Guest Equipment Geek Rant: Steve Ferguson's 2005 NAMM Show Report
The 2005 NAMM show was held
in Anaheim, California January 20-23. This is the annual conference of
musical equipment merchants, and most of the large equipment makers show
their wares to the dealers and members of the public lucky enough to score
a pass. This is a huge show, though mostly it's about guitars, drums, and
electronics. There is a small section for the brass enthusiasts, grouped
together mostly in one hall. Here are some items of interest to brass
players and trombonists:
Notable in trombones is the new Martin David Steinmeyer model small bore trombone, similar to the Urbie Green model. No other Holton trombones were on display. The recently re-introduced King 2102PL, or 2B+, is still the favorite among many players who tried them. Conn 88H and 62H trombones will soon be available with rotary valves made by Gary Greenhoe, as the 88HTG and 62HG respectively. Look forward to opening your wallet wide for those models, as they'll cost at least as much as horns from the smaller custom builders. The 62HG will only be available with inline valves, though they may offer several slide options as on the 88H line. The 88H is now available with a Sterling silver bell, a la the King Silversonic. It plays very well, with a fast response despite a heavier feeling bell and sound. It's a beautiful looking horn, and I brought one back with me. No traditional 88H's were shown though one was displayed with the Lindberg valve, and another with the 9H large throat K style bell, originally used on the King 5B.
Also shown was the Conn 62H-CL bass trombone, which feels huge and is ergonomically odd for some players. Bach is offering several vintage reincarnations, including a New York model trumpet, and a lightweight Bach 42 symphony trombone known as the Jay Friedman model, or more simply, the LT42TGLW. It will have a lightweight .020" gold brass bell, Thayer valve, and nickel slide. I don't believe these are new options, but this grouping of parts may be much easier to obtain from Bach.
All the horns I tried at Conn-Selmer played very well, though I was
surprised at how poorly many of the slides worked. Beware that your new
Conn-Selmer trombone may need a tune-up if you buy it sight unseen. I
brought back five trombones from the Conn-Selmer display, and am sending
the slides out to John Sandhagen's repair shop for tuning this
Their Edwards office has a new part for trombone players. It's a new
Thayer valve stop arm that shortens the throw on Thayer equipped
trombones. I believe it's only available for the thumb valve so far. Call
them direct and ask for Cristan. Getzen has hired many of the instrument
makers who lost their jobs at LeBlanc after the Conn-Selmer takeover. Look
for better delivery schedules for Getzen instruments this year.
New from Kanstul is the 1606 Williams-style trombone, featuring a .500" bore nickel slide with curved hand braces, interchangeable lead pipes, and .020" or .025" brass bells with the distinctive Williams-style bell and tuning slide shapes as well as curved braces. These are built to order, and can have several other options. As a custom horn, they'll be pricey at around $2300. The Williams used to be a popular studio horn in the LA scene, and original models are in high demand. This vintage reproduction got high marks from lots of players.
Also new is the 1555 trombone, based on a 1937 HN White 2B bell taper, which includes the .500" bore nickel slide from the 1606, and a nickel neckpipe and tuning crook. It's snappier than a King 2B+, and should sell at a street price just a bit more than the King. This was the favorite of Alan Kaplan and Bob McChesney when they stopped by.
Kanstul showed four slide-tuning bass trombones with numerous options, based on old Elkhart and Minick designs. The slide-tuning makes a much lighter and acoustically elegant conical bell section, with very little weight penalty in the slide due to very thin nickel trim pieces. George Roberts plays the single valve version.
Kastul's symphonic trombone, the New York inspired 1570CR, got a new tuning crook, lighter slide, and interchangeable lead pipes. It's a winner now too. Rumor has it that Kanstul will offer an Elkhart-style symphonic trombone later this year, similar to the 1570, but with a narrower bronze slide and new bell taper. After that will be a totally new model: a slide-tuning .547 tenor trombone. Think of it as the large-bore version of the old Conn Ballroom model.
