”. Just by the feel of the mouthpiece in your hand, you can tell it’s a quality material. The rubber is polished to a shine, and the gold lettering looks quite classy. The work, which is finished by hand, is absolutely spot on. Both of the rails are even, and the tip rail is perfect. When you look at the corners of the mouthpiece, you can easily see that the join of the side rails, to the tip is completely identical on both sides. This is even more clear when you play these mouthpieces and experience the superb response, and the ease of a very free blowing set up.
The first of the two Okutsu mouthpieces I tried was “The Traditional II”. This mouthpiece is very aptly named. This mouthpiece enables the player to achieve a classic jazz sound. As soon as I started playing it, I felt as though I had been transported back to the 50′s or 60′s and playing with the likes of Stan Getz. It has a beautiful, thick and even tone throughout the entire range of the horn. Also the altissimo register was very easy to reach. As I had mentioned earlier the response is superb. Anything I would ask the mouthpiece to do, it was right there. Large jumps from the bottom to the top of the horn were no problem. As well as having a thick tone, the tuning sat quite comfortably, and whatever adjustments I needed to make were easily attained. This mouthpiece would be a perfect choice for any straight ahead jazz player.
The second of the two mouthpieces, is “The High Baffle”. This mouthpiece also had the same thick, even tone of the Traditional II, but with the addition of the high baffle, this mouthpiece has loads of power in it. One feature I personally enjoy, is the fact that this mouthpiece is quite bright in tonal color, while still maintaining a robust, rich tone. As with the Traditional II the altissimo is very easy to reach, and again the response from the High Baffle is fantastic. I was quite blown away by this mouthpiece. In fact, I have I have switched from my metal Vandoren V16 (T77) to play Mr. Okutsu’s High Baffle mouthpiece full time. Even when playing with a nine strong funk band like “The Soul Motivators” this mouthpiece allows me to cut through the band and wail when I need to.
Another feature I enjoy about these two Okutsu mouthpieces is that the outside dimensions are identical, making it easy to switch between the two depending on the playing situation. If I am playing in a small intimate setting, with an acoustic group, I can switch to the Traditional II and not feel uncomfortable for the first several tunes.
Mr. Okutsu is producing every fine saxophone mouthpieces, that any serious player needs to be aware of. I’m sure as his productions continue, the models will vary and encompass even more playing styles, and the needs of even more saxophone players. Personally, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Mr. Okutsu’s products, I would love to someday see a metal Okutsu mouthpiece. Thank you Ken for your fantastic mouthpieces, I’m having a ball playing both of them!
Mr. Dominique J. Morier
Saxophonist & Woodwind Technician