Upcoming Performances – Closing Out 2016

October 4, 2016

2016 is almost over, but there are a few performances left. It’s been a busy year, including a trip to Fresno to perform in the Mardi Gras festival with the Fog City Stompers, and a visit to beautiful Cline Cellars for their annual Wine and Jazz Festival. But now we’re down to the final three performances of the year.

  • October 15: Devil Mountain Jazz Band, Friends of Jazz, Danville CA
  • December 4: Mission Gold Jazz Band, San Joaquin Dixieland Jazz Society, Stockton, CA
  • December 18: Mission Gold Jazz Band, New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California, El Sobrante, CA
  • The December 4 gig is tentative, as I may have a family commitment. But go hear the band anyway – they’re fun!


    Devil Mountain on October 15

    October 4, 2016

    I’ve been taking a break, more or less, from music as I spend my days playing coach for my offspring’s youth team. However, I received a very complimentary call the other day, requesting me to sub with a band I have long highly admired, the Devil Mountain Jazz Band. This group has long been one of the premier traditional bands in the Bay Area, and they are a fixture on the festival circuit.

    I initially thought I had a conflict but we managed to make things work, and so I shall be playing trombone with Devil Mountain on Saturday, October 15 at the Danville Grange Hall from 1:30 – 4:30 PM. If you’re in the area, don’t miss some good jazz!


    Random Thoughts

    October 4, 2016

    I recently realized that I’ve been silent as I’ve been absorbed by real work for the past year. However, fear not, I have not been abducted by aliens or otherwise disembodied.

    I had promised a fuller assessment of the 1919 Conn cornet purchased a year or two back, and so here it is.

    Tone: The tone is frankly lovely. This horn has a classic, early 20th century sound with a mellow, full resonance. Depending on he mouthpiece, it can easily take on other characteristics, but it’s natural state – especially when used with a period mouthpiece – is one of beauty.

    Valve Action: In any instrument this old, the valve action is a major concern. I do not recommend purchasing any instrument sight unseen unless you know the seller well, either personally or by reputation. However, there are exceptions to this rule, and this instrument is one of them. It would appear that the valves are near-original in their wear, and they move effortlessly. Standard maintenance only has thus far been required to keep them in excellent condition.

    Slides: The slides have been well-maintained and all of them work easily, including the screw that adjusts the fine-tuner.

    Key-change Mechanism: The mechanism that automatically moves the slides and adjusts the key from Bb to A is mostly in good condition, but one screw has rotted out. I will of course have that replaced shortly, but otherwise the mechanism works perfectly. It is in amazingly good shape, considering.

    Case/Accessories: The case is not original – it is a 1960s-era case. However, it is in acceptable condition, though I have purchased a soft case for daily use. However, the original mute did come with the horn and still works well.

    Overall, I’m very pleased. It is a more difficult horn to play than the 1926, but it produces a far superior tone, making the additional effort well worth it. In short, if you encounter one of these instruments in corresponding condition, I highly recommend purchasing it.


    Upcoming Performances

    June 9, 2015

    The past few months have been quiet on the musical front, but I do have some upcoming performances. The main one takes place on July 11, as I will be playing trombone and alto trombone with the Fog City Stompers for the annual Cline Wine & Jazz Festival. We will be performing two sets – the first at 1:10 PM in the Mission venue, and the second at 3:20 PM on the Great Lawn. Both of these venues offer plenty of seating, and lots of space for dancing. Fog City also will be performing on August 9 at the monthly meeting of the Napa Dixieland Society.

    I also will be playing cornet with the Mission Gold Jazz Band at the Union City Veterans’ Home on June 20. This is a private event, but you can catch the band in September at the New Orleans Jazz Society of Northern California and in October at the Napa Dixieland Society.

    You can always catch me with the East Bay Stompers every third Thursday at the Irvington location of Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace in Fremont from 7-9 PM.


