The first notes I played with the Apollo I thought were wonderful. Since then there have been a few ups and downs but, a few months on, I think it?s a great mouthpiece. I?ve been surprised that there are very few reviews of it on the web, so I thought I should write one. Of course mouthpieces are very personal things and what works for me won?t necessarily work for everyone ? but I find it does work for me very well indeed.
Why I bought it: I?ve played tenor sax for ages, albeit not at a particularly high level. In recent years I?ve played in a pub rock & pop covers band. About a year ago rock & pop took a back seat when I started playing in a jazz quartet and I felt my regular mouthpiece, a Jody Jazz DV played on a Keilwerth SX90R tenor, was rather too abrasive for jazz standards. According to Claude Lakey?s advertising, their Apollo mouthpiece has ?a unique smoky sound ... great for playing in a jazz style but is not to be overlooked for rock, funk, or house music? and is a ?go-to piece for any genre?. It sounded just what I wanted.
Setting up: Starting out, my biggest problem was finding a really suitable reed. The Apollo seems fairly tolerant of different brands and strengths but to make it truly sing took a lot of experimentation and I finally settled on a much softer reed than I would have expected. Also it seems a little picky about reed placement so to begin with I was constantly re-adjusting the position of the reed ? something which is not so easy with the Compass ligature.
Now for the sound: I find it pleasantly bright and a little edgy but also warm and thick. One review I read said it was similar to the Jody DV but I disagree; for me the DV is brighter and edgier but rather cold and thin in comparison. The Apollo is maybe slightly harder work than the DV but the Apollo is still ?free blowing? and the top notes come easily though I?ve not tried altissimo. I?m particularly pleased with the consistency of tone from top to bottom which encourages you to play over the whole range of the instrument; I don?t feel constrained to play in a limited ?comfort zone?.
The Apollo may not sound exciting or flashy, like some mouthpieces do, it?s almost the opposite; it sounds solid and dependable ? a bit cosy, like a favourite overcoat. It is pretty flexible though. You can play loud - very loud - or soft, with some edge or mellow. As for being a ?go-to piece for any genre? that may be an exaggeration. It does smoky very well but I?m not convinced that it?s a first choice for rock, but it will certainly do if you are a jazz player who plays a bit of rock and doesn?t want to be swopping mouthpieces.
Ligatures and looks: Unfortunately I?m not pleased with the Compass ligature. (Maybe it is possible to buy the mouthpiece on it?s own.) The Compass ligature works but it is very awkward to use and it?s difficult to whip the reed off if you need to, give it a quick lick and put it back with a few bars to spare. I gave up on it and bought a Rovner Star Series ligature size 1RL, which works very well and costs very little. Be careful if buying a ligature online as the Apollo has a very large external diameter. The Rovner SS-1RL is intended for hard rubber alto mouthpieces. The mouthpiece itself looks very nice, but a little odd with the bulky Compass ligature in place. With the Rovner ligature it looks stunning.
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