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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I deleted and retyped this thread a few times, as I didn't want it to turn into a gear-oriented discussion per se. I've been getting accustomed to this Cannonball Alcazar alto, which I must say is pretty dang bright. In a way it reminds me of a YAS-23 except where the Yamaha is bright with a crystal clarity, the Cannonball has a sort of spread across the mid and upper tones. Perhaps its a little close to the Z in that regard. I actually like it quite a lot, I've been really impressed with this little alto for what it is.

I'm curious to know what other Cannonball players do to sort of darken the sound without deadening it (if that makes sense) for a west coast style sound approach, or let's just say - your everyday all around jazz piece. My current V16 5M is ok, but it is too middle of the road, where its not too bright but lacks a certain roundness or core to the tone. When I was at a shop recently I tried out two Optimums alongside the V16, an AL5 and an AL4. The Optimums were just slightly more focused than the V16, but not enough to justify making a switch. What really surprised me though was how loud and harsh the Optimums could get when pushed. It was like they couldn't always reign in the brightness of the Cannonball. My impression was that those mouthpieces are better suited for a more resistant horn.

I guess what I am wondering it is - on a very bright alto like this Cannonball, is it better to keep going down the line of ever more focused mouthpieces until you eventually establish a core to the tone since its so spread to begin with? Or is it better to go in the opposite direction, with mouthpieces that are much darker than the typical Meyer style, with bigger chambers and scooped-out side walls to balance the inherent brightness?

I've heard it said that its easier to brighten a dark horn that to darken a bright horn. Just curious what approach others have taken, since most modern altos are fairly bright to begin with.
 

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Cannonball Vintage Reborn Tenor Sax with Otto Link STM NY 7
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I have a tenor Vintage Reborn. It has a good solid sound of an older American horn. A link makes is smoky, where the Cannonball HR that came with it sounds more jazzy with a slight buzz. A Vandoren Java Jumbo makes it sound irritatingly bright. (my own words) I guess I am curious about the non-effects of your mouth pieces. Granted, an alto is brighter than a tenor. But I played a vintage Indiana Martin that was very thick with a Selmer soloist C*.It seems a Link type mouth piece could darken the sun. I think the V16 is closer to my Cannonball 5J. Try a Link.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I do happen to have a Phil-Tone Otto Link Tone Edge on the way to me. That will be going in the opposite direction of what I was trying with the Optimums, so we'll see how that goes. Larger round/oval chamber and darker, as opposed to focused. The only thing in the Vandoren line that I think may be more focused than the Optimums is the V5 A20, but that's just going by various threads I was reading here on the forum.

That whole experience was what got me thinking about this dark vs focused question, and what "pairing" is desirable with a very bright alto. I mean, I know some experimentation is always needed, but I wondered if there was a method behind the pairing to seeking a certain level of darkness on top of the brightness.

I guess another way to describe it is - there is a whole subsect of players on vintage tenors who enjoy and obsess over finding the perfect bright mouthpiece to put on top of the dark horn (Dexter Gordan being the model here). Its like they're using the mcp to crank up the EQ on that dark horn to create something magic and special. So I'm curious if any Cannonball alto players have applied that same idea to pairing a certain mouthpiece to go with their very bright alto, and if they went "dark" or "focused" to achieve it...
 

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Focused and bright can be mutually exclusive.

I have a vintage Selmer Larry Teal alto mouthpiece that is very focused sounding but also very warm, not bright at all. Excellent for a west coast approach and very "Desmond." In fact, I've found it to be one of the best Desmond style pieces out there.

A vintage Gregory might be to your liking as well. But, keep in mind they typically have very small tip openings. I have a .075 tip opening MC Gregory Model-A that is definitely more comfortable for those used to a Meyer 5 or 6.

The Link style will definitely be darker but more spread, depending on the design.

IMO on a very bright horn you need to go darker. Simply going more focused will make the brightness more intense. Just my $0.02
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Simply going more focused will make the brightness more intense...
yes, this was what I poorly conveyed in my long-winded post - when we say focused, it could make the sound worse depending on what exactly is being "focused" in the tone. Are we trying to use a mouthpiece to add something complimentary to the tone, or enhance what is already there?

anyway, we'll see how that Tone Edge works, going in the completely opposite direction. I am optimistic because I prefer a spread tone, but there can be a fine line between spread and diffuse. To be honest with you, my ideal sound concept would be an alto version of the tone I get on tenor, using an off-the-shelf Otto Link STM NY 6. But in reading through the forum here, it seems a lot of people have thought the same thing, but were severely disappointed when they bought an STM for their alto, only to discover it didn't crossover from tenor like they hoped. So I decided to spend that money on a refaced Tone Edge instead, so we'll see...
 

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Only a tiny bit of the tone color can be attributed to the instrument - and most of that is from the neck. The rest is the mouthpiece, reed .... and, I hesitate to say this, you.

I play "bright" on all horns, so I tend to stay with mouthpieces that have a roll over baffle, as opposed to those with a wedge or step baffle. If you want dark but still focused on an alto, you need something like a Meyer or a clone of a M.C. Gregory mouthpiece, or maybe a Soloist clone. (A real Gregory or Soloist will be mega-bux...). Maybe the Tone Edge will do it for you. (Phil-Tone will certainly have it faced and set up well.)

I would also experiment with mouthpiece placement and embouchure shape and firmness (no biting though!). I can get a warmer tone just by imagining "O" instead if "E" when playing.
 

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Only a tiny bit of the tone color can be attributed to the instrument - and most of that is from the neck. The rest is the mouthpiece, reed
My one time favorite piece was the stock ESM Jazz #6 from my JK EX90 Alto. I moved on to the Cannonball Raven which played with the low resistance I had been missing, using the fat neck, successfully putting an end to my horn jumping. I took a liking to the stock 5J mpc also. The ESM on what I agree fully is a bright biased CB horn was horrible. I can't even describe how awful it sounded to me (quack!). The ESM had a high ramp baffle and I parted with it almost immediately after that incident. There is a notable difference in play between the necks and to me the standard neck had more resistance and less open feel of play. I eventually settled on an anniversary edition NY Meyer #5 and Jody Jazz HR #7.
I tried a Vandoren V16 #6, but it was a downer to me, just dark and lifeless. It's still new in the box.

I recently acquired a Raven Tenor and once again, there is a clear difference between the two necks in how they sound and feel (vibration generated in the horn like a nice fine rub across freshly washed skin), except on Tenor, using the provided 5J mpc, the standard neck performed much better for me. I'm planning to try a Meyer #5 since it worked well with the Kessler Sonus Tenor I once owned and am thinking about trying the Vandoren Jumbo Java unless it has a ramped as opposed to rollover baffle. Both horns are a very good fit and play great for me. I use Fibracell reeds exclusively.
 
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