Kanstul's top trombones with rotary valves feature the oversize CR valve, similar to what you might see on a Shires or Greenhoe trombone, but with lighter construction. This booth was the place to be on Saturday afternoon, as the Bones West Trombone Ensemble descended upon the booth after their concert. George Roberts was around making friends and promoting his new horn, and fine trombone soloist Les Benedict stayed for the afternoon. Les is using a 1606 now. The 750 trombone is still a hit at under $1000, and one local player said, "It plays so well for that little money? That's stupid." We're still trying to translate that remark.
The F-contrabass trombone is not yet finished, but a very impressive
bell was on display to wet appetites. Kanstul offers a huge line of
trumpets, with many vintage reincarnations. The Wayne Bergeron model is
the current favorite. Think of it as like a Bach 72 lightweight with a
custom lead pipe and scratch finish. Be sure to ask for nylon valve guides
for your Kanstul trumpet, as the action is much quieter. Kanstul raises
their prices soon. Jump in now for the best deal. Zig Kanstul is also
reportedly working on two new double French horn designs using his
lightweight CR rotary valves.
Besson tubas are now made of German parts assembled in the UK. Their Eb
and CC models are winners. Besson trumpets and cornets are mostly
Indian-made (read: poor), except for the top-end instruments which are
made by Kanstul in Los Angeles. I lament the lowering of the standards of
such a famous brand. Their top of the line euphonium is pricey but
spectacular. Be sure to check the pitch of the octave Bb's on their less
expensive euph's before buying.
The "Yamalone" C trumpet, or Xeno Symphony model, designed by Bob Malone was finally shown, and is a hit too. Don't miss the new Yamaha student model trumpet. I don't recall the model number, but it has a satin finish and plays beautifully, and might be had for around $500.
Thumbs up on Yamaha trombone slides. They rival Getzen for best slide
action out of the box.
Jin Bao makes some unusual instruments, including an F alto valve
trombone that didn't quite play in tune, and a rotary valve Bb bass
trumpet that played really well until you got down to D in the bass clef,
then it didn't play at all below that. How low does Rite of Spring go?...
With the changes, the Eastman bass trombone case will be a winner. The sleek trumpet case has been enlarged for a roomier fit and more accessory storage. It's not as sleek in the larger size though. The French horn case now fits double horns. It's a perfect fit for the Conn 8D.
Rumor has it that custom trombone builder Steve Shires has been consulting with Eastman, and they are slated to produce a Chinese-made trombone and trumpet. We have heard that these may be a stencil line called the Shires Professional model. Don't worry; Shires Custom models will still come from Boston.
One local dealer said he had received such a stencil horn and thought they were poor, but the maker told me he's still finishing the design, and has not shipped any. In fact, we discussed some F-attachment shapes that he may use. Who knows the truth? I am only the bringer of gossip.
Eastman does offer a Chinese full double French horn, and it's GREAT.
Not horn case, horn. I don't know if it's quite available yet, but one
player suggested that this one was cheaper and better than even a US made
Farkas model. Stay tuned. Eastman has a good French horn player in-house,
so it may be true. Eastman's current trombone designs are not notable.
Calicchio owns the original Williams trombone tooling again, and they are thinking of attempting to produce a trombone, hopefully with better results than the last time. It's on the long list though, as they are hardly able to keep up with demands for their trumpets at the moment.
Working through Calicchio, LA trumpeter Larry Gianni has designed a new
line of trumpet mouthpieces with signature models made for top players
from coast to coast. Kanstul is doing the machining.
Schilke has a NEW line of mouthpieces which fix some of the quirks of
their traditional line. All their old mouthpieces will still be available
alongside the new designs. New trombone mouthpieces will have modern Morse
taper #2 shanks that fit much better in new trombones, and a better size
range larger than 5G. Look for a Bach style numbering system for
consistency. List price for trombone pieces in the new line will be $125.
©2003, Joe Jackson. All rights reserved.