I studied mouthpiece refacing with Everett Matson. It was a revelation that I could “sculpt” a particular sound and response out of a clarinet or saxophone mouthpiece, and over the years I've developed my own technique. I bring two somewhat unique qualities to the process:
1) Because I’ve played these instruments in so many different situations, I understand the huge variety of needs. What works in a small room may not work in a hall. A mouthpiece that blends must also project. It may need to be heard over a rhythm section or have the point and quick response necessary for a dead pit or studio. For nearly thirty years I’ve been using my own mouthpieces on all my saxophones and clarinets, and have suffered or benefited from my experiments.
2) I listen carefully to my clients play, to their unique “voice.” I then try to craft for them a mouthpiece that best brings that out. In other words, I intend to make the mouthpiece speak the client’s language—not my own.
I’ve been fortunate to help some of the premier players in New York and across the country. It's an honor to help a musician "do their thing." Here's a partial list of my favorite clients, with testimonials and a few links to their sites:
Charles McPherson, legendary jazz alto saxophonist (www.charlesmcpherson.com): "Sound is of the utmost importance to me. I have to be inspired by the sound I’m producing, otherwise it’s a distraction and takes away my concentration for other things. Scott has custom-made a few pieces for me and comes closest to getting everything I want to hear out of a mouthpiece."
Walt Weiskopf, Criss Cross Jazz recording artist and featured tenor sax with Steely Dan (www.waltweiskopf.com): “Scott is a mouthpiece craftsman in the truest sense. He is careful, thorough and creative. He is my "go to guy" for all my mouthpiece issues!”
Ted Nash, Grammy-nominated saxophonist/composer and featured soloist with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (www.tednash.com): “When I dropped my vintage Wolfe Tayne tenor mouthpiece on a concrete floor, making it unplayable, everyone said, ‘bring it to Scott Shachter.’ Scott did such a great job repairing it—he not only fixed it but made it sound better than it did before—I brought him another mouthpiece right away. This became my main mouthpiece for several years.”
Bobby Porcelli, renowned New York jazz and lead alto master: "Of all the people who have worked on my mouthpieces Scott Shachter is the best. He will be the only one from now on. He is also the nicest person."
Bobby Malach, premier New York jazz recording artist and featured soloist with Stevie Wonder and Stanley Clarke: "From his extensive experience as a player Scott fully understands the demands of a modern day doubler. He has brought one of my favorite Links back to life with only a few minor adjustments. I highly recommend him for all of your mouthpiece needs!"
Ken Hitchcock, Broadway woodwind veteran and featured soloist with Gerry Mulligan, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson, Elvin Jones and the Mambo Legends (suehalloran-kenhitchcock.com): "Scott Shachter is a master craftsman. I was heartsick when I dropped and crushed the tip of my impeccable mid 70s Beechler alto piece. Thinking it was beyond repair, I let it sit for 20 years. Scott totally rebuilt the tip, facing and chamber, and has made it my favorite mouthpiece once again!"
Todd Groves, Broadway woodwind veteran, featured New York jazz soloist, (www.toddgrovesmusic.com): "Scott has taken several mouthpieces and resurrected them from the dead for me. He understands the needs of the player and has the technical knowledge to make the mouthpiece get to where you need it to be. I've given him unplayable vintage mouthpieces (Brilhart, Link, and Zimberoff) that had been butchered by someone else, and he made them play as well or better than mouthpieces with really good original facings would! Scott is a great mouthpiece refacer, plus he's easy to work with, wants to know what YOU want the mouthpiece to do, and the work is done in a timely manner."
Dan Willis, Broadway woodwind veteran, jazz saxophonist, composer/orchestrator and recording artist for Daywood Drive Records (www.daywooddrive.com/danwillis.htm): "Scott has brought many dead sounding mouthpieces of mine back to life. He's a great mouthpiece doctor because he is a great musician."
Ralph Olsen, Legendary Broadway woodwind veteran: “Shachter’s excellent work on mouthpieces reflects the artistry he commands as one of New York’s finest woodwind players.”
Les Scott, soloist with the St. Louis Symphony and several major New York orchestras, and legendary Broadway Reed 1: "Scott Shachter has a real gift for turning that mouthpiece that's 'almost good enough' into the one you love."
Dave Riekenberg, Broadway woodwind veteran and New York jazz soloist with Woody Herman, Blood Sweat and Tears, Dave Liebman and Maria Schneider: "I asked Scott to work on two vintage clarinet mouthpieces which were unplayable. Both of them play beautifully now. One of them, my Kaspar, is my everyday mouthpiece. I use it everywhere, from Broadway pits to jazz concerts to recording sessions. It's nice to have a mouthpiece you can trust!"
Keith Kreindler, Broadway doubler and New York freelancer: "Working with Scott is a full collaboration–like a great tailor, he’ll listen to what you need, and work with you to expertly fit the mouthpiece to you. His position in NYC as a top-level doubler in all styles of wind playing will ensure your mouthpiece will be right for you, your horn, and the type of music for which it’s intended. For me, he crafted an incredible, fully bespoke bass clarinet piece. Made for my Broadway work, it’s got a full, warm, rich tone with great response and vibrancy. He carefully and patiently helped me choose the right blank to start from; everyone who tries it loves it. He also worked on my vintage bari piece, making it easier to play and much more appropriate for my horn. And on top of it all, Scott’s an extremely nice and thoughtful guy. I can’t endorse his work enthusiastically enough!"
