Monday, March 10, 2014

Jazz Clarinet Gear Review: Vintage Ligatures

Reviewed today are three vintage ligatures, associated with three jazz clarinet masters: The Leblanc "L" ligature used by Pete Fountain, the Benny Goodman single screw model produced by Selmer in the 1950s, and the original Eddie Daniels model put out by Rovner c. 1999.

L to R: Leblanc "L", Benny Goodman model, Eddie Daniels model

L to R: Leblanc "L", Benny Goodman Model, Eddie Daniels Model

This post is as much a public service announcement as it is a review, for the simple reason that some of these ligatures (especially the Benny Goodman model) are fetching rather high prices on internet auction sites. I've seen the Goodman go for over $100 at least once this past year. 

Now it's none of my business how a fool and his money are parted, and if someone wants to buy a Benny Goodman lig to put on their mantle for display as a piece of rarely used clarinet memorabilia, I say have at it. But if the buyer is a serious player, looking for a functional ligature that gives good reed response and doesn't hinder the sound, my advice is to ignore all vintage ligs, go to your local music shop, and test them until you find what best works for you.

In my experience, for what it's worth (and beyond personal practical value, no one's ligature experience is worth much) the Leblanc model plays well, and can often be found on eBay at a low price. The Eddie Daniels model (now sold, I believe, under the name "Versa") is the one I currently use daily. The Benny Goodman model, very rare and usually highly priced, is undoubtedly the worst ligature in my entire collection. It's telling that I've never seen a picture with Goodman actually playing it. The pressure plate seems to merely deaden the sound.

Maybe some folks would buy a Benny Goodman Selmer model just to see that rarest of combinations: a Selmer CT with a Benny Goodman Signature Mouthpiece and a Benny Goodman Ligature. If that's the case, look no further:

1955 Selmer CT, Circle BG mouthpiece, Benny Goodman Ligature

Look real close, though, because you'll never see me play this set-up on the stand.

Bottom line: if you want the vintage Benny Goodman sound, save the Ben Franklin you were gonna drop on the lig, and spend it on old recordings. The only way to get Benny's sound is to let him do it. Then pick up a lig that works for you, of the many models available today.

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