Monday, October 21, 2013

Tim Price Bloggin' For Rico Reeds- Mario Maccaferri, The Bronx factory with Michael Brecker and reed making. History & learning.

Memory, reality....Mario Maccaferri, The Bronx factory with Michael Brecker and reed making. History and learning. - In 1939 Mario Maccaferri started to make reeds.French American Reeds Manufacturing Company it was called. Actually the machines were shipped to NY and he started at that point-in 1940 he invented a plastic reed- see picture. I am glad that I met him. In his last days he was making plastic violins that were almost as good as wood.When I went to his factory, on a weekly basis, as a reed-product tester consultant for Dave Guardala with Dave and crew and Michael Brecker, Mario in his 90s, came to work everyday in a shirt and tie. He sold 9 million plastic ukalalees in the 50s when Arthur Godfrey endorsed them on the air. The ukes came equipped with strings made by a then very small company, D'Addario! In the 30s he was director general of Selmer. Mario Maccaferri was in guitar manufacture in partnership with Selmer. They ran a workshop where the "Selmer - Maccaferri, " guitars were made that were immortalized by Django Reinhardt. During his time at Selmer, he had discovered and learned the technique of making reeds for saxophones and clarinets. Maccaferri oriented himself from then on with the making of reeds, creating his "French-American Reed Manufacturing Company." During WWII, Maccaferri developed a viable plastic reed, the Maccaferri Futurity reed. Endorsed by Benny Goodman and others, his reed making enterprise survived the hazards of wartime shortages and propelled him into a thriving business in plastics.With his plastics business on firm ground, offering clothespins, bathroom tile and a host of other injection-molded products. The guitar he made which I mentioned was also called a SELMER GUITAR.When he left the project ended. Very sad to say, the machines that the reeds are made on, some as massive as a locomotive, which were unreal and amazing,still from the 30's required his maintenance. When he passed, and left the planet- so did the reeds-and the amazing machines. To me- STEREO REED was something as close to a hand select reed as ever. It is HARD...but a unfilled reed. A pre- Rico jazz select if you will. - But think about it...this guy didn't just jump a bandwagon business wise. He paid some " life dues". Born in Cento, Italy, Maccaferri was trained as a classical guitarist and in 1926 became a professor at the Conservatory of Music in Sienna. His concert career continued until he sustained a hand injury in 1932. Within that tragic accident, he had developed a second career designing and manufacturing musical instruments. He was very generous to Michael Brecker and myself...Giving us all kinds of great reeds from decades before both of us were born...I was very lucky. Why? I'll tell you, you know how good Michael sounds on the stage. Well up close right aside of you it is mind blowing. I knew this from 1972 when I first met him. But in the"reed days" with Mario it became even greater. He'd play my SBA Selmer alto I had then...and blow our minds. Between Brecker and Mario, I truly learned a lot. Mario used to make these lunches for us, with homemade soup...and cheese. Mike and I would be trying reeds and getting silly. Artie Shaw and Goodman " in the day" used Mario's reeds. Shaw told me before he used the plastic Brillhardt reed-he used Mario's. I tried to center in on what Shaw used strength wise and he sais- ANYTHING HARD. Typical Artie Shaw. - One day Michael Brecker & I were getting silly, and soaking reeds in water and I spilled the glass of water on Mario. He said- " It looks like I pissed myself ( he was laughing too- having a good time)... THEN...His lawyer called....and Mario told the lawyer.."I'll kill you"....and the horse carrying you to your gave will smile. HA!!!!! Brecker & I went funny!!! That was the subject of many, many laughs between us. The same day- we couldn't stop laughing...Mike backed his Honda into a parking meter, as he was giving me a ride into the bus station in midtown from the Bronx. I picked up the tail light that broke and said to him..." I'LL KILL YOU"...totally lost in hysteria. Mike was real- loved to hang. HERE IS A FACT...Michael played a RUBBER OTTO LINK MOUTHPIECE... on Mockingbird- The Carley Simon hit. I thought it was the metal 4 star he had that Dave Liebman used with Elvin. When he told me that I was more than surprised. Sounds like metal to me. But . . . There is a lesson. CHOPS...101.PAGE 1- he will sound vibrant on anything. Same piece as on the "DREAMS" records. No baffle, no funny stuff- boom. LaVoz reed. - Mario laid all kinds of bassoon cane and oboe cane on gifts which was stellar vintage cane.A warm hearted man. Plus, those crazy nylon clarinet mouthpieces he made. I miss guys like Mario & Michael- that_REAL_ in the business of music. Know how backed up by decades of trial and error. - Like I told one of my Skype students David Luscher when he asked me about Sonny Stitt and so on, I'm glad these things I learned came from the SOURCE, not a book. Mario passed in April 16, 1993- and yes I did attend his services. It shows things can be done and made in the USA takes work and skill. Check it- Carly Simon - Mockingbird (Remastered)( RUBBER OTTO LINK MOUTHPIECE/LaVoz reeds ) - I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to know these great people, in the grand scheme of life they all have helped me become a better musician and a better person. - TIM PRICE


  1. Hello Tim,

    Great article. A few clarifications. The reeds are still being produced today using the diamond shaving machines Mario invested. Also, Benny Goodman used the Miracle plastic reed(pictured). The Miracle reeds were molded separately for each strength(thickness). The Futurity plastic reed was a less expensive offering that was clipped to the desired strength.

  2. Thanks for sharing your valuable information.I found it very useful.Keep posting amazing content like this.Plastic Scoop Manufacturers

  3. I have recently bought a plastic Maccaferri "Miracle" reed as well as a sealed box of STEREOREEDS in the 3 strength. Glad to own these little pieces of history!