Mark Vinci, Broadway woodwind veteran and featured jazz soloist (www.markvinci.com): "Scott Shachter's mouthpiece work is flat out amazing! He magically transformed three Bb clarinet Morgans, a Selmer Bass Clarinet piece and a Lelandais alto to great heights. That LeLandais Mason D'Jazz alto is so much fun to play I couldn't stop! A really beautiful sound with great articulation. Wow. He has always shown remarkable sensitivity, knowledge and patience. His work is top shelf."
Eric Weidman, Broadway woodwind veteran: “After dropping my metal tenor mouthpiece on a concrete floor, (tip first!) Scott painstakingly restored it. It plays better now than ever. Scott's skills and work ethic are amazing. We can all rest assured that our valuable mouthpieces are in good hands when Scott is working on them.”
Sal Spicola, Broadway woodwind veteran and featured soloist with Woody Herman: "What? Shachter? I don't know who that is. Leave me alone. Wait, I remember . . . My Kaspar clarinet mouthpiece was dead; it sat in the drawer for 25 years. Scott fixed it eight years ago, and it's been my main piece ever since. From the first day I heard Scott play, I've felt like he raises the level of performance all around him. He is the 'dude.'"
Joe Stelluti, New York woodwind specialist, jazz soloist and educator: "Scott was able to resurrect some of my old alto and tenor pieces and make them respond better than ever. He's a meticulous craftsman and a wonderful musician."
Marc Phaneuf, Broadway woodwind veteran and featured New York jazz soloist: "Because Scott is an experienced player and craftsman, he understands all the musical issues for a mouthpiece: dynamics, timbre, color, stability of pitch, clarity of attack. I'm really pleased with the mouthpieces he's done for me."
Jack Stuckey, veteran New York jazz clarinetist/saxophonist and Reed 2 at Chicago: “Scott brought my clarinet, bass clarinet and soprano sax mouthpieces back to life. They play beautifully and are still my favored mouthpieces on each instrument.”
Ken Dybisz, Broadway woodwind veteran: “Scott did a great job on my tenor mouthpiece. He is a skilled craftsman and he really knows mouthpieces.”
Lee Green, veteran New York jazz saxophonist, featured soloist with Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton and Frank Foster: “I'm so satisfied with Scott's overall approach. His process gets results. I've been a professional multi reed player for the last 40 years working with some of the top singers and band leaders. I've gone through as many mouthpieces and adjustments as anyone in the business. Scott's work is reliable and he's willing to go the extra mile for my satisfaction. Check him out; you'll be glad you did.”
Here are a few more of my celebrated and appreciative New York mouthpiece clients: Jim Perry, Rick Heckman, Dan Block, Mark Fineberg, Vince Giordano, Jim Ognibene, John Campo and Vito Chiavuzzo.
About Gerry Niewood, legendary saxophonist with Chuck Mangione: For years Gerry and I worked together at Radio City and the occasional big band. Before Gerry’s talented son, Adam Niewood, became a mouthpiece maker himself, Gerry, who was a master jazz artist with a sound like an angel—would honor me to work on some of his mouthpieces during our gig at Radio City. In 2007 I customized for him a crystal O’Brien clarinet mouthpiece that he loved. Every other show he’d turn around with a big smile and just wave the top of his clarinet at me. Soon after he passed away in early 2009, I purchased a new clarinet, went through my mouthpiece collection, found a nice O’Brien for it, imagined Gerry in front of me smiling, and shaped it for the new horn. I still think of him whenever I play it.
About Michael Brecker: Michael’s international fame is so great I don’t need to identify him. He spent a few hours at my home one afternoon, perhaps a year before his illness shut him down, about two years before he died. He was exhausted, we both assumed because of jetlag; he’d just returned from Australia. I worked on three of the four tenor mouthpieces he brought to me. I refused to touch his #1, his main Guardala, simply out of respect. Can you imagine how I would’ve felt if I had harmed his best mouthpiece? We did work on the other three—his back-up Guardala, a Francois Louis, and what he called a “Brazilian copy of a metal Link.” He felt good about all three, and the plan was for him to take them home and try them for a while before I did more, at which point, if one of them had become comfortable enough, I would’ve tweaked the #1. But he soon became too fatigued to pursue the mouthpiece quest.
The most touching thing about my afternoon with Michael was the contrast between his flawless virtuosity and his humility. Those of you who know his history are aware of his throat surgery when he was in his twenties. Somehow he’d figured out how to use his airstream without affecting his throat. It was pure efficiency, and his sound was utterly rich, full of core and vibrance and precisely in tune from a low Bb to as high as you could go on the instrument. He sat four feet away from me, playing staggering, Paganini-like licks in all keys without the slightest hitch from low Bb on up for at least three and a half octaves. And yet he treated me as at least his equal. He’d been excited to meet me, living only fifteen minutes away and seeing how well we could work together. I think we would’ve become good friends had he not gotten sick. His presence was all kindness and humility, something to remember in our ego-driven world.