Since moving out to the Bay Area 7 years ago, I’ve had the chance to visit various music stores and repair shops and meet saxophonists selling gear from time to time. Now, when it comes to someone who is not just a great player but has one of the nicest collections of vintage saxophones, mouthpieces, ligatures, cases, and other great gear, Tim Lin has especially stood out.
Since Tim splits his time between The Bay, New York, and Taiwan, I was fortunate enough to sit down with Tim recently to learn more about then new shop that he just opened and why it’s worth the trip. Below is a quick background on the shop before kicking off the conversation.
As per the shop’s website:
“The Bebop Saxophone Shop is the brainchild of my passion and love for saxophone, jazz music, and all the permutations of those things. In my youth, visiting music stores and trying equipment were one of my greatest joys as a kid trying to learn how to play jazz saxophone. My goal with this endeavor is to bring back an old-fashioned approach into my modern shop by keeping this unparalleled experience about the musician. It would be an honor for me to help you find the right equipment – whether it may be a horn, mouthpiece, ligature, reed, or even neck strap – you name it!”
Tim Lin’s saxophone obsession started in sixth grade when his father rented him his first saxophone. After Tim discovered John Coltrane’s recordings in high school, jazz became his passion and life’s calling. Mentored by many world-class jazz saxophonists such as Bob Sheppard, Bob Mintzer, Jerry Bergonzi, and Larry Schneider, Tim developed his talent through their guidance and endless hours of practice.
Throughout his development, Tim found himself constantly tinkering with saxophone equipment to ultimately improve his sound and find optimal response within his setup. He became a player who, after years of trial and error, understood the components of equipment and the production of a unique, balanced, and captivating saxophone sound. With his innate ability to dumpster dive and find rare vintage equipment, Tim soon found himself accumulating one of the largest vintage saxophone and mouthpiece collections in the world. Throughout his professional career, Tim gradually became an equipment consultant for both accomplished and aspiring players, leading to the opening of The Bebop Saxophone Shop in New York City.”
ZS: What was the motivation to opening a saxophone shop and why NYC?
TL: So unfortunately, I lost all my gigs during the pandemic so I ended up moving to Taiwan to visit family and play. This move did result in me losing most of my students so my income went to basically $0 really fast. At the same time, I decided that I’ve always liked equipment and tinkered with my stuff so I started selling saxophones, mouthpieces, ligatures, etc on Instagram and the next thing I know, I have grown to working with over 400 customers worldwide.
Now the reason why I chose NYC is I’ve always wanted to move to New York City to play jazz so I thought if this works out I can open a shop where players could come to get there horns fixed, try equipment, and ultimately hang. The gear I carry is focused almost exclusively on vintage gear such as Link’s, Dukoff’s, Selmer Scroll Shanks, Meyer Bros, and at the moment I have about 100 mouthpieces in my cabinet thus far that players can stop by and play test. Many of these mouthpieces have been refaced/optimized by Tommy Occhuito so you can get a real understanding of his great work.
So far players such as Ravi Coltrane, Antoine Roney, Lawrence Feldman, and Charles Pillow, to name a few, have stopped by to try gear and a lot of students from Julliard, Manhattan School of Music, and The New School have stopped by to try gear.
But what’s unique about my shop is it’s not just a retail spot, but actually at my loft in Brooklyn, so its also a performance venue at night. I’ve built a little repair shop and have the great repairman, Mario Scaramuzza who handles most of the repairs such as overhauls, and then I will handle any tune-ups when needed. At the end of the day, I want my loft to ultimately feel like a hang similar to when you used to stop by my spot in Fremont and we would catch up and try gear.
ZS: How did you come up with the name “Bebop Sax Shop”
TL: I just love bebop saxophone so that is how that came about. It’s catered towards jazz saxophonists and jazz saxophonists play bebop – so “Bebop Sax Shop”.
ZS: How is Bebop Sax Shop different from other saxophone shops in the city such as JL Woodwinds, KB Sax, Roberto’s Winds Inc. etc?
TL: When it comes to the gear I carry, it is really focused on vintage gear. I carry vintage Selmer’s and really clean overhauled Yamaha purple logo saxophones. At this time, I am not interested in carrying various lines of Taiwanese horns because it doesn’t fit my business model. I really tailor my gear to a progressing student or a professional who wants a solid, tuned-up, or overhauled vintage saxophone. In addition, we are looking to offer in-house refacing in the future by one of Tommy’s apprentices.
During the day, its the Bebop Sax Shop, but at night every month we hold concerts which we call The Brooklyn Jazz Loft. I have a drum set, grand piano, and some really nice mics, and we hold three to four concerts every month and it’s a huge hang.
This idea came about because back in the 80’s and 90’s there was this guy in Brooklyn named Terry Dean. Terry Dean was this really great bebop saxophonist but he also knew everything about equipment and he was fixing horns for Joshua Redman, Ravi Coltrane, etc and my approach is similar to that. I am first and foremost still a player, making records, and the shop is a lot of fun for me and helps me stay focused on my music. The Brooklyn Jazz Loft holds about 75 people and in the future we will have the concert listings listed on the website so you can plan to stop on by.
ZS: How did you decide on Brooklyn as the spot to open the shop?
TL: There is really no place to go in Brooklyn to try horns and a lot of the jazz players that we all love live in Brooklyn. My shop is right by the “Smalls” in Brooklyn called Ornithology and my shop is only eight minutes away.
ZS: What services and products are you excited to be offering the saxophone community?
TL: In addition to vintage Selmer’s and Yamaha Purple Logo saxophones, overhauls and repairs, we are going to offer Tommy’s mouthpiece which is called the Occhuito Woodwinds Contrafact. This mouthpiece is a combination of a Otto Link and Dukoff Stubby, so a Dukoff body but with a Otto Link baffle so you get aspects of each one and each piece is completely hand-finished in regards to the inside which takes quite a bit of time but the results are worth it. In terms of tip opening, we are going to offer 6 star through 8 star and each one is going to be played by Tommy and myself for quality control. In addition to saxophones and mouthpieces, I will be carrying Just Joe’s neck straps as an exclusive distributor as well as an assortment of vintage ligatures which include the old T stamped Link ligatures, Winslow ligatures, Selmer 404 ligatures, and the Selmer 2 screw ligatures, etc. Finally, I will be carrying the Marco Magi cases which I believe is one of the nicest Italian leather cases you can buy today.
I would like to thank Tim again for taking the time to meet with me and talk shop. I hope to visit his shop this year to try out gear, get my horn tuned-up, and ultimately hang. I highly recommend you do the same if you are in the NYC area especially if you are looking for really clean vintage gear because Tim simply either has it or is able to find it.