Designed in collaboration with Smith-Watkins.
The JP254SW comes with 4 different leadpipes (Trumpet and Cornet shanks in Bb and A) changing the sound of the instrument to allow for customization depending on the occasion.
The specially designed main leadpipe and monel piston valves offer improved playability and powerful sound, while the trigger on the 1st valve slide offers a tuning flexibility on some of the more difficult lower notes.
This is a very fine piccolo trumpet indeed. Based on the designs of well-established makes such as Stomvi, Getzen, Bach and Kanstul, this is a four piston valve instrument. The instrument I have tested is lacquered, but it is also available in silver plate. It comes with four lead pipes: 2 each in Bb and A for conventional trumpet mouthpiece and 2 more for cornet mouthpiece. These options give a range of opportunities, while making subtle differences in particular repertoire. It has a very useful tuning ring on the 3rd valve slide as well as a trigger mechanism on the 1st valve slide to assist tuning on certain notes.
Over a three-month period, I have been able to fully test this instrument, and it has never let me down. Nor has it let down any of my students, all of whom thoroughly enjoyed working with it. It even had a Royal outing, playing the solo parts in Purcell in the presence of The Princess Royal. It did a great job! I have been able to compare it with some other particularly beautiful instruments, namely my own much loved rotary valve Scherzer and one of those very special Yamaha Custom piccolos – the one with the long straight bell, while other makes such as Schilke have been tried too. A full range of repertoire was covered, from J.S. Bach, Handel and Purcell, to many solo transcriptions of the Baroque era and on to more recent repertoire by Tomasi, Jolivet and Birtwistle.
It has a powerful yet refined tone. It has the strength to cut through an orchestra, and this will be particularly interesting for many, especially in repertoire such as Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or Symphony of Psalms. At no point, even when I pushed the instrument to its limits, did its tone fracture. And in terms of tone, it remains very even across the range. Bottom Fs (so critical in Baroque repertoire) pose no problem, indeed the positively ring out, with a very clear centre, so 2nd trumpet parts will be very easy to deliver on this instrument. Compared to the Schertzer, the JP model carried far more weight. Compared to the Yamaha (which has a brilliant lower register) it still carried the day.
In the middle and upper registers, this instrument has considerable refinement. Take for instance Bach’s famous Orchestral Suite No 2 for Flute and Strings, BWV 1067. The solo flute part is a great test piece for any piccolo trumpet. The JP piccolo gives the lines a real sense of ease and natural flow. This is where one might choose the cornet shank over the trumpet equivalent. It just enables the instrument to achieve a greater softness. This work also demonstrates the instrument’s excellent intonation, where all the low C#’s and D’s can be very problematic. In this regard, the Yamaha yielded poorer results, and its brightness of tone seemed out of place. However, the Schertzer ultimately proved the most able to achieve flexibility of light and shade within phrases.
In contemporary repertoire, the JP piccolo was hugely reliable, and it can be argued that its piston valves make it a far more suitable instrument than its rotary equivalent when juggling with mutes, half valving effects, etc. It is also relatively easy to get a top A on this instrument (the uppermost note in Brandenburg 2). Many piccolos seem to stop at the top G, and you have to work really hard to find ways of entering the stratosphere. By comparison, just pressing down the 3rd valve and going for it usually works on the JP – and that’s a real positive! It certainly produces a stronger and better centered top A than my Schertzer.
So, this piccolo really works. It has its own personality, albeit a less extreme one. If I say that is between the ‘charm and beguiling nature’ of the Schertzer and the ‘brilliance, brightness and sheer cheekiness’ of the Yamaha, that is not to criticise it. The JP piccolo produces a bright, bold and well-rounded tone, capable of much lyricism, and it is so well in tune that one rarely needs to use the 3rd valve tuning slide ring, even if it’s usefully there. It can take the lead or support with style. It commands our attention and respect.
So who will want to buy this instrument? Its affordability makes it a perfect piccolo trumpet to start with, yet it will serve professionals very well. At this price, there is surely nothing to touch it! If a trumpeter wants to go for gold, then the Schertzer is always there to purchase (I adore mine), or whatever other legendary make takes their fancy. There are, after all, some deeply beautiful piccolo trumpets in this world. But if that person parts with this JP instrument, they will miss it. It will have become a good and loyal friend.
The JP254SW is supplied in a JP851 Pro Double Trumpet case, and comes with 4 leadpipes, a JP 5C Trumpet and JP 4B Cornet mouthpiece, a bottle of Ultra Pure valve oil and a maintenance guide to help you keep your instrument in top playing order.
Elliott Milum was kind enough to take time out of his busy performing schedule to review the JP range of Tubas.Read more