    New Toy – 1919 Conn Victor 80A

    February 5, 2015

    I’ve been raving about the characteristics of the early-20th century Conn cornets ever since I got my 1917 New Wonder ‘Vocal’, and I’ve especially been impressed by the big-bore 80A Victors since I purchased my 1926 a few months ago. However, my 1926 did not have the accessories that originally came with these instruments – specifically it is missing the extra tuning slides that change the horn from the modern frequency of A=440 to the older ‘high-pitch’ frequency of A=452. If you are interested in learning more about ‘high-pitch’ versus ‘low-pitch’, you can see the relevant Wikipedia article on concert pitch or consult a reference such as the authoritative New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

    I have been looking for a horn that does have all the original accessories and I recently ran across a near-pristine 1919 example in the very rare burnished gold plate finish with everything – the extra high-pitch tuning slides, the quick-change Bb-A mechanism, the original mute and the original Conn mouthpiece. The horn was being sold on Ebay by Wichita Band Instruments and while it was not cheap, I jumped at the chance to get one of these wonderful horns in such excellent condition (and with all the original accessories as well!) and the horn is now on the way. When I receive it, I will post a full review, but I’m really looking forward to playing this new horn. The 80As are wonderful instruments, but mine does have some wear on the first valve – it is making a clicking sound, which is somewhat worrying, though so far it does not affect the playability of the horn at all. Regardless, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to get one of these horns that is in near-mint condition. If this horn plays up to my expectations, I intend that it will quickly supplant the 1926 as my main instrument for those occasions when I play cornet.

    Below are two pictures of the new horn in its case – note the elaborate engraving on the bell.
    1919 Conn 80A Victor cornet in burnished gold plate
    1919 Conn 80A Victor cornet in burnished gold plate


    Upcoming Performances – February/March 2015

    January 30, 2015

    February and March are looking like fairly busy months for music performances. In addition to my two regular bands, I have also been hired to perform with some other fine musicians. Currently, my schedule looks like the following:

    FEBRUARY

    MARCH

    For a complete schedule and performance details, please check my website – www.reverbnation.com/trnewcomb.


    More Contrabass Tromboning

    December 29, 2014

    I was able to pull out the contrabass trombone this afternoon and spend some time working with it. This is a rare chance, and I took full advantage. The instrument needed some slide grease, but was otherwise in fine fettle from the last time I used it. I pulled it out and after the obligatory long tones to warm up, I attacked the scales, later progressing to some runs and a few impromptu tunes as well.

    Feedback: I am beginning to get a handle on the horn and my tone has definitely improved. I don’t have either a true ‘trombone’ sound or a real ‘tuba’ sound yet, but it’s getting closer, though it is still somewhat ‘honky’.

    I found today that I also can control my attack on the horn far better now, and my range has improved to a solid three octaves. That’s not too bad for this horn – it is unwieldy in the upper register and for me to hit the D above Middle C was an unexpected achievement. However, with that said, there are far too many notes that are not coming out clearly, and the instrument is still quite foggy in its tone. The improvements I’ve seen so far encourage me to think that this is something that time and practice will cure, but it is still a problem. The slide work can only be described as awful.

    The slide itself, though heavy and sluggish, responds acceptably, so the problem is clearly on my end – the horn is not to blame. I simply have to accustom myself to the double-slide and master the differences in technique that this instrument requires. This issue too I believe I can eventually overcome, but the process will be a long one. I would definitely recommend prospective contrabass trombonists to be aware of this obstacle as it is a substantial one.

    I did not do any mouthpiece switching today, but stayed on the one that Wessex provided with the horn. Overall, it did a good job, though once I have a better handle on the horn, I will begin trying different mouthpieces so as to get the sound I’m looking for. I like a dark, rich sound with plenty of bite when necessary. I can get it on the bass trombone, the helicon, and the tuba, so I know it is possible. I just have to figure out how to do it on the contrabass trombone. Right now, I am getting bite in the wrong places, which is why i describe the tone ads ‘honky’, and my control of the tone is not nearly complete.

    Contrabass trombones, as I have stated before, are not easy instruments to play. They demand a very powerful airflow, and they require far more control than do tubas. It is easy to sound bad on a contra unless you know what you are doing. I expect that eventually I will achieve an acceptable sound and attack on this horn, but I do not expect it to occur in the near future. However I am enjoying the journey.