Archive for May, 2009

The last time I was back home in NZ was October 2007 – it was a fleeting visit at the passing of my much loved Grandfather and was a pretty depressing time.

This time I’m coming back with Masayo (my lovely wife) and will be spending some quality time in the Bay of Plenty & Auckland catching up with friends and family.

Masayo & I in Kagoshima, Japan

It’s actually going to be the first time I will be back in NZ since Trumpetgear was started also – so I will be looking to meet a lot of people who have been talking to us about trumpets since we started.

At this stage we look to be arranging a little bit of a get together – if this all pans out I will let post details on the website.

Looking forward to getting back and playing with some NZ people also!!

Well today is a special day – I finally hit the button and forked over a substantial amount of money to a trumpet maker I have been watching for a while.

The deal was too good to pass up and it will be an interesting experiment having a custom trumpet made to my exact requirements.

What I was really looking for originally was a Martin Committee vintage – but do you think I could find one that didn’t require at least US$700 worth of repairs to it for under US$2000 – no way!

So, I placed my order for a custom Harrelson Bb Summit instead.

The Harrelson Bb SummitWhat attracted me to this horn was the following:

  • Large Bell 5.5 inches in diameter = nice spead and full sound (check out the Monette horns and you’ll see that a lot use a similar diamter- I’ve tested some Monette’s and loved them)
  • Custom Options – you don’t have to have the rough edges of the sample horn pictured – I’m going to opt for something a little more subtle I think.
  • A one hour consultation with Jason Harrelson himself. Not only is he vastly knowledgeable on trumpet construction – but he’s also a pro trumpet player himself.

Let me just say – I have never tried a Harrelson – like anyone I hope that the results are worth the investment. Judging on the feedback of players that own this instruments I will be in for something special.

I’ll be updating the progress and options etc that I chose.

First step is to schedule the one hour call and talk through the options.

Next update will be once this has happened.

I love Al Cass pieces – these are a great example of single guy that had an idea and just put in the hard work and literally grinded away until he got it right.

Fast forward a number of decades (at least 4) and these pieces have somewhat of a cult following.

For those that have tried them and they worked they will know that these pieces are both are well worth the investment that some of these pieces now command.

The 4x1 Mouthpiece

The 4x1 Mouthpiece

The most desired pieces from this brand would have to be the 1-28 or 1-2 (the last number was left blank as essentially everything in the 1 series was a modified 1-28 – it was just drilled out further to make a 1-24 for example).

This piece is the stock starting piece for most and was played by some famous jazz greats such as Booker Little, Blue Mitchell & Art Farmer to name but a few.

It’s a good starting point for many and once you get used to this you can move into different cups and sizes.

The much coveted 3×5 & 3×6 Screamer mouthpieces.

(If you need a visual reference go to my collection at: http://www.trumpetgear.co.nz/Al_Cass_Trumpet_3x5.html )

The 3×6’s there are around less than 50 of these floating around worldwide as essentially they were made as a custom item.

The 3×5’s are a bit more common – but still fetch very high prices – I’ve seen them selling for US$700+ on more than one occasion. (Now is a great time to pick one up if you can afford it as the recession has seen prices on these drop to around US$300 for a nice used piece)

These pieces are very shallow and require a lot of getting used to – if you are not used to a small diameter or shallow piece then these are not for you. 

Engraving should be crisp and clear

Engraving should be crisp and clear

With any of these pieces if you are considering a purchase make sure that you can check off the following:

  1. Does the piece have the engraving stating Al Cass Milford Mass on the side with the size below it (i.e. 1-28)
  2. Is there any damage to the piece
  3. Is there evidence of it being modified? (A lot have had the throat drilled out – I saw a recent example sell on EBay – the new owner is going to be disappointed with that one I am sure). If in doubt ask the seller/
  4. Has it been re-plated? (not such a big issue but if you are going for future re-sale value it pays to be original) 

So is this all hype or do they actually work?

Well for me they work – and work well!

The rim has a nice cushion feel which to me thinks that your lips get a little further away from the bottom of the cup – this prevents air back pressure and allows the aperture to remain open and free. 

These are very efficient mouthpieces and I haven’t found anything else remotely close to beating them.

If you haven’t tried them I’d recommend you try and get your hands on the now to give them a go (Start with a 1-28 or 1-26 or even a 4×1). 

Good luck searching!

And if you have any spares I’m always looking to buy!

We’ve all seen the ads for cheap trumpets on various online auction sites – NZ has not escaped this phenomenon either.

So the question begs are these any good?

