Bob Franceschini Plays the Intrepid and Sapphire Soprano
Some may call it kismet, or just good fortune. I was on tour with Mike Stern and dealing with a lot of discomfort from a hernia that had developed, probably from playing very open mouthpieces and hard reeds and playing mostly loud fusion gigs.
I had a date with my surgeon set, but due to prior commitments, it was still a couple of months away. I loved my Early Babbitt Link 9 ( downfrom a Navarro 10) and had just about reached the breaking point were I needed a something smaller. I had tried a bunch of pieces but nothing was working for me. Nothing came close to the sound and feel of that piece. I saw an eBay ad for a very similar Early Babbitt Link 8 in mint condition and noticed that the seller was near the next town we would be playing. I reached out to him hopingto maybe get a chance to try it. Turned out to be Phil Engleman of Phil-Tone Mouthpieces. The Link was just OK, but not up to my standards of tone. He had brought a couple of his Phil-Tone pieces with him. I gave them a try and I was floored. They both outplayed my Link, with the same dynamic range and the same Link push back that I love. I found that they articulated better and actually had a more beautiful tone. I was sold, especially since they were also much easier blowing. I chose between a Sapphire and an Intrepid. I had a hard time choosing but preferred the darker tone of the Intrepid. At that time, by the end of a set, I would be feeling a lot of discomfort and pain. Phil let me try the piece for the show. It was awesome. I was pain free right through the encore. I got through the following weeks pain free as well, and I am still loving the piece.
I just want to thank you in writing Phil for your dedication and skill. You have created a mouthpiece with playability that very few have achieved. Continued success, and may many saxophonist have a chance to play your wares. -Bob Franceschini
We lost “Mouthpiece magician” Jon Van Wie a few years ago. He truly was a craftsman. It’s good to see others carrying on the craft, like Phil is doing, and putting hand finished pieces into our hands at a very reasonable price. – Glen Fairfield
I tried the mouthpieces as soon as I got home. Thanks for a prompt delivery. I thought they both played very well. I liked the resistance and thickness both of them had. A little more thickness than an EB had which is nice. I could push them and they took anything I give. Very even through the altissimo. Excellent craftsmanship! Rails not too thin, large size blank, good rubber, tip not overly thin. Great to see a well made mouthpiece. – Mark Turner
I LOVE the Tribute! Thanks so much for making this! This really does play like the Link I always wished I had. – David Mann
The mouthpiece you made has put it over the top for me. All registers now seem perfectly connected and I feel very comfortable moving up and down the horn. Punchy, yet solid, warm and open; this is exactly what I was hoping for! I’ve really been enjoying playing it.
Thank you for being so accommodating. With your knowledge and craftsmanship. You are producing a truly great product. I wish you the best of luck and success. – Tony Dagradi
My first reaction to the tone and playability of the piece was disbelief. I had to check it to make sure I hadn’t put my Meyer LTD on the horn by mistake. The tip openings are very similar and the two pieces are very similar in playability – they’re both fairly free blowing. When I did put the Meyer on the horn and compared recordings, I was amazed. The Meyer seemed a little dull in comparison; the Phil-Tone was a touch brighter and spoke with more clarity. I then tried my Lamberson Fmaj7 to compare. The Lamberson sound offers the same clarity as the Phil-tone and is a touch brighter and has a bit more complexity and richness to the sound; they’re very similar in sound to my ears.
What I think I’ve learned here is that the Phil-Tone is a cross between the Meyer and Lamberson pieces. It’s easy to blow like the Meyer, but offers a richness of sound of the Lamberson. All-in-all, it’s an excellent piece at an excellent price. -Frank Ballatore, Ridgefield CT
Two days ago I received from Phil a PhilTone alto .080. That’s a mouthpiece! Easy blowing, loud, when needed, fat tone. I wrote Phil to let him know it had arrived and described my subjective experience of the tone as similar to the best meal I have enjoyed when visiting the USA: Prime Rib of Beef “au jus”, Tender, juicy, rich, succulent, tasty. The Phil-Tone is in the top league, together with Meyer New York USA, Morgan, SR L85 and MC Gregory. -Otto Anderson, Denmark
The Mouthpiece responded very evenly in all registers. Anything was very easy to pop out. The control was so good that I could play ferling 4 in tempo even with the two octave jumps, something I’m only able to do usually on a closed tip piece. The piece did not thin out going up high and did not get honky going down low. A really nice sound. Response was instant and similar to my Morgan 6m.
