While at the 2014 NAMM show, I ran into mouthpiece maker Ted Klum and professional saxophonist Eddie Rich, who were test playing different types of saxophones, reeds, and ligatures. While I was talking to both of them, I noticed that on all of their mouthpieces they were using a ligature that I had not seen before and I personally thought it was an old stock ligature by Selmer or Otto Link. While talking to Eddie and Ted, they told me they were actually playing on a Marc Jean ligature. After hearing great things from Ted and Eddie, I thought I would do my research and see what I could find out on the Marc Jean Ligatures.
While searching on the web, I found a review by Steve Neff, who has written many mouthpiece reviews (in addition to writing various books and videos dedicated to learning jazz on the saxophone). Steve, Eddie, and Ted all had great things to say about these ligatures and I knew I needed to contact Marc Jean and see if he would send me some to try.
Marc Jean was nice enough to send me an un-lacquered ligature for both alto and tenor saxophone. I found out while speaking with Marc Jean that there are 57 different models offered in 4 different finishes, and all of his products are made by hand – which is why it took a few weeks for me to get my hands on one.
Marc told me that his ligatures are handmade in his workshop near Montreal, Quebec, and his ligature is comprised of top quality brass with the screws and nuts coming directly from France. I found the alto and tenor Marc Jean ligatures to be well constructed in terms of adjusting the ligature on both of my mouthpieces. And I was pleased to see that when I applied pressure to both sides, the ligature did not bend. One feature I noticed on this ligature was the two wooden sticks that would lay against the reed. It was also interesting to see how Marc Jean has two strips of cork at the top of the ligature, which means easy adjustment as well as the prevention of scratching while adjusting your mouthpiece.
I understand a lot of guys do not believe the ligature makes that much of an impact or if any at all in regards to the sound. From my experience, I have test played such ligatures as Ishimori, Vandoren, Francois Louis, Roberto’s Winds, Rovner, Rico, and Forestone. Although the ligature will not make a dull reed play amazing, and it, alone won’t make you sound like Michael Brecker, Lenny Pickett, or David Sanborn, I found certain ligatures gave me a bit more edge, focus, warmth, and resonance than I’ve ever gotten from a stock ligature that comes with any mouthpiece.
I definitely found the Marc Jean ligature gave me a more centered tone, the response was quicker, and I found that some reeds responded a bit better possibly due to the wooden sticks the reed was resting on.
The Marc Jean ligature is definitely one of the best ligatures I have play tested thus far. I believe Marc has been listening to players and he really takes his time when constructing each ligature to make sure it offers warmth, edge, and focus in your sound. He also makes sure that his ligature fits your mouthpiece snuggly, is easy to adjust, and will hold up for years.
For more information:
Marc Jean Website
Steve Neff Review