The Martin Committee trumpets have always held a special place in serious jazz trumpeters’ collections. First introduced in 1939, these instruments quickly won the hearts of musicians interested in experiments with sounds.
The History of Martin Committee Trumpets
The story of Martin Committee trumpets goes hand in hand with John Heinrich Martin, who was a German immigrant. Having been working on creation of musical instruments in Dresden, he didn’t leave his passion after he had immigrated to the United States. This is how The Martin Co. was established.
However, not everything went so smoothly. In 1871, the fire destroyed John Heinrich Martin’s factory, and there’s still no clear consensus on whether this accident was connected with the Great Chicago Fire. After that, Martin moved to Elkhart, Indiana, where he started to work for the C.G. Conn Co. and did so until his retirement. Later Martin and his sons established The Martin Band Instrument Co. – the new business thanks to which Martin’s family gained the reputation of creators of the high-quality trumpets.
In the late 1930s, the company started working on a new trumpet design, collaborating with the “committee”, which united talented designers and skillful musicians. The history doesn’t get enough information about who exactly had been the part of that committee. According to some accounts, there might be Vincent Bach, Renold Schilke, and even Foster Reynolds, the founder of the F.A. Reynolds Company, who was actually the competitor for The Martin Band Instrument Co.
In December 1940, DownBeat magazine featured the first advertisement for the Martin Committee trumpet, which mentioned the “committee” consisting of top trumpeters Rafael Mendez, Bunny Berigan, and Charlie Teagarden, however the advertisement didn’t say that someone among them was the creator of the instrument design. Later, it became known that the renowned designer Renold Schilke, who was working for Martin at that time, crafted the trumpet.
The demand for Committees increased during the 1940s and 1950s, since musicians were very passionate about trying the trademark sound, so highly recognized by their own idols. In 1961 Martin became the part of the Roundtable of Musical Craftsmen (RMC), established by Paul Richards. After they stopped existing a couple of years later, and Wurlitzer became the owner of the rights to the Martin brand. In 1971, Leblanc brought the well-known name to the world again, however they stopped producing the Committee model for some time, except keeping making some custom versions for Miles Davis. Their next introduction of the Committee had nothing to do with a long-time favorite Committee version, highly appreciated by many musicians and listeners.
The Martin Committee Mystique
Various manufacturers tried hard to design their own trumpets with the close resemblance of the Martin Committee, hoping to achieve that special sound, but failed. Some craftsmen tried to copy different parts of the trumpet such as the tapered tuning slide, the cone-shaped bell and water keys. Regardless of hard efforts and talent, no one could figure out the magic formula of how to achieve the smooth tone.
The Martin Committee trumpets became the favorite instruments of many influential musicians because of their quality and craftsmanship. The outstanding jazz musician Miles Davis played a Martin Committee trumpet for long periods of his career, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and even used this instrument during the recordings of his "Birth of the Cool" sessions.
An iconic jazz trumpeter and vocalist, Chet Baker used the Martin Committee trumpet to perform ballads like “My Funny Valentine” or his fast-tempo masterpieces. The authentic sound of this musician is closely connected with the Martin Committee trumpet.
Dizzy Gillespie was more associated with the iconic bent-bell trumpet; however, he did experiment with Martin Committee trumpets too. Moreover, he played them for more than a decade before switching to the King Silver Flair trumpet.
The Martin Committee trumpets gained great popularity during the era of hard bop in the 1950s. The prominent hard bop trumpeters Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown were also associated with this instrument. Other appreciators of this trumpet included Art Farmer, Maynard Ferguson, Richard Allen "Blue" Mitchell, and Robert Roland Chudnick.
As contemporary musicians see the classic instruments an excellent way to achieve the unique sound, in recent years, we can observe a growing renewed interest in vintage Martin Committee trumpets. Although each musician has personal preferences when it comes to choosing musical instruments, the Martin Committee trumpets, with their unique sound, have always been and will always be associated with iconic players and legendary pages in the history of jazz music.