While the piece did have a very even sound, it was also just as easy to manipulate it with bends and scoops. I’ve played many pieces and horns that really set you into one pitch, which is a real down side for me considering I play a lot of Ellington repertoire and I need that flexibility to play in the style of Johnny Hodges. – Jacob Eidelberg, Ohio
I have to say Phil that I’m very impressed with your pieces. I liked the tenor one so much I got one. Now I’m thinking the same for this alto. The first thing I noticed with the alto piece is how much power you can get out of it. I just put it on, slapped a reed on it and Bam it played great. What I liked about the tenor piece I like about this piece. It is brighter than I thought I would like but after playing it all day today while I was teaching I was really digging it. To me it’s a great lead alto type piece. I think this is a great piece and would recommend it highly. -Steve Neff, neffmusic.com
The tone was very flexible. I could hold it back enough to play classical duets with students and later that night ripping blues at a jam session. It cut better in the mix than my Vandoren Java does, and was overall a great all around mpc. A little bight for regular use in classical pieces but for quick forays into the style, just fine. It responded immediately, no need to warm it up to get sound from it. Altissimo was no problem. -Martin Williams, Columbus Ohio
I received my Phil-Tone Equinox Tenor mouthpiece in the mail the other day and immediately fired it up and took it for a spin. I’ve been playing one of Phil’s Eclipse models for the last few weeks, so I was more than a little curious to see how it compared to the Equinox he sent me. For the test, I used a Vandoren ZZ #3 reed, the same strength I use on my Eclipse. I play a Conn 10M, but for the test, I also used a MK VI (151,000), a Selmer Super Sax, and a King Super 20 Silversonic (354,000) all with oversized Brass resos.
On first glance, I noticed that although the finish work was similarly excellent, the Equinox exhibited a slightly higher baffle than the Eclipse. But truthfully, I didn’t look at it closely until I had already played it. What I saw explained what I heard.
Prior to switching to the Phil-Tone Eclipse (.105″), I had been playing, for the last five years, an original facing Brilhart Streamline. Although my Streamline says 6 on the side it measures .104″. I love that piece. I’ve played it longer than any piece I’ve ever owned. I didn’t think anything could get me off it, and I’ve had some good ones in the last five years.
Compared to the Eclipse I’ve been playing, the Equinox is a little brighter, and has (maybe) a little more buzz in all registers. The altissimo pops out easily, and there’s a good feeling of continuity from note to note in all registers and over all interval jumps. The Equinox, like the Eclipse, articulates easily, and when the tempo gets up there, that’s an important quality to have. Both pieces feel and sound consistent at all dynamic levels, but I suspect the Equinox, being a little brighter, might get the nod for cutting through an aggressive (I mean loud) rhythm section.
Although the piece looks good finish-wise, in the final analysis, finish really doesn’t matter. What matters is how it plays and what you hear when you play it. The finish is just a little icing on the cake.
You can spend a lot of money on “Early This,” or “Vintage That,” or “Handmade This,” or “Super That,” but do yourself a favor: Give a Phil-Tone a try. You may be as surprised as I was/am. I don’t know how Phil can make and sell such a high-quality piece for these prices, but he does. I will be checking up on his health frequently.
-Les Arbuckle (Owner of SaxOasis.com)
First of all thanks for getting the new mouthpiece to me so quickly. It arrived yesterday, just as I was heading out to a band practice, so I took it with me to try it out. I didn’t tell any of my bandmates that I was trying a new piece. From the moment I played the first few scales on it, my response was “Wow!” This may be the best piece I have ever played. The core is nice and focused with just the right amount of brightness. The low notes slipped out effortlessly (this is something I have been struggling with recently with my other pieces) and the high range was full and rich. I love the sound I am getting from it – much closer to what I have been aiming for. It only got better the more I played on it. My band members also commented on how much better I sounded. The piece has a bit less volume than my other pieces (probably because it is a bit less open), but as I played mic’ed most of the time when I play out, this is not a problem. I think my mouthpiece search is over. – Mike Zack
I just got the Phil-Tone tenor (Eclipse) model yesterday. I put up a clip and a review on my website. I was very surprised when I slapped on the reed I had been using and it played great. It felt just as comfortable as the HR link I had been using. I tried 4 other Java 3’s with it and every one played well. The piece is at .101 so it is smaller than my normal .110 so that is a big difference to me. The mouthpiece is brighter and more powerful and focused than my links but not overly so. I think this is a great piece for the money. I also have to say that I can get a lot more volume out of this than I can a usual .101. That’s usually my complaint with smaller tip openings is that I blow full force and feel like I get to point where the volume just hits a wall and won’t go further. This piece takes a lot more than I thought it would. Its a great playing mouthpiece, one of my favorites. -Steve Neff neffmusic.com
I received your eclipse mouthpiece a couple of days ago. I would like to say that it is the best hard rubber mouthpiece that I have (and I do have a few). It has a very even and fat warm sound. It is very loud and has the right amount of buzz.
