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JodyJazz ESP Mouthpieces

I have to admit that I have an addiction. No, not drugs or alcohol. I have an addiction to saxophone mouthpieces. Be they stock, custom, silver, gold, hard rubber, vintage, new-you name the mouthpiece, I have either owned it or tried it. But I know I’m not alone. If you’re reading this, chances are you have the addiction as well.

Why are so many saxophonists afflicted with this problem? Because we want it all: projection, warmth, ease of play and ease of altissimo. For once it would be nice to find a mouthpiece that could adapt to the variety of styles I have to play.

With my pessimisms fully intact I tackled the new ESP line from JodyJazz mouthpieces. After playing these mouthpieces I think the name is perfect because JodyJazz read my mind as to what I have been looking for in a saxophone mouthpiece.

This mouthpiece design came about almost by accident. In a quest to improve the sound of his Runyon Custom model, JodyJazz owner Jody Espina went to fellow mouthpiece-maker Santy Runyon to further customize his mouthpiece. Next thing you know Espina had the guidance and support of the master mouthpiece-maker to create his own line.

JodyJazz offers a complete line of hard rubber and gold plated metal mouthpieces. The ESP line is the top offering, with mouthpieces for soprano to baritone. Prices range from $299 for the soprano to $330 for the alto and $350 for the tenor. (Prices for the baritone model have not been set yet.)

Each piece is machined from fine bar brass, taking three state-of-the-art CNC machines to create the shape of the mouthpiece. Additional work, including baffle and tip work, sanding, buffing and polishing is all done by hand. The mouthpieces have thin rails and a flawless, thin tip. Depth of sound comes from a long facing. Espina personally tests each mouthpiece before and after the heavy 24K gold-plating process. Once completed, each piece is matched with a Rovner ligature, cap, velvet bag and is custom-fitted with a removable plastic baffle. This feature comes from Espina’s association with Santy Runyon. The device, patented by Runyon, is a removable plastic baffle and metal reed. When inserted into the mouthpiece it makes the sound brighter and more powerful without loss of control and pitch. I preferred the ESP without the baffle, but I could see how it would be useful to those who demand maximum projection and greater brightness.

I had the fortune to play the full line of mouthpieces including: soprano, alto, tenor (both the ESP and a brighter ESP-X) and a prototype baritone mouthpiece. From big band to funk to small jazz settings these mouthpieces were outstanding. They offered a centered sound but were flexible enough to obtain a variety of tone colors.

In a big-band setting the ESP alto performed like a champ. I have never liked the sound of a metal mouthpiece on alto. The sound has always been too bright for me. Not with the ESP. I had projection with excellent pitch control and complexity of sound. I used the tenor and baritone mouthpieces in a funk/rock band. Both allowed me to push the tonal boundaries without fear of distortion. In each ensemble other players took note of my change of tone and complemented me my sound.

The soprano and baritone ESP models were the most fun to play. Using the soprano in big band and small group settings was a treat. I wasn’t surprised that it offered excellent projection in a big band, but was really taken with the warmth and complexity of sound in a small jazz combo. It had beauty and softness when needed, projection and punch when called upon.

Playing the ESP baritone prototype was a real treat. Since I do a lot of baritone playing I was able to put this mouthpiece through the paces. It is hands down by far the best baritone mouthpiece I have ever played!

For that matter, all the mouthpieces were excellent. It was nice to move from soprano to baritone with a sense of ease and familiarity. The tonal performance was everything a player could ask for and for the first time in my playing career I found merit in playing metal on soprano and alto. Additionally, one can look at these mouthpieces and know they are getting a mouthpiece that is not from the production mill but from real craftsmen. If you want to stop the insanity of the mouthpiece addiction, you owe it to yourself to try these mouthpieces out.

Originally Published