My Edwards Experience

The following was written by Jim Pugh

My relationship with the Edwards T302 goes back to its inception in 1996. I was very excited to receive a call from Edwards (from Jon Winkle actually, the artist liaison at the time) asking if I would be interested in helping out with the development of a new trombone. While I was happy with the horn I was playing at the time, the thought of being in on the ground floor of a potentially revolutionary instrument intrigued me, to say the least. I was aware of the developments and advances Edwards was making in the large bore tenor and bass trombone arena and sensed the possibility of a very interesting instrument, so I jumped at the chance.

In November 1996, after a delightful flight to beautiful Elkhorn, I was escorted into the Edwards corner of the Getzen building (not the spacious discrete working and playing space we all get to use now) and was shown a table covered with 18 bells, about 10 leadpipes, perhaps a dozen slides of various bore and plating configurations, and 4 or so tuning crooks (lucky for me they hadn’t gotten to the shoulder pipes yet). If you remember anything about combinations and permutations from high school math, you know that there were quite a few different possible set-ups sitting on that table.

After two long days of working with all of that metal (and a highly educational and fun couple of days it was), we finally settled on a couple leadpipes, a couple different tuning crooks, and four bells of various weights, states of solder, and composition. These would eventually be the first offerings for the new Edwards small bore trombone – the T302.

I left the Edwards/Getzen plant the following day with the horn combination that I felt most comfortable playing. However, when I got back to New York, something had drastically changed. This new instrument was no longer just the “most comfortable.” Instead, it played with an ease and projection unlike anything in my experience. It was an early Christmas that year!

Let’s jump ahead to March 1997 and the Eastern Trombone Workshop in Washington, DC. Although Edwards was exhibiting, they had yet to officially begin manufacturing the small bore horns. I was walking around among a throng of trombonists who had all heard rumors about an Edwards small-bore horn and were chomping at the bit to see and play one. I was the only person to have a T302 outside of Elkhorn. I have never — before or since — allowed so many people to play my horn. I became a walking exhibition stand. But the real fun for me was watching peoples’ expressions change after they had played a few notes on the horn. They all understood that this instrument was a great leap forward in trombone manufacturing. I guess I was just lucky that I was able to get the horn back.

These are just a couple of stories about the birth of this great instrument which I thought might be of interest. We are all now quite familiar with the idea of modular instruments, but 10 years ago it just didn’t exist in the mainstream. Never before have we trombone players had so much flexibility in putting together the instruments of our dreams. Also, we take the Edwards “CF” process for granted now. This treatment, which was refined successfully on large-bore trombones in the early 90’s, now enhances the quality of tone, projection and playability of small-bore tenor and alto trombones and (dare I say it!) trumpets.

I have tried many different trombones over the years and have found the Edwards to be the most versatile and rewarding to play. I strive to play as wide a variety of music as possible. While I enjoy many, many styles of music, playing in any one genre for too long does not interest me. I find the challenges of recording Elliot Carter’s GRA (for solo trombone) and putting an improvised solo on a Tony Bennett CD in the same week invigorating. This variety is just as challenging for the instrument as it is for the player. My Edwards always comes through with flying colors. Thanks to the Edwards T302, I have the flexibility to change the horn (different bell, slightly larger or smaller bore slide, etc.) to suit different musical environments while still keeping it the same at the core.

I would like to offer a comment regarding the “Edwards Experience”: If at all possible, go to Elkhorn and take advantage of the expertise of Christan and Ron. They will help you (with a razor sharp yet totally patient and non-judgmental critique) find the horn that makes you sound like you want to sound. They are a great resource and make the trip worthwhile.

Edwards has redefined the process of selecting an instrument. You no longer have to accept instruments designed to be ‘average’; and by ‘average’ I mean instruments designed to do as much as possible pretty well and to work pretty well with as large a group of players as possible. Instead, you can fine-tune an instrument to suit your concept of playing.

Edwards is committed to producing great brass instruments. They are also committed to making these instruments even greater. The bells and slides I selected in 1996 aren’t even available anymore. Since then, I’ve been through 3 or 4 generations of bells and other components and have always been surprised at the improvements being made. Everyday, there are new ideas being tried and tested in Elkhorn. Some ideas work, others don’t, but that’s how you move forward. As in any art, it’s a work in progress.

Needless to say, I do love these horns – along with the people, the concepts and the commitment of the company behind them. You’ll love yours too.