Brian Dickinson Jazz

Blast from the past

This week, I’ve been making an effort to dust off some of the lesser-played albums in my vinyl collection. Today, I wanted to take a moment to salute the criminally underrated album “The Unique Thelonius Monk.” It’s a collection of the late pianist’s own distinctive takes on classics of the jazz canon. I especially love his version of Tea For Two, which is unlike any other I’ve heard, and I’ve heard quite a few in my time. It’s a great rainy day record, especially in the afternoons. While I had always focused on his debut record (this one’s his second), I stand corrected and would consider this the equal in every regard, even if it didn’t have the impact his debut had had before. Definitely not a second album slump, and recommended to you! Check your local record store.

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Restoring a vintage tuba using the best small air compressor and some German polish

Hi folks, thanks as always for reading. I thought today we’d do something a little different. I like to seep you all up to date on my endeavors, and I’ve recently embarked on my latest restoration project, and wanted to tell you about it.

I recently acquired this vintage King tuba (originally from the King plant in OH, if my sources are accurate), and I’m making a project of restoring it. You can see from the photograph that it’s pretty old-looking, but the folks who owned it before me took pretty good care of the outer finish. The innards are a completely different story. I’m not super surprised, given that they weren’t musicians. Still, short of a wasps’ nest, I don’t know exactly what in god’s green earth got into this old thing.

Now, any vintage piece like this isn’t going to be a concert regular these days, since brass instruments don’t age like a violin, say, or a cello. Still, I want to get it up and playable for the Preservation’s anniversary concert next spring.

So, here’s the plan. I’m going to give this puppy a nice, thorough cleaning, strip it down, work on each component until they’re all ship shape, replace the ones that can’t be salvaged (the mouthpiece doesn’t look promising) with something period, and then tune ‘er up!

With these old ones, you can’t always be sure of the condition when you buy them, because most folks don’t play them to assess value. So, I wasn’t too surprised to see some corrosion and gunk in the valves and fittings when I got mine, even though some of the other parts of the bell were buffed to a mirror.

Anyway, stage one is going to be a thorough, intense cleaning.

Here’s where the purists and I disagree. If you’re just going to keep an instrument on a shelf its whole life, then sure-be extra careful. Get a glass case and polish it gently. But I don’t think that’s the point of owning an instrument. Even if I’m not planning to take this King on tour, I want it to be alive, a real testament to its glory days.

So, I’m taking a different approach. Enter the air compressor. Now, I know this might sound a little crazy at first, but using air to clean the innards is a lot less dangerous than fiddling around in there with tools, and it usually does a better job at dust on antiques. I’m about to get the new one in the mail-it’s a smaller portable unit, but I think it’ll do the trick nicely. If you’re in the market at all, I can’t recommend this site highly enough:, or just the homepage, Sorts out all the small air compressor brands for someone like me, who isn’t exactly a regular power tool user. I’ll be using air power to clear the pipes, fitting a rubber nozzle over the mouthpiece and cranking things up slowly to make sure all the fittings are holding up.

Next is taking apart all the valves and finger pieces. That’s going to be a more laborious process without a doubt. But once I coax everything apart, I’ll be blasting those off to clear the dust and gunk, then soaking them in a good restoration metal solution I’ve got from a friend who lives in Germany.

Once that’s all finished, I’ll start putting her all back together again! And yes, it is a her. Not quite sure on a name yet, but I’m thinking something stately. Doris? Let me know in the comments.

Well, I should be starting on this expedition shortly, so look out for updates!

Best, Brian

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My Must-Listen artist of 2016

Hi, folks-

Since we’re getting close to the end of the year, crazy as it might seem to me, I wanted to start a little annual tradition here and tell you about my must-listen artist of 2016. It’s been a solid year for contemporary jazz, and there are quite a few albums that haven’t wandered far from my turntable. However, the unquestionable favorite of my own listening year is the latest from Esperanza Spalding: Emily’s D+evolution.

Now if you’re not already familiar with her, Esperanza Spalding has had a pretty varied career already, for someone who’s still quite young. She’s had some pop success, and become one of the most well-respected jazz bassists in the world despite her age. Her playing is extremely innovative, and this latest album merges her pop sensibilities with the experimentation that’s been a cornerstone of her bass playing.

On these sort of concept albums, I can’t usually say that I enjoy every single track. There’s usually at least one piece of filler or something that basically tells the narrative but doesn’t really have any melodic interest going on. Nowhere is that further from the truth than with the Emily record. It’s fascinating from end to end. I absolutely love the way she gets the whole arc into the songs without needing all those awkward exposition tracks (looking at you, Roger Waters).

I could go on and on, but I really just want you all to go listen to it. Trust me: it’s worth your time. Emily is one of the great albums of 2016, and Spalding is someone we’re going to be watching for years to come. This album has been the perfect funky soundtrack to my current restoration project. You can read all about my escapades with my new favorite air compressor, obscure polish, and other tuba-renovation tools here.

Esperanza Spalding

You have to check this out, courtesy of NPR music

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