I can play it in a rock and roll band and it has no problem cutting through the electric guitars. It is so versatile that you can play any type of music. You don’t need another mouthpiece as it can cover all basses. – Frank Astri (Sydney, Australia)
Korey Riker, Endorser, with his Phil-Tone playing with John Legend
Paul Perez Instructor, Friend, and Former Player for Tower of Power
I first became aware of Phil through the SOTW website. I kept reading accolade after accolade about his refacing work so when I won the worst Link Tone Edge I’d ever played off ebay, I thought here’s my chance to check this guy out. I contacted Phil, told him my problem and he said send it out. Well, when it came back I honestly though the had switched pieces on me cause it played so good. I thought, this surely can’t be the same piece, I even had to examine the thing i twas so crazy good! Next up was a Diamond Dot Beechler alto piece,this time other than requesting a tip opening I said “do your thang”,what came back had to be one of the top 5 alto pieces I’ve ever played. What I came to realize after playing his work and exchanging just a few emails is that Phil is an “old school craftsman.” There was a time when people took serious pride in their work, were meticulous and truly cared about their customers and what they needed. Phil comes from that “old school tradition” where nuthin’ leaves his bench less than perfect and if you’re not happy “let’s do it again” until it’s right. Very rare these days where “money” seems to be the driving force rather than “quality”, not so with Phil, quality is what you’ll get. He generously asked me to participate in a couple of pass arounds of his latest offerings, all the pieces I tried were nothing short of perfection! As a bonus, along the way he and I have become good friends, he reminds a lot of Mike Brecker that way, Mike had a way of making you feel at ease, like a peer and an old friend, Phil seems to have inherited that gift as well! – Paul Perez
There are mouthpieces that seem to deliver less than you put into them (perhaps this is in part what some folks call resistance) and there are mouthpieces that seem to deliver more: you give it a nudge and it’s ready to roar, you push into it and it’s right there, maybe even a step ahead of you. The latter are the sorts of mouthpieces I prefer, and Phil’s piece is definitely of this sort.
I’ll also say this, and this is high praise from me: if I were told that from now on, I’d “have” to use this piece and no other, I’d be fine with that. -Kelly Bucheger, Buffalo NY Jazztenor.com
It is not particularly bright, not is it dark, a touch brighter than my Links, but not much. The low register notes pop out as crisp and easy as can be and the sound is very full. High register is easy to control, too, and I didn’t have any intonation problems. Also, that piece has a lot of power & projection. I did not notice a high resistance, just the right amount to control the notes without feeling restricted. So overall, my impression is very positive. Phil — thanks for making great mouthpieces affordable again! -Giganova mouthpiecemuseum.com
I’ve played it on three tenors, and I really like it. It has the nicest and easiest (and loudest) subtoned low Bb of any tenor piece I’ve played so far. Intonation is spot on, and the piece projects beautifully. The most obvious comparison to make is with a Doc Tenney slant sig 7*. These pieces, although both are rubber with the same opening, are quite different. The Tenney is darker and mellower. The Phil-Tone is more flexible, going dark when you want it to, bright when you want it to. This is a fine tenor piece for jazz. Good subtones, easy to blow, better projection than any of my other pieces, and jumps between high and low notes easily. – Al Stevens, Florida
A little backstory: I had been playing my Brian Powell-opened Doc Tenney Link for a long time, but recently have been struggling with reeds and pitch as I have decided to develop into more of a tenor soloist as my main focus in jazz playing. The BP Tenney Link was the closest I had come to finding my ideal sound but began to fall short at the level of total control at all dynamics, especially with subtone. I took a gamble and decided to try the Phil-Tone. My initial impression: completely floored. Perhaps a tiny bit edgier and less loud than the BP Tenney, but response and intonation were light years ahead. I tried a few more reeds, and noticed something else: the same reeds feel softer on the Phil-Tone than on the BP, despite the tip opening being identical.
