Photo creditS: Hailey Haar
JodyJazz: Consistently Excellentby Paul Haar
Over the past two decades, JodyJazz mouthpieces have transitioned from the small company with the funny name to a brand that symbolizes quality and tonal refinement of the highest order. I first became acquainted with Jody Espina, founder of JodyJazz, 15 years ago. I had sent emails to a number of leading mouthpiece makers asking if anyone would be willing to donate a mouthpiece for an underprivileged kid who was attending our Saxophone Day at the University of Tennessee. Jody was the only mouthpiece maker to respond. I remember his response, and it was typical Jody Espina: “I would love to send you a mouthpiece! What’s your address?” There was no banter about name credit or logo placement in the program. It was simple: we wanted to help a young musician and Jody wanted to help us. Over the years, I have had the pleasure of reviewing much of the JodyJazz line. Where much has changed with the JodyJazz brand, what hasn’t changed is the continued attention to detail and the level of quality associated with each mouthpiece.
This review will focus on three offerings for the alto saxophonists: The classical HR hard rubber, DVNY and the newest offering, the SUPER Jet.
“Consistency” is the word that best describes a JodyJazz mouthpiece. All three mouthpieces I reviewed were clean, offering no manufacturing marks, imperfections or muddling of plating. Side and tip rails are even, sharp and precise. Each mouthpiece came with a D’Addario “H” ligature and cap.
When I was 16 years old, I listened to David Sanborn’s Straight to the Heart album more than any record I owned. Trying to emulate that characteristic alto sound of Sanborn was my primary goal as a youth. I bought Dukoffs, Beechers, Bergs, you name it. I learned about making baffles with dental putty. Nothing got me close to the power and color of the great alto-master, so trying the SUPERJet was really a pleasure. After about three notes, I couldn’t help but laugh and think, “Man, where was this thing when I was 16?” This mouthpiece is not for the timid and it is not for those looking for something to play in the local swing band. This is not to say that this mouthpiece couldn’t be used in different situations. But for me, this mouthpiece has one purpose: shock and awe.
The DVNY can be used in a variety of musical situations, from classic swing to funk. It has a bit more resistance than the HR, but not in an unappealing way. Personally, I like to have this type of feedback from a mouthpiece. With its svelte design and gorgeous 24k gold plating, this mouthpiece is characterized by having a deep baffle and chamber. The elongated window and unique baffle will strike fear into the hearts of most traditionalists. But fear not not, friends, this mouthpiece comes in peace. There is not much negative I can say about this mouthpiece. For those who lament the unavoidable appearance of a window-shaped warp on the reed, you will really dislike the warp created from this window shape. That being said, it's nothing a knife or a ReedGeek can’t fix.
nspired by popularity of The DaVinci Code and the Golden Mean proportions associated with the great inventor, the DVNY is the less-aggressive sister to the more contemporary DV series. I have a lot of history with this mouthpiece. It used to be my mouthpiece of choice for quite some time. I remember using this very model and size in a big band backing the great Phil Woods. I will never forget Phil looking at the metal mouthpiece on my alto and saying, “Naw, man, you can’t play bebop on a metal mouthpiece. Play that thing, if I don’t like it, you will have to change it.” I played, his eyes opened, and he (simply) said, “Sounds great kid…let's play!” Despite its ultra-modern appearance, this mouthpiece is classic in sound, feel and character. The color, power and flexibility still surprised me and made me wonder why I stopped playing it.
Despite its heavy baffling and small chamber, the SUPERJet is remarkably responsive. It provides immediate power, response and attack. The sound produced is brilliant, yet maintains enough mid and low overtones to make it pleasing to the listener. For those working in rock, funk or pop venues, this mouthpiece is a game changer.
Prices for these mouthpieces range from $550 for the DVNY and $350 for the SUPERJet to a very affordable $189 for the HR. Given the variation of materials and plating used in these mouthpieces, nothing is out of line or unreasonable for the market. Mouthpieces come with a D’Addario “H” ligature, cap and velvet bag.
Success, in any field, depends on two factors: consistency and quality. In this world of hype over substance, it can almost be a detriment to be consistently good. Today, great mouthpieces are made by craftspeople who have an artist-level understanding of playing. We see this in the work of Eric Falcon, Retro Revival, and this is most certainly the case with these offerings from JodyJazz.