2014 Schedule: July/August

July 12, 2014

July and August are when I mainly spend time listening to other groups, and jamming at the various local jazz societies. However, I do have a few performances booked so far. Hope to see you at a few of them!

  • July 04, 2014: (PRIVATE EVENT) The Fog City Stompers perform at the Aegis Assisted Living in Fremont California
  • July 12, 2014: The Mission Gold Jazz Band performs at the Jack of All Trades market in Oakland’s Jack London Square from 12-4 PM.
  • July 17, 2014: The East Bay Stompers will play at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace, 41200 Blacow Road, Fremont California. from 7-9 PM.
  • July 20, 2014: The Fog City Stompers are the featured band at the New Orleans Jazz Club of Northern California. 1-5 PM at Champa Restaurant, El Sobrante California.
  • July 26, 2014: (PRIVATE EVENT) The Mission Gold Jazz Band performs for the Masonic Home in Union City, California.
  • August 10, 2014: The Fog City Stompers are the featured band at the Napa Dixieland Society. 1-5PM at the Embassy Suites hotel in Napa California.
  • August 21, 2014: The East Bay Stompers will play at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace, 41200 Blacow Road, Fremont California. from 7-9 PM.

For more details, please visit my website or my Facebook artist page.


More Cornetting…

July 12, 2014

I may have mentioned on this blog that I have a 1917 Conn Wonder ‘Vocal’ cornet that I got from my late friend Max Spikes. However, I have long heard that the most sought-after model was the Conn ‘Victor’ – particularly the 80A variant. Many of the greatest cornetists – including Bix Beiderbecke – played this model. It is this model cornet that Bix is holding on his knee in the most famous picture of him shown below.
Bix Beiderbecke with Conn Victor 80A

In fact, Bix thought so highly of the 80A that he reportedly bought one for Jimmy McPartland, who replaced him in the Wolverines in 1924 when he left to join Jean Goldkette. Jimmy played the 80A that he received from Bix for the rest of his professional career.

I had been casually looking for an 80A, as these horns have such a great reputation, and recently I found one on eBay. The horn looked to be in pretty good shape and I corresponded with the owner, learning that the horn did not have the original case or accessories, but that it played well. Turns out the previous owner is a trumpeter, and he took good care of the horn. After the bidding subsided, I managed to get it fairly inexpensively and it arrived a week later.

Well! These horns deserve every bit of their lofty reputations. At .484, they are definitely large-bore, and for a guy who primarily plays trombone like me, they are much easier to play than the smaller bore models like my Vocal. I have been astonished by how free-blowing the Victor is compared to my Vocal. My particular model is from 1927, meaning that it has the quick-change mechanism to convert from Bb to A intact – Conn removed it from this model in 1939 or so, though they continued making the horn on into the 1950s. Very cool to be able to do that on the fly. The micro-tuner also is in very good shape, so I can tune the horn precisely as I desire.

I have also found that the descriptions of them as being very dependent on mouthpiece for their sound are accurate. These horns really do deserve their reputation as chameleons. When I used the 1917 Conn Wonder mouthpiece or the similar-vintage H.L. Clarke mouthpiece, the sound is the dark, mellow, ‘Conn’ sound of the early 20th century. However, when I put in one of my modern mouthpieces, such as my Bach 7c, I obtain a sound much more similar to what I can get from my 1994 Bach Stradivarius 180-43G trumpet.

As far the as my horn’s physical condition, it is not bad. The silver plate is deeply pitted and no longer shines well in several places, though the gold-wash bell interior is in very good shape. But the valves, the slides, and the compression are stellar. The horn plays quite well, and I am very pleased with it.

The bottom line is that if you play cornet and you have the chance to get one of these horns in good condition, do not hesitate. There are a lot of them out there in various conditions, and the prices are not exorbitant since there are so many. They are highly-esteemed for a reason and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how well they play.

New Mouthpiece – Conn ‘H.L Clarke’

July 12, 2014

I have been experimenting with my early-20th century Conn cornets ( I own a 1917 Conn Vocal and a 1927 Conn Victor 80A), and I found an original ‘H.L. Clarke’ model Conn cornet mouthpiece on eBay. In near-perfect condition! These mouthpieces were designed for Conn by the world-famous cornetist Herbert L. Clarke. Clarke was probably the pre-emininet cornetist of his day. He was the long-time cornet soloist with John Philip Sousa’s band, as well as being a famous teacher, composer, and author of a set of standard cornet/trumpet exercises and lesson books that are still widely used today. In addition, he worked with C.G.Conn, Ltd., one of the oldest and most famous musical instrument manufacturers in the United States, to do instrument design beginning in 1905 and so this mouthpiece is probably right around one hundred years old. I managed to negotiate a fair price with the seller and am now using it as my primary cornet mouthpiece.

I have a few comments on this mouthpiece. First, it has a contoured rim, so that it molds itself to the player’s embouchure. This means that it is not a perfect circle – it is more oval shaped – and the contour means that it is important that the player turns it so that he or she can achieve the correct fit. If the mouthpiece is incorrectly aligned, it will be highly uncomfortable. However, if the player correctly orients it, it is extremely comfortable.

The second aspect that has really emerged is that the mouthpiece is able to generate the classic ‘Conn’ cornet sound, but also improves the instrument’s range for less-than-expert cornetists like myself. I’ve used the mouthpiece on both the Vocal and the Victor, and both instruments have responded well. The Clarke does not seem to have quite the mellow nature of the similar-vintage Conn ‘Wonder’ cornet mouthpiece, but the is probably a result of my lack of familiarity with it. The more I play it, the closer I can get to that ‘Conn’ sound.

In conclusion, let me say that these mouthpieces – especially in the near-mint condition that this one was – are very difficult to find. However, I think that they are definitely worth the price, so my recommendation is that if you can find one in decent condition, buy it!