Let me tell you that I personally went through the process of contacting a factory in China and have them build a horn to my request as a test run based on one of their own models. What came back was about 50% of what I originally asked for and the quality was marginal at best.  I had one prototype made and one basic model – the basic model broke and has issues after light use and the prototype was actually ok and plays pretty well – the difference was US$12 is cost between the two. If you think you are doing your child a favour by picking up a cheap trumpet online think again.  These are really manufactured for quantity and not quality.

This one was ok for a casual player

This one was ok for a casual player

“But I don’t have a $1,000 for a nice instrument” I hear you say – then your options are as such:

  1. Rental – yep you can get good intermediate trumpets for not a lot of money. Talking specifically about AKL in NZ KBB used to have Getzen intermediate horns for rental – these were good instruments and are a bargain at around NZ$100 or so to rent for an entire school year
  2. Good Used instruments – on those same online sites keep your eyes open and let your fingers do the walking to research some potential gems. Some examples of excellent horns that can be picked up for under $500 – Old’s Ambassador, Yamaha Student models & Martin Imperials & Conn’s to name but a few.

So please think twice before you buy that shiny new purple horn with the silver caps and go for the horn with character – after all it’s about lasting the distance and good sound. A nice vintage horn will give you both.

Dad & I entering the first store in Tokyo

Dad & I entering the first store in Tokyo

So here we are on a visit to Tokyo.
We’ve already crossed Disneyland (or should I say Disney Sea) off the ‘To Do’ list – plus ate and drank a fair share of the local food and drink offerings – nothing left to do but hit the trumpet stores and see what we could find.
I’ve got to say I always enjoy my visits to Tokyo (Okinawa is a 2.5hr flight away from here and they have 1 or 2 stores only that are both terrible) as the stores have a great selection of new and used instruments to try.
This trip was no exception – in fact if it wasn’t for the NZ peso (At the time of this trip $1NZ = 49 yen) being worth so little I probably would have put down the card and bought a few of these fine trumpets on the spot.
The Test Lineup - What a Choice!!

The Test Lineup - What a Choice!!

The first store provided the nicest selection of trumpets that I had seen in a while.
These guys has brand new Yamaha’s, Bach – you name it.
But what I was really on the hunt for was a nice jazz combo horn – so it was over to trying to find a horn such as the legendary Martin Committee.
The first test came down to 3 choices and here’s the lineup from left to right:
Lawler C7S, Inderbinen Alpha, Martin Committee Medium
Bore.
You’d never see a lineup like this in the same room even if you took the top 3 pros and stood they side by side!!
The Lawler and the Martin were comparitively priced around $4,000 to $5,000 NZD, and I tried the Inberbinen just because I had read so much about them – but it was twice the price at little under $10,000 NZD.
The results I will leave for another time and another post.
The Sight that greets you upon entry to the store

The Sight that greets you upon entry to the store

But just look at this picture and it will give you an idea on how good the selection is in these stores.
(This is not the best place I have been into either).
In each store they also provide a testing room that is sound proofed and allows you to really test the limits of each horn.
The golden rule seems to be that you need to bring your own mouthpieces for testing horns (especially the Yamaha Superstore in Ginza) for some reason you can bring your horn and test mouthpieces, or bring your mouthpieces and test a horn – but not both.
Service in most stores is great once you have the attention of the sales people.
The other great thing about Tokyo is that they have districts for everything. For instance they have this district which was basically just instrument stores down a whole block – so you can bounce around from store to store with ease.
The pick of the day - 1960's Martin Committee Deluxe

The pick of the day - 1960's Martin Committee Deluxe

Just be sure to budget a whole day if you can to check out each district as the options are vast.

And it pays to have a translator if you don’t speak Japanese (as most shops will not have english speaking staff) and a healthy credit card limit as vintage horns may be top notch but they also command a healthy premium.

So what can I expect from a visit?

  1. Great Selection – these stores are dedicated only to brass players
  2. Wide selection of accessories
  3. No English speaking staff in general (That’s a given – you’re a visitor to a foreign country)
  4. Weird rules about testing – just go with it and keep an open mind
  5. To pay a premium for Vintage instrument (1 – they are cool and 2 – most people prefer vintage for Jazz here)
  6. High prices at the Yamaha super store – if you want a Yamaha buy at another store (Yamaha has to sell at recommended retail where the street price is minimum hundreds less!!)

Welcome to our new blog

Posted: May 11, 2009 in The Business

 Behind the scenes will be a new blog looking at the following in New Zealand & Okinawa, Japan

  • Setting up and establishing a business in NZ and Okinawa from scratch
  • The state of the Jazz Scene NZ vs. Japan from a trumpet player’s persepctive
  • New and interesting products
  • Everything else I can think of that’s trumpet related