I have featured many of the John Packer Bb Trumpets in a previous article, my conclusions at the end of that showing the student and intermediate ranges to be fantastic value for money and packed full of lots of interesting pro features. The company have collaborated over the past few years with a number of custom UK manufacturers (Rath, Sterling, Smith-Watkins among them) to provide low cost, mass-produced instruments but with a real custom style and feel.
The latest among these collaborations is the John Packer ‘JP by Taylor’, designed in conjunction with Taylor Trumpets and featuring a handmade leadpipe by Andy Taylor. The brief in the design here was to create a jazz-inspired trumpet with a big sound, and importantly at a mid-range price. In the UK this is £1200, in the USA you can pick one up for under $1600.
I was sent an instrument to test drive for a few days. Mine was in a clear lacquer finish, but it is also available in silver plate and satin lacquer (as pictured). First impression out of the box (a nice quality JP Pro Double case) is that this is a Taylor trumpet. Nice styling and accents, a thick-walled Taylor-designed leadpipe, heavy bell, heavy trim… It looks good! It has a .460″ medium large bore, single radius tuning slide, and a fairly tame bell flair, not too dissimilar to the standard model pro trumpets that we are most accustomed to.
Initially I found the blow nice and free, with some lovely dark tonal characteristics that you would expect from a heavier horn, particularly through the middle register and at softer dynamics. Once I got used to playing it for a few minutes, I realised that I could actually back off the air a lot more than I am used to, and as a result obtained a great brightness to the sound that really took me by surprise. The heavy Taylor leadpipe gives a real core and solidity to the sound, as does the heavy bell. The rounded, single-radius tuning slide however helps to balance this out by giving a freer response and a little more brightness that allows you to blend in a section.
Slotting and intonation across the range are good, and I have to say, it was a load of fun to play. Backing off the air, you can get a nice clear articulation with a blossoming bright sound, and some nice added zing up top for players that are ‘that way’ inclined! Pushing the air a little more in the middle register gives you a darker smoky sound that I have never found before in a horn anywhere near this price bracket. Close inspection of the mechanics of the valves and slides is the only way to tell that this is not a handmade custom horn at 3 times the price. But if you look after and maintain the valves well, there is no reason why this horn can’t stay reliable and in great blowing shape for many, many years.
This is a lovely, smooth-blowing horn, built for a ‘jazz’ sound that also gives you the flexibility to play it in any number of settings. And did I mention the price?! I challenge anyone to show me a horn for £1200 ($1600) that gives you as much as this.
For a review of the other Bb trumpets in the John Packer range, click here.