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Jody Jazz HR* and DV Mouthpieces

On the heels of his popular ESP line, mouthpiece maker Jody Espina offers two radically different concepts in sax-beak design. The HR* model harkens back to the classic hard rubber mouthpieces of the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s; the other is the DV, a hi-tech, futuristic adventure in mouthpiece design and performance. Both models have one thing in common-they are great-playing mouthpieces.

Most reminiscent of the old Meyer and Otto Link pieces from the ’50s, the HR* is a medium-chamber, hard rubber mouthpiece made for both alto and tenor saxophones. It produces a free-blowing, sweet sound that yields a little extra edge when pushed. Unlike older vintage pieces that can run to many hundreds of dollars, the HR* can be bought for between $107 and $117. I was particularly impressed with the 6M alto and 8* tenor versions. Both these mouthpieces allowed a wide range of tone colors, from West Coast cool to classic Blue Note edge. And both fit well in a modern big band setting with the alto model making an impact as an outstanding lead mouthpiece. In a more contemporary setting both pieces performed well, but producing a brighter, contemporary sound with an HR requires more work and determination from the player.

If you are looking for a powerful contemporary sound, I point you toward the DV. This mouthpiece, currently available only for tenor, is Espina’s offering to those who favor mouthpieces like those by Dukoff and Guardala.

At first glance the DV is a monument to modern mouthpiece manufacturing technology. Gleaming with its gold plating and seemingly flawless construction it wasn’t until I turned the mouthpiece over that I witnessed the most unique window and chamber design I have ever seen. To be honest it looked more like the firing pin of an assault rifle than a saxophone mouthpiece. With a deep, recessed baffle and secondary window (somewhat like the old Deep V Rovners) this mouthpiece scared me before I used it. I could only envision a sound that was harsh and raspy. Much to the contrary, the sound of the DV was strong, powerful and deep.

The DV is probably not for those who strive for a smooth spread of sound. If you want edge you will get it, but you will also gain increased mid and low range, something often lost with high-baffle mouthpieces. I was able to move from a Clarence Clemons sound to a Brecker-like hum to a Texas-tenor roar in a matter of seconds.

Moving from the DV 7 to the DV 7* and DV 8 was very comfortable. I kept the power and flexibility and gained depth as I went to the higher numbers. And these mouthpieces took any reed I threw at them. The DV is a versatile mouthpiece, suitable for use in a variety of settings. Yet it really shines in musical situations that call for a powerful, compact sound.

With the DV model Espina makes some lofty claims such as, “effortless playing, unbelievable altissimo and cleaner articulation.” The claims may be lofty but they are accurate.

So what is the impetus for this creation? Would you believe it’s the Da Vinci Code? Well, more Leonardo Da Vinci’s theory of divine proportions, as explained in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel. Using proportions derived from Da Vinci’s “golden ratio,” Phi (1.618…), Espina came up with the DV’s design. From the tip and rails to the chamber length and the secondary window, every aspect of this mouthpiece is created with a purpose. Even the beak of the mouthpiece, which resembles the nose of a dolphin, is created using the Phi proportion, and it is one of the most comfortable mouthpieces that I have ever played. Da Vinci the musical instrument innovator-go figure.

If you want to learn more about Phi, buy the book. All you need to know is this piece is really fun to play. With a sticker price nearing $500, that fun comes at no small cost. But for those who view music as an art and not a hobby, it is well worth it.

Originally Published