UPDATE: Sadly, it has come to my attention that there are many saxophonists who have apparently purchased products from Lebayle, only to never receive what they paid for, nor did they receive any responses to multiple attempts at communication. So although I will leave this article up on the site for reference, please beware before purchasing anything from this company. If anyone from Lebayle cares to dispute my statement here, please do reach out with proof that all of the affected parties have been compensated in one way or another.
There are more and more professional level mouthpieces coming out on the market today. This makes it more and more difficult (for me, at least) to try every new mouthpiece on the market and see how it works with one’s setup.
A few weeks ago, I was sent a couple of Fred Lebayle’s mouthpieces to try out and review. I have tried some of Lebayle’s mouthpieces before at Roberto’s Woodwinds in New York but have not had the chance to try the various models he offers for soprano, alto, and tenor saxophone.
To gain a better understanding of who Fred Lebayle is, I have included a short bio on him as follows:
“Fred Lebayle (born March 28 1960) worked as a metal tool worker in his father’s company in France. As an enthusiastic saxophone player, he started designing mouthpieces for himself, trying to emulate Charlie Parker’s sound. In 1987 he set up his own mouthpiece business as a one-man venture. Today his work is known and appreciated worldwide by some of the finest musicians such as Chris Potter, Wayne Shorter, Branford Marsalis, Ron Blake, David Liebman, Ravi Coltrane, Marcus Strickland, Greg Osby, Jan Gabarek, Candy Dulfer and many other professionals whom sound is shaped by Lebayle’s work.”
To evaluate the various Lebayle models I received, I will focus on the tone, intonation, and build quality.
Lebayle Jazz soprano (7 tip opening)
I found the Lebayle jazz soprano mouthpiece to be warm and focused. I am mainly a tenor and alto saxophone player, but I noticed that this mouthpiece responded quickly and was not sharp or shrill throughout the horn.
For someone who does not play soprano much, this piece did not take long to get used to, nor was it difficult to play in tune.
This model is similar to the LR II in which it comes in wood, hard rubber, or metal. I found this piece, like the others I tested, to be well constructed as well as hand finished.
This is a great soprano mouthpiece that has a warm centered sound, and most importantly is easy to play in tune and free blowing.
Here is a link to the Lebayle jazz soprano mouthpiece.
http://Lebaylemouthpieces.com/jazzchamber.cfm [link no longer working]
Here is a link with Alex Terrier testing out the jazz model soprano mouthpiece
Lebayle AT chamber alto (7 tip opening)
I have played vintage and modern mouthpieces in hopes of finding a mouthpiece that gives me the edge and projection characteristic of such players as Vincent Herring, Antonio Hart, and Bruce Williams. The Lebayle AT chamber reminds me of the Meyer mouthpieces of yore. I found this mouthpiece to have a punchy, edgier, darker tone in comparison to my standard Meyer mouthpiece, and the AT chamber gave me a bright edgy sound in the upper register which was easy to maintain.
This mouthpiece is easy to keep in tune and while playing through my overtone exercises, I found it incredibly easy to keep in tune.
I know Fred hand finishes his mouthpieces and it can clearly be seen by the tip opening and rails being even and consistent. The AT chamber comes in hard rubber with tip openings from a 6 to a 10.
This is my favorite of the pieces that Fred makes. It embodies many of the characteristics associated with a NY Meyer mouthpiece, but has Fred’s own unique handiwork, which makes it truly one of a kind.
Here is Alex Terrier testing out the AT chamber mouthpiece
Lebayle Jazz Chamber Alto (tip opening 7*)
I found this piece to be very free blowing but to have more of a spread and broader tone compared to the AT Chamber. The Jazz Chamber had a punchier sound in the palm keys compared to the AT chamber.
This mouthpiece was incredibly easy to keep in tune and I found the upper register into the palm keys to play very well in tune.
This model is similar to the LR II in that it comes in wood, hard rubber, or metal. I found this piece like the others I tested to be well constructed as well as hand finished.
If you are looking for a bright sounding straight ahead alto mouthpiece, I would definitely check out the jazz chamber alto mouthpiece.
Fred Lebayle LR II tenor metal mouthpiece (7 tip opening)
The tone of the LR II metal reminded me of an Otto Link, but with more edge and power, especially towards the bottom of the horn. I found the LR II metal mouthpiece to be very free blowing. I did feel that I would rather try a 6* tip opening because when I started playing chromatically towards the palm keys I felt the sound got softer as well as thinner.
In terms of tuning, this mouthpiece was very consistent while playing through my overtone exercises. I am seeing a greater number of mouthpiece makers focus on producing a metal mouthpiece that is easy to keep in tune and not incredibly sharp in the palm keys, and Fred has accomplished this.
I know Fred hand finishes his mouthpieces and his attention to detail is evidenced by the tip opening and rails being even and consistent. The LR II comes in metal, wood, or hard rubber with tip openings from a 6 to a 10.
I found the LR II to be one of the better metal mouthpieces I have played in a long time. I found that even though the 7 tip opening might have not been the right opening for me, I could tell that this is an incredibly well made mouthpiece. Currently Ron Blake, Branford Marsalis, and Marcus Strickland play on the LR II metal mouthpiece.
Below are videos of Branford Marsalis and Marcus Strickland playing the LR II mouthpiece:
http://Lebaylemouthpieces.com/lrlrii.cfm [link no longer working]
Lebayle Jazz Studio tenor mouthpiece(7* tip opening)
I found the Jazz Studio model mouthpiece from Lebayle to be one of the brightest tenor hard rubber mouthpieces I have ever played. When I mean bright, I found that when playing in the palm keys, there was an instant response and the sound was clean and focused. I found this mouthpiece to have a big open sound with a nice edge as well as focus.
This mouthpiece like the other models Lebayle makes was easy to keep in tune as well as play through various overtone exercises.
The Studio model comes in hard rubber, wood, or metal. This mouthpiece has a bullet-like chamber which I have not seen on many modern mouthpieces.
This mouthpiece would be great for any player who has been playing on a metal mouthpiece and is open to switching to hard rubber, or for a player who’s used to playing on hard rubber, but would like to get that bright, metal sound.
I would have to say that Fred Lebayle has gained an impressive following of professional players using his mouthpieces, and now I understand why. Fred truly knows what characteristics players are looking for in a mouthpiece and he offers various models to embody those characteristics.
I enjoyed playing all of Fred’s mouthpieces for soprano, alto, and tenor saxophone, and I would highly recommend them to any player interested in playing on a great hand crafted mouthpiece in a price range that many musicians can afford. Thank you Fred for your great work!
Here is the link to the website with everything you need to know about Fred Lebayle mouthpieces:
http://www.lebaylemouthpieces.com/fr_home.cfm [link no longer working]