Conn Vintage One Trumpet

Though the great ones made it look easy, the general consensus among trumpet players is that it’s a difficult instrument to play. That said, it seems as though we are justified in finding every little edge possible to make life a little easier on us, trumpet-wise. In recent years, that meant trying mouthpiece donuts, heavier valve caps, AcoustiCoils (whatever they are), rounded tuning slides or whatever other little thing that might just make the horn a little more efficient to play. Sometimes I think we’d all be better off if we forgot about all these minute adjustments and just practiced more-a lot more.

So, you already practice eight hours a day and you still want to exploit every little advantage possible in your trumpet equipment?

Well, then I suggest you check out the new Conn Vintage One horn.

Vintage One designer Fred Powell is a man who knows our pain and is in tune with our psychoses. He has designed a horn that utilizes, as he describes, the best qualities of all the previous Conn trumpets, including the 8B, a favorite of Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan, and of course, the legendary Connstellation (38B). After designing the horn, he road-tested the prototype by having professionals from all fields try out the horn in their work environments, getting their feedback and fine-tuning the horn to meet their needs.

The basic horn is solidly constructed and has many excellent features, such as a short valve stroke and a bracing system reminiscent of the earlier Connstellation. What makes the Vintage One a horn for our times, however, is the numerous options you have to choose from when picking the right horn for you. As for the basic trumpet itself, you have a choice of three different bell materials: yellow brass, rose brass and sterling silver. These then come with your choice of finish: either clear lacquer silver or 24-karat gold-plated or silver-plated with a gold trim or satin lacquer. Then you have your choice of leadpipe: the standard #46, the slightly more focused #34 or the more open #50. These options of course are also available with a reverse tuning slide. And the fun doesn’t stop there. The horn also comes with an accessory kit that features three additional sets of bottom valve caps of varying weights and a rounded tuning slide. If anybody can tell me how many different trumpets you can make out of all these combinations, you win my baffled respect.

While I scoff at the myriad of options, the system really does have its merits. To emphasize the number of options you have when shopping for a Vintage One, I was sent no less than five trumpets to try out. My favorites are the 1BS (sterling silver with clear lacquer) and the 1BR (rose brass with clear lacquer). I like the 1BR a little better with the rounded tuning slide. I also lean toward the #34 leadpipe. All the horns have a clear, clean tone with a decent core and a nice, even blow.

I believe these horns were designed for the versatile professional in mind, and this is where the accessory kit might come in handy. Say you find the ideal Vintage One horn for most of your playing, but you still want a little extra oomph when you have to play lead. This might come as easy as changing from the standard tuning slide to the rounded one. Or you have a classical gig, and you want to go with a little darker sound. You could probably achieve this by using the heavier bottom valve cap. Ironically the one area where I find the horns lacking is the one area I really have a clue about: the full-time jazz soloist. The horn is a little too locked-in for me. I need a horn with a little more give to do the more expressive bending of notes or curlicues (as Barry Harris calls them) that are an important part of the jazz language. However, I must point out that no less than Nicholas Payton is playing the Vintage One now (1B, yellow brass, goldplated). He gave up a great trumpet (a Mt. Vernon Bach 43, which he got from me) to switch to this one, and he sounds great on it. He plays the Vintage One on his most recent CD, Dear Louis. It’s just further proof that this horn selection thing is very subjective, so your best bet is to check them out for yourself. With all those options, I’m sure you’ll find one you love.