The JP230 is a collaboration between Packers and British trombone manufacturer Michael Rath – hence the ‘R’ insignia on the weight. This is a really well made (Chinese manufactured) trombone, which is solid and expertly finished to a very high standard – the lacquering is exceptional. We were also really impressed with the precision aligned slide that fits like a glove and gives the impression that it will carry on offering a good service for many years. There are also some nice touches: the water-key lug is designed so that it doesn’t bite too hard into the cork and a hard rubber plug has been fitted to the slide guard to prevent unwanted damage. In fact, we thought that the slide was every bit as good as a slide that you might find on one of Rath’s own hand-built British made instruments. The tuning slide is also a good fit and very airtight and the weight is well supported and has a near perfect mass for forward torque balance.
With a seven and a half inch bell, the JP230 comes with what could perhaps best be described as a copy of the Vincent Bach 12C mouthpiece. This would however seem to be a perfect match for the horn, making it a free and easy blower that plays in tune with a round, compact and warm sound. It’s also an instrument that is very consistent across the full range and will blow at several levels, holding the sound together even at extreme volumes.
The semi-rigid black nylon denier covered case is ’bone shaped, has a three-quarter nylon zip, grab handles to both the top and side, hard rubber feet to the bell end and base and a large zippered front pocket. The close cell shaped, plush lined interior has also been well considered, with twin mouthpiece holders kept well away from the bell end of the ’bone (steady on – Ed). Retailing at just over £400, we reckon the JP230 is not only the real deal – but a total steal.
Trombones are currently running at an all-time high in the instrument popularity stakes, so ‘bone mutes – particularly travel mutes, are well up on the accessories wanted list. The DW5582 is the latest in a long line of tried and trusted quality mutes from the Denis Wick stable, but calling this red beauty a Travel mute doesn’t quite cover the whole story, as the DW5582 also functions perfectly as a warm up mute and a practice mute. We used to use a wooden Maslet, but in recent years have moved on to a Best Brass aluminium model (made in Japan). While we were always happy with the Best Brass, slotting in the Denis Wick model was a revelation. OK, it’s slightly heavier than our Best Brass, but it fits the bell perfectly, has a flawless finish and it’s airtight – in fact, it’s a superb bit of engineered design. With a constant sound throughout and consistent resistance across the full range and exceptional dampening properties, this is one accessory that should always be in your travel bag. And it’s the best bit of ’bone kit out there if you don’t want to wake the world – guaranteed.
For more info go to www.deniswick.com
The pBone has been around for a couple of years now, but has only recently found a distributor in the UK. It’s a serious musical instrument and it really is extraordinarily good. OK, it’s never going to compare to your favourite ol’ bone – but it’s not trying to. It comes in five funky colours together with black and white versions, is featherweight, has a standard 500 bore, an eight-inch bell and brass stockings. The mouthpiece, like the horn, is almost weightless; it’s well designed with a good shape and a cup that strikes a good balance between the ‘V’ and ‘Bowl’. The rim is smooth and well defined.
Sonically, the pBone is mellow, with a nice rounded, centred sound that is well balanced. The intonation is fine, apart of course from the fifth overtone – but as we know, that’s a ’bone state of mind, whether you’re playing on a £3,000 hand-built brass horn or something a little less refined. Although the pBone is well able to hold its own, we felt that attaching an instrument clip mic to the bell might offer up some surprising and interesting sonic possibilities.
There was one thing however that did catch our eye. On our sample instrument, the tuning slide was set slightly too far in, which on a cold night could make tuning to 440 concert pitch quite a challenge. Needless to say, there’s no risk of ‘dings’ to the bell when the pBone is on the stand and you’d have to give the bell an almighty bang to crack it.
It comes in a lightweight zippered black nylon denier bag with a zippered side pocket and at just shy of £150, we reckon it’s worth every penny. We’re also reliably informed that pBone players (unlike most ’bone players) don’t suffer from a sore left shoulder!
For more info go to www.vincentbach-ltd.co.uk
UK company Rawbrass has been slowly building up a reputation for unique hand built instruments and the Supreme Flugelhorn is typical of the company’s alternative take on the traditional model. Whereas you would normally find the flugelhorn’s bell placed to the right of the valve set, the Supreme’s bell is placed to the left, allowing it to be detachable and to float free of any stays, so maximising the resonance. This repositioning of the bell has meant that some sort of hand hold has had to be fashioned to the right of the valve set and with typical individualism Rawbrass have incorporated an odd length of lead pipe – quirky or what. But it works. Like other instruments in the range that we have reviewed previously in this column, the Supreme Flugelhorn is solidly built, beautifully finished and with an almost fastidious attention to detail. It’s actually a little more compact than the standard instrument and the fitted, quality Monet valves are about an inch shorter in length – maybe this is to compensate for that extra length of lead pipe. Perhaps also to do with the compact nature of the design of the body, the trigger positon is placed a little higher than normal, which means that you need to take care that your finger doesn’t get pinched in the third valve trigger.
Fitting the supplied mouthpiece, we found the Supreme to be a very easy blower and the floating, rimless bell certainly gives the instrument a brighter sound with more presence, although we felt that the overall quality of sound was more that of a mellow trumpet than the traditional flugel. Fitting our house Taylor mouthpiece with its deeper cup and wider bore however immediately produced a more mellow and (for us) a more satisfying flugel-like sound. That said, the brightness and the projection of the sound really does cut through and may well suit the soloist who’s looking for something more individual. This is clearly a very versatile instrument and we would ideally liked to have had the opportunity of trying alternative bells, but at the time of our test, sadly none were available.
For more go to www.rawbrass.co.uk
Odyssey’s Premiere range provides a ‘step up’ instrument from their basic ‘Debut’ range and is as such aimed at the student/semi-pro market. Like its stablemates, the flugelhorn is a beautifully finished, well built instrument with a rose brass bell and lead pipe. Coming with Monel pistons, it has a relatively large bore, tightly fitting slides and is fitted with an attachment for a music stand. The weight and balance is good and the wide bell opens out quite early and has a shallow bell end which no doubt helps with sound projection and volume, making this an ideal instrument for a big band or marching band scenario.
Fitting the supplied (7C) mouthpiece, we noticed that the hole was considerably smaller than the house mouthpiece (also a 7C), making the upper register easier to play, but conversely making it difficult to achieve any power in the lower register. We switched to our own 7C with its wider hole! This immediately opened up the sound of the instrument, although the Flugel still retained it’s rather ‘trumpet like’ tones. We were surprised that the piston springs are set as strong as they are – there were some tired fingers at the end of this test! However, the third valve works well and the instrument plays fine through the ‘D’ area.
This isn’t your typical mellow Flugelhorn and we reckon it was never designed to be a soloist’s instrument, but rather a team player. Shipped in a semi-rigid, zippered case with a pre-formed, plush lined interior, there is also a zippered front face pocket, shoulder strap and back harness. Excellent value at just a whisker under £330. For more go to www.jhs.co.uk