It’s not often that I write reviews on equipment, but when it came to the Retro Revival New Yorker Alto Saxophone Mouthpiece, I had to write one. In fact, with as much fun as I was having playing this mouthpiece, I had to put the horn down to tell everyone just how great this mouthpiece is. In my humble opinion, they got this one right.
Let me give you a little background on what led me to the Retro Revival:
For years, I alternated between a Babbitt Meyer #6MM as my all-purpose set-up and a Beechler Bellite #7 for fusion, rock and R&B. As much as I would have preferred to play one mouthpiece for everything (except for classical), this was a compromise because I just didn’t feel comfortable playing the Meyer in loud, electronic settings. Still, that didn’t stop me from searching for one all-around mouthpiece, in the Meyer style.
A couple of years ago, I got close when I picked up a CE Winds 5 Spot Legacy, which was their tribute mouthpiece to the vintage New York Meyer Brothers mouthpiece. It worked great in electronic settings, but only on my modern horns (Sax Dakota SDA XR-82, Yamaha YAS-62). Unfortunately, it had serious pitch issues on the vintage horns in my collection. It blew noticeably sharp, especially in the upper register on my Selmer Mark VI, but on my Selmer Balanced Action, the intonation was far worse.
I continued my search at the 2016 Winter NAMM Show. I had done some research on a number of vintage Meyer copies and went to the show with a great deal of anticipation. Unfortunately, when I tried a number of them out at the show, the results were less than favorable. In particular, there were two mouthpieces which had been very highly reviewed (Theo Wanne New York Bros. and Vincent Herring Signature) which disappointingly didn’t even come close to meeting with my expectations.
A few weeks after the show, I invested a good chunk of change on eBay on a vintage Meyer NY-USA which had been refaced by a very reputable mouthpiece refacer from the Midwest. It had potential, but had some issues as well. Unfortunately, the wizard who worked on a number of my mouthpieces, Marc Yacoubian, sadly passed away before I could have him work his magic on it. That one mouthpiece to rule them all became increasingly more mythical, and honestly, I had grown weary of the search.
A couple of months ago, I happened into Rusty Higgins’ Long Beach Woodwinds and saw the Retro Revival in the display case. I asked Rusty about it and he told me about how Bob Sheppard, Joel Peskin, and Eric Falcon had gone about producing this mouthpiece. While I was moderately intrigued, I didn’t have an alto with me, and told Rusty that I would give it a try sometime in the future, and put it on the back burner.
Since I have 2 lead alto gigs coming up this weekend, I decided to drop by Rusty’s shop today and give it a try. Because the CE Winds mouthpiece had pitch issues in pairing with the vintage Selmers in my collection, I brought the Mark VI with me. I immediately noticed that the Retro Revival took the air much better than the Babbitt Meyer I had been playing for years, and that the intonation was very good. But what was even more noticeable was that it had a personality. Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I went back and forth between the Retro Revival, my Babbitt Meyer, the CE Winds, and a Vandoren V16 A6 that was also in the display case. Rusty popped in and asked if the mouthpiece felt as good as it sounded. After 20 minutes of comparisons, I felt comfortable enough to purchase the mouthpiece and bring it home. That’s when it really made a statement:
Long-favored as my horn best suited for sitting lead alto in a big band, the Balanced Action was the big test, and the Retro Revival passed with flying colors. Not only did the mouthpiece absolutely sing on the Balanced Action, but the intonation was spectacular. It proved to be a great pairing. Over the next hour I tried the Retro Revival out on all of my altos (not entirely true as my 1924 Conn New Wonder and 1924 Buescher True Tone are both out on loan at the moment), and it played wonderfully on each of them. In fact, I don’t think I have ever had all my altos out at the same time. I think that’s a testament to how much I enjoyed playing this mouthpiece. Here are the horns I used to test the Retro Revival:
- Selmer Balanced Action (38,xxx)
- Selmer Mark VI (118,xxx)
- Yamaha YAS-62 (1988)
- Sax Dakota SDA-XR 82
- Sax Dakota SDAS-1020
- Vibrato A1S III
While I still need to test it in an electronic setting, the way this piece resonates for me at home tells me that its performance on a loud fusion gig is promising. Thank you Bob, Joel, and Eric for getting this one right! Now I need to clean and put away 6 altos . . .