I remember when JodyJazz first came out with his HR* line of mouthpieces for alto and tenor and since then, Jody has expanded his product line to include 9 different models that are offered for soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. In this article, I will be reviewing Jody’s newest addition to the JodyJazz lineup, the JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark mouthpiece.
I had the opportunity to test play the tenor model at the 2020 NAMM show but since then, Jody has added the alto and recently released the soprano model at the 2021 Virtual NAMM show. I would like to share with you a brief product overview as well as my thoughts on the following areas:
- tone and response
- manufacturing quality
- my overall thoughts.
I will also include sound clips to compare the Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark mouthpieces for tenor and alto, but please note that this is not an “apples to apples” comparison, but rather, a comparison of my own current setup, which is a Slant Link. Obviously, my Link and the HR* Custom Dark are quite different in terms of facing, chamber, tip, rails, etc. However, I felt it was instructive to demonstrate the impact that switching to the HR* Custom Dark had on my sound.
My Current Setup
- Saxophones: Lupifaro Platinum Tenor & Lupifaro Platinum Alto
- Reeds: Boston Sax Shop 2.5 (Tenor), Cardinali 2.5 (Alto)
- Necks: Boston Sax Shop Heritage Neck(Tenor), Standard Neck (Alto)
- Ligatures: Boston Sax Shop Superlative Ligature (Tenor), Marc Jean Ligature (Alto)
- Mouthpieces: Slant Link (opened from 6 to 7 by Eric Falcon), Phil Tone “Meyer” (6)
Not to be confused with the JodyJazz HR*, The JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark is made out of a proprietary Chedeville hard rubber formula. In addition to the materials used to create the HR* Custom Dark, this model distinguishes itself with a large round chamber with curved undercut sidewalls. Finally a heavy gold-plated brass ring was added to the shank because after further testing, Jody noticed additional harmonics found in the overall sound. The sound of the HR* Custom Dark can best described as a rich, warm sound with complex harmonics that is very easy to play. Each JodyJazz mouthpiece that comes off the CNC machine, has the baffle, tip rail, and table hand finished by a JodyJazz refacer, and then play-tested by Jody and team for quality control.
Tenor Tip Openings:
- 5* = .085
- 6* = .095
- 7 = .100
- 7* = .105
- 8 = .110
- 8* = .115
- 9* = .125
- 10* = .135
Alto Tip Openings:
- 4 = .066
- 5 = .072
- 6 = .078
- 7 = .083
- 8 = .090
- 9 = .100
Soprano Tip Openings:
- 5 = .050
- 5* = .055
- 6 = .060
- 6* = .065
- 7 = .070
- 7* = .075
- 8 = .080
JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark Tenor (7 & 7* Tip Opening)
To date, I have test-played JodyJazz models, DV NY, DV, CHI, SUPER JET, HR*, and GIANT. Of those mouthpieces, I found the JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark, like its name, to lean towards the darker side of the sound spectrum. The HR* Custom Dark had a nice warm round sound that when pushed, provided much clarity to the sound over other pieces where I notice more of an edge. The HR* Custom Dark played even from top to bottom but I really noticed you could get a big dark sound especially when you played down to low Bb whether you were sub-toning or playing at full volume.
The overall response of the HR* Custom Dark was quite free-blowing, which is something I do not generally find to be the case with other large chamber mouthpieces I have tried in the past. The free-blowing quality of this HR* Custom Dark is great in many cases, but at the same time, if you are looking for a large chamber mouthpiece with a bit more resistance or back-pressure, this would be something you would need to adjust to. The HR* Custom Dark can project when pushed but compared to some of Jody’s other models, the HR* Custom Dark does not cut the same way the DV or DV NY would.
From top to bottom and into the altissimo, the HR* Custom Dark played great with little to no adjustment. I will say I found Jody’s SUPER JET to respond faster and easier when playing into the altissimo, but this makes sense based on the overall design of that piece.
The Chedeville hard rubber & gold plated brass ring really make the HR* Custom Dark stand out as a premium hard rubber mouthpiece amongst Jody’s line-up. The CNC as well as hand finishing looked great with no markings, scratches, or any sort of inconsistencies. The chamber, tip rails, and baffle looked even and when play testing with various reeds, I was able to get a consistent seal each time.
Coming from a Slant Link 7, I tried both the HR* Custom Dark in a 7 as well as 7* tip opening. Both played great with the 7 tip opening playing a bit easier but with the overall free-blowing qualities of this mouthpiece and larger chamber, I actually preferred the 7*. Of Jody’s mouthpieces, the HR* Custom Dark is my personal favorite. Compared to the HR*, I find the HR* Custom Dark has a nice dark sound that can be pushed with much clarity and a little bit of edge depending on your setup and sound concept. I will say when I tried the HR* Custom Dark and was further play-testing, the projection of this piece feels that it lays back more then other mouthpieces I have played in the past, which tend to project more and cut.
My suggestion is if you are in the market for a new mouthpiece and your preference is hard rubber and one that showcases a large chamber, then the JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark will not disappoint. If you are coming from a small to medium chamber (like me) and play the JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark, I think you will be surprised by how easy this large chamber mouthpiece plays, but may notice is does not cut or project as much as your current setup initially and if that is the case, then maybe the JodyJazz HR* might be the better option for you.
JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark (7*)
Slant Link (7)
In comparison to the HR*, JET, & SUPER JET mouthpieces that I have tried on alto in the past, the HR* Custom Dark had a warm dark sound similar to the tenor that was very easy to subtone. In regards to the highs, mediums, and lows, I noticed a strong bottom (especially when playing low C#, C, B, & Bb) while the mediums and highs were not shrill nor bright, which I have experienced on other alto mouthpieces. The overall response, like the tenor, was very free-blowing, but Jody did place a small bump in the baffle with a rollover at the tip, which I think gives the player some additional feedback, especially with the large chamber.
Similar to the HR* Custom Dark Tenor, the alto played in tune overall, from top the bottom, but I personally did have to spend a little bit more time in the higher register to adjust with the larger chamber. However, I think most players will enjoy a darker and clearer sound when playing into the highs, as opposed to a shrill or very bright sound.
Like the HR* Custom dark tenor, both the 5 and 6 tip opening HR* Custom Dark alto mouthpieces were clean with no noticeable imperfections with the CNC as well as hand finishing looked great with no markings, scratches, or any sort of inconsistencies. The chamber, tip rails, and baffle looked even and when play testing with various reeds, was able to get a strong seal each time.
My current alto setup includes a Phil Tone hard rubber mouthpiece that more or less is a copy of a NY Meyer. The JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark alto is a great mouthpiece if you are looking for a large chamber mouthpiece that highlights the darker side of the sound spectrum.
Don’t get me wrong – if you push the HR* Custom Dark, you will notice some brightness and even edge in the sound. But if you’re like me and are coming from a medium chamber alto mouthpiece, or are playing a Meyer, V16, Ted Klum New York, etc, you might feel the HR* Custom Dark alto has less projection, and does not have the same feedback or cut that you are used to when you play these other mouthpieces.
My suggestion; If you have played some larger chamber alto mouthpieces in the past and liked them overall but felt that the mouthpiece either did not project or felt much more resistant, then the JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark alto will be a better fit for the sound and playability you are looking to achieve. Personally, I prefer my Phil Tone over the HR* Custom Dark alto mouthpiece and might prefer Jody’s HR* which is similar to what I am playing on today. I would be interested in seeing if Jody would make a few HR* mouthpieces in the Chedeville rubber material to compare and see if this hard rubber makes an overall difference in the response & tone.
JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark (6)
Phil Tone “Meyer” (6)
JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark Soprano (5, 5* & 6*)
Tone & Response
The JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark soprano mouthpiece, like the alto and tenor, had a warm, dark sound that when pushed, had more clarity than edge to the sound. The HR* Custom Dark soprano was quite free-blowing, especially in the bottom and middle stack. The upper stack was free-blowing as well, but I did feel some resistance which I think more had to do with this being a large chamber, and admittedly, I, personally am most used to playing a small or medium chamber mouthpiece.
I always find some adjustment when switching from tenor to alto, but when switching from tenor to soprano or alto to soprano, it is much more prevalent. The Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark soprano mouthpiece did play well in tune initially with minor adjustment (specifically in the upper register, but likely due to my own challenges in getting that register in tune on the soprano).
I personally think the large chamber combined with this facing curve works quite well because I could play sub-tone to full volume and did not notice my pitch jumping from the lows, to mediums, to highs. With that being said, I will say I did spend some more time in the highs since I don’t play as much soprano as I should, and is an area I needed to focus on some more.
Like the HR* Custom Dark tenor and alto, the HR* Custom Dark soprano mouthpiece was clean with no imperfections with the CNC as well as hand finishing. It also looked great, with no markings, scratches, or any sort of inconsistencies.
Soprano is challenging because, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t know too many players who exclusively play or heavily practice soprano. I believe many players who do play soprano semi-regularly are looking for a soprano mouthpiece that plays easily in tune and requires very little adjustment when swapping between tenor to soprano or alto to soprano for various gigs or charts. I believe players who are interested in trying a large chamber soprano mouthpiece over a medium chamber and are looking for a piece that leans toward the darker side will enjoy the Jody Jazz HR* Custom Dark soprano very much.
My Final Thoughts
I would like to thank the JodyJazz team for sending me the JodyJazz HR* Custom Dark for tenor, alto, and soprano (interested to see if Jody releases a HR* Custom Dark for bari) to test-play and compare to my current setup. Overall, I enjoyed all three mouthpieces but will say my favorite HR* Custom Dark was the 7* for tenor. I really believe those players that enjoy Jody’s line of mouthpieces but are looking for a large chamber mouthpiece that leans toward the darker side of the sound spectrum will really enjoy the HR* Custom Dark model.
Personally, when it comes to the HR* Custom Dark for alto, I prefer the HR* as well as other medium chamber hard rubber pieces that are very similar (copies or modified versions) of a Meyer Bros or NY Meyer as I mentioned previously. When it comes to the soprano, I would say that if you are looking for a large chamber soprano mouthpiece that is vey free-blowing, not resistant, and is easy to control at various volumes, the HR* Custom Dark soprano is one I would highly recommend checking out.
Finally, if I could wave a magic wand, I would be curious to run two tests:
- Playing the HR* Custom Dark without the brass ring to see how much of a difference it makes to the tone and response
- Trying the Giant or HR* in the Chedeville hard rubber material and see how much of a difference the material makes in terms of tone and response with these different facings.
Again, I would thank to thank to JodyJazz team for sending me the HR* Custom Dark line-up to further test-play and review, and for those of you who are currently playing this model, I would greatly appreciate your feedback and thoughts on how this mouthpiece works for you.
HR* Custom Dark on JodyJazz Official Website