The GS Mark II tenor saxophone mouthpiece is an extremely precise copy of my favorite Freddie Gregory Super Deluxe Mark II tenor mouthpiece.
What is this?
Many players may not know much about Freddie Gregory’s Super Deluxe mouthpieces. That’s not a big surprise, as Freddie did not make that many of them, and the ones he did make are mostly still in the hands of their original owners. The few that have come up for sale over the last 5 years that I’ve seen have been priced way out of the reach of most players– typically $2400-$4000– for a mouthpiece! Which is nuts, but those who know these mouthpieces REALLY seem to be willing to pay to get one. And sadly, since Freddie died nine years ago, no more of these are available.
Freddie is known both for refacing and for making his own mouthpieces. The original Super Deluxe Mark II is not a refaced mouthpiece made by someone else, the way my favorite Reso Chamber tenor mouthpiece (faced by Freddie) is. The Super Deluxe model was entirely designed and made by Freddie.
It was sold in four variations on the same design: Mark I, Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV. They all have a good amount of projection, but the Mark I is darkest and the Mark IV is brightest. We may copy my favorite Mark IV someday as well, but I wanted to start with the Mark II because it’s bright and projecting but not too bright, and it seems to be one of the most popular ones of these. Bob Mintzer played one of these for a long time, and may still from time to time. I know he has a lot of Freddie’s pieces. Jeff Coffin plays an unusual early model by Freddie that isn’t any of the Mark I-IV’s, but which sounds pretty similar to the Mark II that we copied for this project (Jeff was kind enough to make several audio comparison samples of the GS Mark II and his Freddie piece, and they are definitely more similar than different.) Steve Neff has some original Mark II sound clips on his website here.
OK so that should be fairly clear now: The GS Mark II is an extremely precise copy of my favorite Freddie Gregory Super Deluxe Mark II, which is a different design from anything that Otto Link or Berg Larsen or Dukoff made etc. Along with the Mark IV, it’s his most popular design for sure.
How does it play?
Describing the tone is hard, because people probably haven’t played one of these. They’re also not that similar to other common mouthpieces like Meyer, Dukoff, or Berg Larsen. It’s different from any model of Otto Link, and is not a redesigned Link chamber at all. The baffle curves from nearly flat at the tip rail, into the chamber in a smooth curve, and the throat opens out into a medium-large chamber. Chamber volume is similar to a metal Otto Link, so it tunes great on basically any saxophone. The shank is long enough that you can pull out on a Conn 10M or something that wants a large mouthpiece volume, and it works well. The side walls start out nearly straight and are more scooped as it moves into the chamber. The magic in these pieces is in the baffle, and we spent a long time getting that just right.
Tonally, my best attempt at a verbal description would be to say that this has a more projecting tone than a GS Slant or a vintage Otto Link, but it kind of opens out and gets wider and more robust as you push it. Some mouthpieces get more shrill the more air you put into them. The GS Mark II gets more lush and almost ‘operatic’ as you push it. It’s really fun to play. If you want something different from a Link style tenor mouthpiece, and you want a piece that is brighter but not too bright, and that has plenty of power and projection when pushed without getting thin and shrill, that’s what the GS Mark II really does well.
Freddie’s facing curves are usually about .001″ more open than the equivalent Otto Link, so we are reproducing his curves on the GS Mark II. The original that we copied was a 7 measuring .101″ and I also have a 7* and 8 that we used for the .106″ 7* and the .111″ 8 tip. As an interesting side note, most Freddie 8’s are actually stamped 7**, but I think that’s probably because he had them stamped 7* and then would just add another star for an 8. I’ve seen that enough times now to think it’s definitely intentional. They always seem to measure .111-.112″ for me, and we settled on .111″ as it’s closer to what people are used to in an 8.
A word on price: People are *constantly* telling me that I should raise the prices of the GS Mouthpieces. However, they are intended to be a service to the saxophone community, so that as many players as possible can get a great mouthpiece that is entirely faced by hand and that plays as well as a much more expensive original. The GS Mark II tenor mouthpiece would probably sell almost as well at double the price, but we will be keeping the price $199 as long as possible, because that’s the whole point of the project.