Gary Latham

I know there have been many fine reviews of Flip Oakes’ Wild Thing trumpet, but I had such a positive experience in my own purchase and playing of this horn that I wanted to share my thoughts with others they may not have had an opportunity to spend some time with this marvelous trumpet.

Recently, my family visited my in-laws in Irvine, California. Now my wife’s family are wonderful people, but my first thought was: How far is Oceanside from Irvine (Flip lives in Oceanside). Would Flip be willing to receive me in his home to try out a Wild Thing personally? I had played a WT about a year earlier and fell in love from the first note, and, although I wasn’t necessarily looking for a new horn, my playing style was moving toward a more open blow and I knew the WT would be an excellent match for this approach.

Even though my visit was over the fourth of July holiday, Flip was extremely hospitable in welcoming me (a complete stranger!) to his home in beautiful Oceanside. He was generous with both his thoughts and time, and had both a WT and a Celebration ready for me to test. Although both horns were an improvement over my current axe (and that’s saying a lot since my Lawler Model T is a very fine horn in its own right!), I found the WT absolutely irresistible:

The wide open blow, the evenness, the ease of approach in both the upper and the lower register, the laser-tracked slots, and, of course, that SOUND, that big, broad, wrap-around sound that seemed to define an entirely new instrument. I kept switching between my Lawler and the WT for comparisons, and each time I was astounded anew (I know that some players actually prefer some resistance, so this difference may not be realized as a benefit for everyone, but it was for me).

Flip and I were able to chat about the various aspects of the horn and the versatility conferred through the 8 tuning slides, and the more I learned, the more I become intoxicated. The WT makes playing just such a joy for me! And I believed that over time I would acclimate even better to the instrument, suspecting that its intrinsic efficiency would “teach” me how to play with better economy and more effectively integrate all elements of the “human machine” to become a more fluid extension of the instrument, rather than vice-versa. That has proven to be true over the past 3 weeks. For example, just recently, I was sailing through some difficult pieces with an ease that nearly disoriented me; I’m so used to fighting the horn rather than flowing with it.

In short, it is like a whole new world of trumpet playing for me. I am still struck by how effortlessly notes roll out the bell. Those notes I used to reach in gasping desperation now come to ME, rather than the other way around. And the sound: With a regular mouthpiece, the horn spreads a beautifully resonant, fat tone; with a V-shaped piece, it speaks with a dark, smoky flugelhorn-like timbre. The WT hasn’t made me a great player, but I know now that the sky’s the limit.

I started with the #2 slide, which provides a touch of resistance, but have since moved to the cylindrical 0.47 #1 slide. I love it. The immediate benefits included the sound and accuracy and ease of attacks…my range didn’t instantly improve but the high notes that I could play (eg, up to about a high G) were much, much BIGGER. Since then, my range has definitely improved, but this outcome is confounded by the fact that I have now a top notch “superhorn” and have been also been taking lessons with Jeff Purtle online (which I can also recommend!). But I am certain that both factors have had a significant, and probably synergistic, benefit.

Flip even gave me a copy of his band’s CD, Dan McMillion’s CD, and Arturo Sandoval’s latest DVD. What a nice bonus! (They are all simply terrific). Just a fabulous experience with Flip all-around.

Ultimately, I’m just a comeback player who loves to play. My only motivation is the music. The WT simply heightens this joy. If you haven’t tried a WT and have a chance, you should do it! It may not be the perfect horn for you, but it just might. It was (is) for me.

(Note: This is a completely unsolicited endorsement. You know, the kind that flows when your enthusiasm is too much to keep bottled up.)

Gary Latham

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