My home is pretty conveniently located - an hour from Philly, two and a half hours from NYC, and, as I've recently learned, less than two hours from mouthpiece artist/craftsman Ken Barry. I recently met him and had the opportunity to play a number of his mouthpieces. His love is hard rubber mouthpieces (synthetic, actually), and he has really dedicated himself to his craft. His brand is Saxscape and includes a strong line up of 5 or 6 models currently in production. This week I'll examine his Naima model.
The Naima is Ken's most prized model. It's the mouthpiece he plays on the regular basis, and it was easy for me to hear why. This is one of the best sounding hard rubber mouthpieces I've ever played on. Ken's goal, with the Naima, was to recreate the sound of the metal Florida-era Otto Link in a hard rubber (synthetic) mouthpiece, and that drive has brought about a really fantastic mouthpiece.
Full-bodied, colorful and powerful are all descriptors of the Naima's tone. It has a brilliance that give the tone focus and projection, but it also has a beautiful depth of tone that fills it out and colors it. Its sound isn't overly bright or overly dark but is a nice balanced combination of lows, mids and highs. There is enough punch in the tone to provide definition to the sound, but nothing that stands out as "edgy" or draws attention to itself. The Naima's sound really makes an impression (in my mind, at least) with its beautiful proportions of brilliance, depth, definition, and power.
Playing on the mouthpiece, thankfully, is also a great experience. It is easy to play the full range of the horn including altissimo. The response is good and leaves little to be desired. Of special note was the extreme ease of transitioning between a subtone and a full tone, which is a definite testament to Ken's craftsmanship. Most importantly, no matter the dynamic or intensity, playing the mouthpiece feels comfortable.
Hear is a chorus of Confirmation I recorded while play testing:
Ben Plays Saxscape's Naima
Conclusion: The Naima produces a gorgeous balanced and defined sound. Its feels great to play, and for once I have nothing negative to say!