Chris Potter is primarily known as a tenor saxophonist, but as he demonstrates on his new CD, Gratitude (Verve), he’s just as comfortable playing alto, soprano, bass clarinet and Chinese wood flute. Here’s his arsenal:
Tenor sax/mouthpiece: Selmer Balanced Action, silver; it’s a pretty old one. I bought it about two years ago. Serial number 34128. The mouthpiece is a really old Otto Link metal that was opened up to like an eighth star. I found it in a mouthpiece shop and I had it worked on there. I actually just recently began using a different old Otto Link; old metal Link.
Bass clarinet: That’s a really, really old Selmer bass clarinet. I understand it’s from the 1920s.
Soprano sax/mouthpiece: The soprano is really new. It’s a Yamaha Custom with black lacquer. The way that they’re making soprano saxophones now-they didn’t have things as together then as they do now. It is hard to make a soprano that you can play anywhere near in tune, but they’re a little close now than they used to be. The mouthpiece is a Selmer Soloist E.
Alto sax/mouthpiece: Mark VI, maybe from the late ’60s or early ’70s. The mouthpiece is a Selmer Soloist.
Reeds: Rico Jazz Select #3 medium file.
JazzTimes: Do you find that older instruments have better tone than newer ones?
There is something great about those old horns, those old mouthpieces. I don’t know what it is; maybe it’s just the metal they were using; maybe it’s the fact that the metal has had a chance to settle over the years. I really haven’t come across new instruments that play like these old instruments.