I now feel I have played Flip's horn in enough situations to give an informed report on its qualities. I thought about waiting until the subject had settled a bit more, but since it was brought back up I decided this would be timely. PLEASE keep in mind I am not in any way affiliated with Flip's company and I have received nothing for trying his horn and don't intend to. Also keep in mind that I am a primarily a college professor, NOT a trumpet player who makes his living playing, although I have earned my living in the past playing. I do work in professional groups and do earn decent money playing in the better ensembles in the Omaha/Lincoln areas. I work in orchestras, brass ensembles, and in jazz/blues/commercial settings. I guess I could be called a semi-pro.
I have had the WT for over 2 weeks and have played it a great deal in several situations. Many of my observations are identical to Richard's recent detailed posts... so please excuse the redundancies.
My initial impressions of the playability of the horn were not positive. It seemed well made and crafted, but keep in mind, I am not an expert and don't know what to look for to determine if an instrument is shoddy or not. It had no visable flaws and the plating job looked great. The first 4 or 5 days I couldn't manage to sound very good on the horn, but the more I played it the easier it got. Like Richard, I still prefer the conical tuning slide to the cylindrical. Pleaase keep in mind I am not an animal lead player - I can play lead and do occaisionally, but I do not have a naturally powerful high register. High F and F# are the highest notes I can play loudly and just about whenever I need them. The cyln. tuning slide killed me in the upper register and I couldn't even get a high F to speak the first day. Flip and others told me that would change as I got more used to the horn. It hasn't happened for me yet, but it is definately better.
I now simply adore the horn with the conical tuning slide. Even tho I didn't want to like it I do and am convinced its for real. I have heard all different kinds of players play it from students to amatuers and professionals - none of them had a negative word to say about they way the horn played. They ALL sounded better on the WT than they did on their bachs or yamahas. It wasn't simply "different" it was always "better" in my mind. Bigger sound - good projection - core (but a wider core) - even sound in all registers (clearly better than my bach in this dept. and I always thought I had a GREAT bach.. still do actually)
The other night I took the horn to an Omaha Brass Ensemble rehearsal which is a phillip jones-like group made up of area professionals - a good band with good trumpet players who play alot in all styles. The WT fit in the section fine and was very easy to play in tune - we were REALLY buzzing chords. This section has a variety of horns available - heavy monettes, a couple of bach 72's, a bach 37 and a variety of C trumpets. According to the other players who would listen when just three trumpets were called for I sounded better on the WT than my bach - I feel I am able to be more musically expressive on it and don't seem to ever get tight on it.. something that is not the case on my bach.
After rehearsal we took all the horns into a big hall and did some blindfold testing. All horns sound great in this hall, so the differences between them were subtle but obvious. In all tests the WT was more exciting to listen to than any of the bachs or yamahas.. they simply sounded better. In most cases they were not as vibrant as the Monettes, nor quite as even in all registers as the Monettes, nor quite as loud, but it was close.
One of the guys in the section is an animal leadplayer. He has a recently overhaulded bach 72 lightweight and a Monette Ajna. When he played the WT. with the cylindrical tuning slide it he was able to blow his bach off the stage. There simply was no contest - he could play higher with more sound and projection/ He still sounded better on his Ajna, but the difference between the WT and the bach was wider than between the Monette and the WT. The two included tuning slides really do give you two completely different instruments which has to be more flexible.. I am surprised at how much different the horn plays depending on what slide you are using.
All along I have been concerned about endurance. That night was a good test - - 2.5 hour rehearsal where we played alot and ended the rehearsal with a good deal of piccolo playing... then we went into the hall and played for another hour. I did get tired at the end, but not any faster than normal. Endurance was NOT a problem... I was surprised. I have still not had a chance to play it on a 4 hour blues band gig tho.
I also think that there is great potential in transferring the concepts of this horn to a C trumpet. I have discussed this with Flip and I think he is going to try it. I will look forward to trying that horn as well.
What are the negatives? Well, I have had trouble getting the third valve slide to work smoothly. The slide tubes are very very thin.. a part of the design that Flip says is critical. The slides have to be handled with great care.. because they are so thin, the chance of them getting out of alignment is greater. The 3rd slide IS breaking in and will work fine. I also hope the valves break in a little more as well.. they are not problematic, but need some more time to be good. Other than that, there is are no other negatives I can come up with except the name. This is insignificant, but I personally am somewhat embarrased by the name.. :-) I can't imagine too many serious professional players will want "Wild Thing" stamped on the bell of their horn, but maybe I'm just a stuffed shirt. :-)
In short, I think this is a great all around horn. I can recommend it highly. Keep in mind I am NOT committed to endorsing this product in any way. I am fortunate to have had ample time to test it thanks to Flip's generosity. If you are in the market for a new Bb it is clearly worth checking out.
Will I buy one? I am not sure at this point. I sold both my Monettes because I couldn't see the advantage of carrying such expenisve instruments at this point in my career. I still feel that way. I would love to own a WT and/or a Monette or two or a Blackburn or a Yamalone - a Naumann, etc. etc. Bottom line is this, my Bach cost me $250, is old and beat up but plays very well for a standard Bach 37. Considering the money I have in the horn it is a great bargain - I do sound considerably better on the WT tho... so, you can all see the dilemma. :-)
I will be taking the WT to the ITG conference with me. I am NOT going there to display the horn or push it. I will be very very busy being a board member and covering the ITG conference on the ITG web site as it happens. I have agreed to carry it down there and make it available to those who wish to try it out. I may be difficult to nail down tho, so if you are going and are interested, please contact me via email ahead of time. Again, I am not representing Flip and am not selling WT's at the conference. Flip would go himself, but he is committed to a Jazz Festival in his area at the same time.