It is truly a fine piece of work: I also believe that the Phil-Tone’s unique characteristics match more perfectly to my Mark VI than any other mouthpiece I’ve yet tried on it. Also, the price is surreal for a modern, top of the line, custom mouthpiece. – Ian OBeirne, Philadelphia. Lead sax player for Jones
Phil, for years I have wanted a good mainstream rubber mouthpiece sound. Have a great university jazz station in the DALLAS area and that sound has been in my ears but not on my horn for awhile, thanks for your great work. -Ron Tharp (saxophone technician), Arlingtion, TX
Phil, the piece arrived yesterday, a lot sooner than I expected. It’s dark and husky and quite free blowing. It is the first piece that can serve as a substitute for my slant. That means in daily practice and playing it’s going to be my number one piece. (It’s even better then my slant in some respects, it blows easier, which is very welcome) best regards, -Trinus de Vries, Amsterdam
I received the Link 7* tenor mouthpiece today. Wow!!! It plays great from the first note! Huge sound… Easy to blow… Lots of color and character… I could go on and on. I will be sure to let some of my tenor playing friends try it in order to spread the word of your great work here in the New York area. My only regret is that I didn’t know of you sooner. I could have saved myself a lot of money that I spent looking for a mouthpiece like this. Thanks again! -Ron Bertolet, NY
All I can say is…wow. I’ve tried alot (and I mean alot) of top end mouthpieces, and this is one of the best, as well as one of the best values. Most of the pieces I’ve tried have cost more, if not double the cost of this refaced Tone Edge. And without question, this Tone Edge is within the top three pieces I’ve tried in the last year, and probably is my favorite (this is not an indication of dislike of the other pieces I’ve owned or currently do own, but more a result of the Link fitting my sound concept, tip opening, and resistance level perfectly).
It has a little bit of resistance, but for me a perfect amount so that it’s very easy to control and not chirpy, yet not stuffy or limiting in any way. Its sound is beyond belief, in that it’s dark and warm, but still focused and not “fuzzy” (I can’t really describe the phenomenon other than to say that a lot of dark pieces I’ve tried are too spread and gritty). It is exactly the sound I’m after. Additionally, I find it to have one of the easiest low ends, while still maintaining a thick sound in the palm keys. Pretty much, this piece has KO’d the almost all the other pieces I’ve tried.
– Joe W. NY, NY
I just want to thank Phil for his excellent mouthpiece refacing skills! He made a custom hard rubber Link for my tenor and this is by far the _best_ HR Link that I’ve played! (I have tried Tenney Links and other refaced Links). Very good communication and ultra-fast service! -Tuomas Heinonen, Europe –
The Phil-Tone custom Link arrived yesterday, so I was able to try it last night on my Buescher 400 TH&C. I have to say that I am very pleased. It is the best playing, modern Tone Edge that I have played! -Robert Merrill, Rhode Island
I was looking for a vintage mouthpiece for my 10m and Ive spent loads of money buying them. Ive had the problem of being too bright and loud. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk to Phil personally. I told him what I wanted and the sound I was looking for. I wanted an Otto link but I didn’t trust them because of their reputation. Well, I talked with Phil and we decided on what was the best setup for me. I was looking at vintage links and the price was insane. I got a Custom Link from Phil at a fraction of the cost. When it arrived I immediately put it on my horn and literally went off. I could not put it down. Everyone that came to my house had to hear it too. I compared it to my other eight mouthpieces and everyone really liked the tone. It is truly the vintage sound I was looking for. Its like this folks, Phil gave me a new horn in just building me a mouthpiece and got it right ON THE FIRST TRY. He knows his stuff. I will recommend him to all my fellow sax players. If your serious about your horn playing contact Mr. Phil. HE WILL HOOK YOU UP. And to you Phil, like I said before YOUR THE BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.J
Dear Phil, I’ve just recieved the Lakey. I have to say You did fantastic work. It’s amazing. This mouthpiece is very balanced. It is not usual because they are very poorly finished. But You made “her” sing. Thank You! As we say in Hungary: Your hands should be gilded! God bless You! -Sandor Zsömi, Hungary
Let me tell you that not only did Phil restore the mouthpiece to its former table response, but he absolutely transformed it into a monster player. I have had mouthpieces in the past with work done by Adam Niewood, Brian Powell, Mojo, and EZ. Philip shines with the rest of them. Reed response is great, balance of register and intonation are consistent, and the mouthpiece has a modicum of edge and resistance that I really enjoy. “Good resistance” as opposed to “bad resistance,” to quote one refacer whose identity escapes me. This is an easy-playing, fat-sounding mouthpiece which doesn’t require extraneous work to make pitch corrections with. A top-notch job all around.
I thought I was taking a gamble at trying out a new refacer, but I couldn’t hesitate as I really needed that scratch repaired for peace of mind and so that my reeds would seal again. Can you also believe that Phil neither owns nor plays baritone and used a bari reed that I sent him to test the mouthpiece on his tenor!! And still did a fine job. Now there’s an open-minded crafstman.
– Ian OBeirne, Philadelphia. Lead sax player for Jones