March 2008

Yamaha Allen Vizzutti Artist Model Trumpet

I don’t play like Allen Vizzutti. Chances are you don’t either. With the recent introduction of the new Yamaha YTR-9335VS Allen Vizzutti Signature Artist Model trumpet, the rest of us mere mortals can play Allen’s trumpet, if not play trumpet like Allen. It won’t transform you into an instant virtuoso, but fortunately you don’t need to be a virtuoso to benefit from this fine horn.

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Yamaha YTR-9335VS Allen Vizzutti Artist Model Trumpet

This instrument is the latest addition to Yamaha’s upscale Artist Model series, sharing some genetic material with others in the line. Developed by Yamaha’s in-house trumpet expert Bob Malone and Vizzutti, it is an attempt to give the player the best of both worlds, a sound and feel in the middle register that will please the classical (or jazz) player, but with an upper register that doesn’t get too “tight.” I have wondered for years if this was possible, and Malone and Vizzutti have succeeded in creating a versatile horn without compromising craftsmanship.

The obvious target here is a well-known American brand most of us have played somewhere along the way, a reasonable choice as it is found everywhere from symphony orchestras to rock-band horn sections, tight upper register and all. There are some obvious similarities, cosmetically as well, in playing characteristics. A medium-large .459-inch bore, 4.8-inch yellow brass bell is pretty standard-issue, but the whole package is on the heavier end of the scale for a standard trumpet. The Monel valves worked well for a brand new horn, exhibiting none of the temperamental sticking I’ve encountered on some new Yamahas in the past. Overall it is very similar to Yamaha’s New York model, with first-class construction that incorporates the “variable-thickness” bell found on all of Yamaha’s recent Artist Models, as well as some minor detail changes, such as brace placement, and a solid third-valve slide stop.

While such minor design considerations will make some roll their eyes, optimizing the placement of braces can noticeably affect the playing characteristics of a trumpet. More visually obvious are the gray pearl valve caps, looking like the semi-precious stone caps that have been available for some time. While I have always been a member of the “you don’t play the shine” school of thought, they look nice in an understated way and will appeal to looks-savvy players.

While descriptions and specifications are all well and good, the only thing that really matters is how a trumpet actually plays, and the Vizzutti model does not disappoint. The first priority in choosing a trumpet should be sound. Most of us got the speech early in trumpet lessons that sound is the most important thing, but some forget or ignore this good advice in favor of ever-higher notes or other concerns. The tone is unusually rich, containing more overtones than usual, yet it has a lively feel absent in many heavyweight horns. I assume this is a result of the heavier weight and the variable-thickness bell. It puts out a surprising amount of sound for a given effort, yet is easy to play quietly. This combination gives a range of possible timbres, allowing for some versatility—a plus for most of us.

While everyone’s concept of sound is about as personal and subjective as it gets, classical players as well as jazz soloists should find a lot to like about the warm, silky sound that has the ability to brighten up when needed. It leans toward the darker end of the spectrum, and probably won’t appeal to those who want to be able to “peel paint” with their sound. I think it would be a great all-around sound for anyone not looking for the brightest or darkest sound possible, and you should find that it “plays well with others” in the section.

I was impressed with the intonation, and felt comfortable very quickly, the scale feeling as even as anything I have played. Even certain notes that tend to be out on some other horns (at least for me) did not present a problem. Seemingly, the days of favoring some notes might be coming to an end.

Blowing resistance is a very personal thing, and it’s hard to have the right feel for everything. That goes back to one of the stated goals of this design. I found the resistance perfect for good articulation and control, especially at lower dynamic levels. Above the staff, however, the resistance started to work against me, and I was less comfortable.

Yamaha has not reinvented the wheel here, but Malone and Vizzutti have come up with another great option for the professional or serious student/amateur trumpet player. This Artist Model commands a premium price ($4,500 list), but it is a premium trumpet, and well worth it if its abilities match up with yours.

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