An Intriguing Chromatic harmonica from Hohner…
The basics: The Hohner CX 12 Jazz chromatic harmonica is a 12 hole, brass reed harmonica providing notes from C4 to D7, sporting a plastic mouthpiece/cover combo, and easy disassembly and assembly.
The Hohner CX-12 jazz harmonica was recommended to me by the world-famous harmonica great Tollak Ollestad, a superb American musician living and playing music in Holland.
He endorses the CX-12 Jazz for Hohner, and it’s his picture which comes up on their website…he’s one of Hohner’s Masters Of The Harmonica…a pretty exclusive club. I’ll also mention he’s one of my favorite persons…he’s a great guy and a superb player…in touch with so many of the healthiest values in music!
He said in a SKYPE call recently that he played stock CX-12 Jazz models right out of the box…this is highly unusual…almost all the world class players play extensively customized instruments.
I agree with Tollak…THIS IS A CREDIBLE INSTRUMENT right out of the box, with no customization needed to bring it up to tick, which incorporates many advanced design concepts which improve both the way it feels to play the instrument, and the sound produced…which are TWO KEY attributes to any musical instrument.
Let’s get started!
COVERS: The most noticeable thing about the Hohner CX-12 Jazz is the one piece plastic cover which functions as both a mouthpiece and cover set. This is very unusual…most all other harmonicas have two metal covers which bolt through the comb to hold them on. Note that this instrument is available both in the rounder mouthpiece CX-12 model, and the CX-12 Jazz. (By the way, there is a 3rd model too…the CX-12 Gold, which has thicker 1.2mm reed plates, but I’m not discussing that one here.)
I prefer the CX-12 Jazz model cover due to its narrower shape where it touches the lips, and cool two-tone gold to reddish brown color, which really is striking. I’m also partial to the polymer mouthpiece as it’s never cold to my lips, and is very comfy to play.
Now this cover thing is a big plus for the CX-12 Jazz model.
HISTORY: Some years ago, the manufacturers started creating avante-garde, “modern” looking chromatic harmonica covers which have three not so great characteristics…first, they lie very close to the reed plates so choke the sound, they have a minimal lip at the back of the cover so they can slip out of your hand when you sweat (which you do on stage) and actually close in at a 90 degree angle at the back. In other words, instead of fanning out as a saxophone does, the cover bends back on itself at 90 degrees. Now it’s true that the cover only extends down about 1/8th of an inch…but when you combine that with the closeness of the covers to the reed plates and the lack of a flared shape to the covers overall…you have an acoustic error of noticeable proportions; or what is called acoustic nonsense.
If you look at a trumpet, you’ll see that the bell, or the end of the trumpet the sound comes out of, is FLARED…it opens out, and this allows the sound to project efficiently which means more volume, and more clarity to the tonal harmonica footprint on the note, or timbre. This is pretty much the same effect you get when you open the top of grand piano…the sound increases in volume considerably, and the harmonies are brighter and clearer.
To my ear, the best cover design in the history of the chromatic harmonica is the Hohner 280C set, and I often replace the stock covers on the Japanese instruments I buy (Suzukis) with the Hohner covers. The reason I use the 280C covers is that they have a perfect flare shape at back, and create excellent volume and timbre.
The beautiful thing about the Hohner CX-12 Jazz model is that the cover shape is one of the best in existence…very open at the back with an oversized lip, which means more volume, more clarity on the note, and wonderful variation of tone/timbre using hand vibrato.
The sound is wonderful, and perhaps a tad darker than a metal covered harmonica, but the timbre is so malleable due to the cover design that it seems just right.
Downsides: a bit leaky, and the slide is noisy…find customizations to improve both on the Facebook Group:
ON THE INSIDE:
The guts of the instrument are standard enough: polymer comb which makes cleaning the comb and reeds easy, standard-size 1.05 mm solid brass reed plates with brass reeds and good breath savers.
I suppose one could make the argument that they should have used the thicker 1.2 mm reed plates from the CX-12 Gold (also used on the Toots Hard Bopper model) but I like the tone as is, and perhaps the thinner 1.05 reed plates were a better choice considering with the polymer cover/mouthpiece, and serve to keep the timbre on the bright side.
In any event, the instrument has great projection, a beautiful tone, and those brass reeds do provide a singular sweetness I find very compelling.
The slide button on the CX-12 is quiet and efficient, and feels comfortable to the hand…which is not true on some other instruments.
Disassembly is fast and easy…pull out the slide, and pop out the tension bar at the back, and out comes the comb. Assembly is just the reverse. Much easier and faster than all others, although frankly, you won’t be taking it apart much.
LINK TO THE HOHNER CX 12 JAZZ HARP ON HOHNER WEBSITE