Posted 14/Nov 2010 at 22:33
by in Music & Sound / read by 2910 people

Otto Link Florida 1960 Super Tone Master review

Florida model Otto Link was made between the early 1950s and the early 1970s, wedged between the early 'Super Tone Master Double Ring' model and the 'Transitional Early Babbitt Super Tone Master' models, thismouthpiece represents the tail end of an era heavily steeped in jazz as mainstream music. 

Great tenormen such as John Coltrane, Bob Berg, Joe Henderson, Ben Webster, Bennie Golson, Ernie Watts, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Wayne Shorter have played on this piece.

Many players have had a go with this mouthpiece, that is, if they could find one still intact without changes such as refacing or chamber alterations.

The Otto Link company started making mouthpieces in the early 1930s and produced a large number of mouthpieces (about 10 different metal models and 5 in ebonite) until those made in the 1970/80s which resemble even those manufactured today. A large number of mouthpieces were made in New York until production was moved to Pompano Beach in Florida, year 1950 or so. 

Interesting thing is that a 'Florida Otto Link' was never an official model. It was and is just used to denote the period during which the mouthpieces were manufactured in Florida. Yet, a 'Florida Link' has become a bit of a brand name for a certain type of Otto link with brightness, punch, good intonation and projection. They are rare and expensive if you can find one.

This meant that the mouthpieces no longer sported the swanky 'New York'. In fact, all location reference was removed until the Otto Link 1960 model came along where opposite the 'Super Tone Master' 'USA'  was added.

With the move to Florida, tip openings increased from 5 to up to 10, silver under gold was replaced by nickel under gold and the sound became brighter. 

Personal experience

Having played on an 8* link from the 1990s for years, I moved to a New York link, thinking that I would probably stick with that one for a long while. And I did, but the New York link (a Tone Master 5") always seemed hard work and needed much compensation in intonation. 

Anyway, to make a long story short,  I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time last week Friday. Hanging out in my local saxophone dealer for a few Hemke 3,5 reeds, I get talking to this guy who is looking at the new production vintage models by Otto Link. I mention my real vintage New York model in our conversation. Another man in the shop overhears us and pulls a 6 facing Florida link from his pocket, saying 'ahaaa, you mean a vintage like one of these?. 

My jaw drops (these are rare pieces these days, not to mention valuable), and I hold it in my hand. My first real live Florida link. Right here and now, I think. I wasted no time. I asked him if it was for sale and it was. 

I picked up the piece today and have played it most of the afternoon. So far, Florida sounds very sunny and projects great. It's like the notes come straighter out of the saxophone,and it plays with great ease, adding a small growl at the beginning of the note, kind of an automatic burly or robustness from a slightly bigger tip opening and a large, untampered with chamber. Looking into the chamber, it is simply round and empty. No straight walls, no raised floors or lowered ceilings, just an honest piece. 


It gives me the feeling that what I am playing is really me, channeled by a straight forward vintage mouthpiece with one foot in modern engineering and the other in a world of jazz romance just coming out of the 50s, a New York which was still being built, and old fashioned engineering techniques where most of the finishing work was still done by hand and no mouthpiece was exactly the same. 

I am looking forward to the next few months during which I will be testing with different reeds, starting with a brand new trusty Hemke 3,5.

My New York Tone Master is finally getting a well deserved break.

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