Thursday, April 10, 2008

Interesting New York Sun Article on Irvin Mayfield's Trumpet...

Blow, but Don't Touch, That Horn

Staff Reporter of the Sun
April 10, 2008

Sergeant Ernest Gabriel III, of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Department, has what is arguably the best beat in all of policedom. His duty is to guard the bejeweled Elysian Trumpet, a handcrafted, brushed-gold instrument that is played by jazz musician Irvin Mayfield Jr.

The trumpet — which has been blessed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, inspected by President Bush, and insured by Lloyd's of London — is a traveling musical symbol of New Orleans. According to the terms of its creation and maintenance (the latter of which is paid for by a group of citizens), an armed guard must accompany the trumpet at all times. So when the Irvin Mayfield Quintet played the Blue Note last night, Mr. Gabriel was prominently in attendance.

Wearing a black collared shirt, black pants, a handgun, and a palm-size star-shaped badge on his belt, he strolled jovially through the seated crowd. The trumpet has not seen serious threats, according to Mr. Gabriel, who comes from a long line of New Orleans musicians. "Mostly, people want to touch it. It cannot be Truth be told, the compact Mr. Mayfield, 30, is strapping enough to fend off any would-be trumpet molesters. With his shaved head, dramatic facial expressions, and muscles bursting out of his black T-shirt, he could easily be a male model. If he weren't a thoroughly talented musician, that is.

Mr. Mayfield, the artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the cultural ambassador of New Orleans, is also the artistic warden of the Elysian trumpet. (The spiritual warden is the Very Reverend David Allard du-Plantier, the dean of Christ Church Cathedral.) He is personally connected to the instrument because it was commissioned in memory of the victims of Hurricane Katrina — including his father, Irvin Mayfield Sr., whose body was found on Elysian Fields Avenue in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans.

Built by David Monette, a noted trumpet designer based in Portland, Ore., and a team of artisans, the horn is loaded with details that honor the music and spirit of the Crescent City. The outer bell has cutout designs of Elysian Field lilies. Near the mouthpiece is a miniature replica of a stretch of the 30-mile-long Mississippi River — inlaid with Sleeping Beauty turquoise — with a faceted ruby at the point where New Orleans stands along the river. Engravings and saw-piercings celebrate Mardi Gras, local cuisine, and famous musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Mahalia Jackson.

Portland jewelry designer Tami Dean designed the engravings on the valve casings to evoke French Quarter wrought iron. At the end of the valves are delicately inset gemstones in Mardi Gras colors. The tops of the finger buttons are inlaid with semiprecious stones. When Mr. Mayfield plays the trumpet onstage facing the audience, these tiny details are not easily apparent. But when he turns to the side, it is clear that the panels (or braces) between the instrument's curved tubes are decorated with sharp, wave-like shapes that suggest the violent winds of the hurricane. The elaborate portions are also apparent when Mr. Mayfield stops playing and talks to the audience, while holding the trumpet so that the horn is pointing to the floor. This shows off the colorful finger-buttons and some of the larger design elements.

During the nearly two-hour set, Mr. Mayfield played only the Elysian trumpet. For all its decoration, the instrument's sound is standard, with only the talent of the player to make it exceptional. Mr. Mayfield and his band — trombonist Vince Gardner, pianist John Chin, bassist Neal Caire, and drum player Jaz Sawyer — performed a number of songs from Mr. Mayfield's new album "Love Songs, Ballads and Standards." The album is the first to be produced by Basin Street Records since its studio was destroyed by Katrina.

All the while during the show, the armed Sergeant Gabriel kept watch. Though it might delight some cops to spend every night walking such a relatively enjoyable beat, Sergeant Gabriel says it's only professional: "It's a job."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I could completely understand why Irvin Mayfield handles his trumpet in the fashion that he does...The instrument has soul and power and Mr. Mayfield respects that.
You can really hear the trumpets power in Irvin's new album, "Love Songs, Ballads and Scandals", which is a perfect title for this remarkable piece of art. Irvin Mayfield and Ellis Marsalis work hand in hand while producing this record. The two of the musicians are incredibly smooth and elegant and this album is a noble demonstration. I recommend you take a listen....