Thursday, July 18, 2013
Testing Tubas, a personal perspective.
First some stories: Vince DeRosa was at the Conn factory when a college girl came in to pick out an 8D. “Mr Derosa! What an honor. Would you pick out my horn for me?” He walked over to a display; picked one up at random and handed it to her. Said she,“You don’t understand. I mean play them and tell me which one I should buy.” Said he “You don’t understand, honey. I picked mine out like this and got used to it. You take this one and get used to it.” Note: I met DeRosa at a convention and asked him if that story were true. He said he had never been to the factory but it did sound like something he would have said. Perhaps it was at a music store. This story may have been exaggerated by the time it reached me but I believe the essence is correct. Rafael Mendez was at the Olds factory testing trumpets and did not like any that were presented to him. An engineer stayed back when they went to lunch. He discovered that Mendez’s old trumpet had leaky valves so he lapped some extra play into a new trumpet. When Mendez came back and played the new one he was upset that they let him test all morning when the good one was in the back. Totally factual or not, the point is that instruments are like shoes. Nothing feels as good as the shoes you’ve been wearing. Bob Giardinelli, when he had his famous music store in NYC had many, many Bach Strad trumpets in stock. Customers would ask how many he had, wanting to try them all to find the magic trumpet. More often than not he would declare his inventory to be three or four, knowing that trumpets could be like perfume at the cosmetic counter. After three, the senses become confused. Of course he couldn’t afford to maintain his low prices and clean his entire inventory after each customer. Asked what he did with the dogs, the lemons, he said sooner or later someone would declare it the best instrument he’d ever played. I went to NYC looking for a CC tuba in 1965. There were two for sale. (My how things have changed. Of course I could drink a case of beer back then but you could only get Schlitz, Schaefer, Bud and Pabst. Now there is a plethora of great micro beers and my capacity has shrunk to two. Life isn’t always fair.) Anyway, Bill Bell’s old Cerveny was for sale for $425. The horn with the rubber band on the water key that he played in the NBC Orchestra. You know, the one pictured with him in a tux. I found it too frail for a college student. The other was a Mahillon about which Walter Sear said “Here’s a horn you can take on the Subway.” Not planning to take a tuba on the subway, I passed. Sear did say something relevant to our topic. “When the chips are down, you turn to the horn you’ve played on most of your life.” He was referring to Harvey Phillips and his old Conn and Arnold Jacobs and his famous York.
Posted by Richard Barth at 5:54 AM