NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Trumpet-maker Jason Harrelson said he’s donating one of the best trumpets he’s ever made to benefit a festival honoring the artist who sparked his passion for the instrument — Louis Armstrong.
Harrelson’s specially made brass “Satchmo” trumpet has a fleur-de-lis mouthpiece and transcription of the musical score for Armstrong’s trumpet solo in the song, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.” It also has a tuning slide mounted with a small replica of an iconic New Orleans water meter cover.
The trumpet is set to hit the auction block Saturday with proceeds benefiting Satchmo Summerfest, the free, three-day festival in the French Quarter held each year in early August around Armstrong’s birthday. Some of Harrelson’s custom trumpets are valued at more than $10,000, but there is no minimum bid for the “Satchmo” trumpet.
Harrelson, a Louisiana native who now lives in New Brighton, Minn., said he’s attended the festival the past two years but has been an Armstrong fan since childhood. As a 5th-grader, he said, he wrote a book report about Armstrong — and he later took up playing the trumpet because of his admiration for the jazz great.
“I could relate to his story, to his coming from poverty and making music his life,” said Harrelson, who was born in Leesville, La., and was 19 when he started making trumpets.
Armstrong was born in New Orleans on Aug. 4, 1901 and died in 1971 after a stellar career as a trumpet player, vocalist and band leader. He remains one of the best-known figures in jazz, with a career that extended into motion pictures. The city’s international airport is named for him.
Now 38, Harrelson has his own shop in New Brighton and provides instruments to musicians worldwide. In New Orleans, more than a dozen musicians use his trumpets, including Kermit Ruffins, Shamarr Allen and members of the city’s brass bands. His instruments also are used by New York jazz band leader Jeremy Pelt; Ray Riccomini, a member of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra in New York; and San Juan’s Latin jazz artist Charlie Sepulveda, whose recording credits include the soundtrack for the 1992 movie “The Mambo Kings.”
“We’re just so honored that he’s giving this trumpet to us,” said Marci Schramm, executive director of French Quarter Festivals Inc., the nonprofit organization that produces Satchmo Summerfest. “The hardest thing about producing free festivals is that it’s so expensive, and every little bit counts.”
The group’s French Quarter Festival, one of the largest free music festivals in the region, draws an estimated 400,000 attendees each year. Satchmo Summerfest draws about 30,000 people, Schramm said.
The “Satchmo” trumpet will go to the block at Neal Auction Co. on Saturday. It’s expected to come up for bids between 2 and 3 p.m. CST. Silent bids are being accepted online at www.nealauction.com and by phone at 504-899-5329 or 800-467-5329.
On the Internet:
Neal Auction Co.: http://www.nealauction.com
Satchmo Summerfest: http://www.fqfi.org/satchmosummerfest