This weekend’s “Louisiana Purchase” event at the Neal Auction House will feature a horn section of sorts—that is, the sale of the truly one-of-a-kind Harrelson Satchmo trumpet built by world-renowned trumpet maker Jason Harrelson.
As a friend and fan of Satchmo SummerFest, Harrelson created the trumpet with the intention of raising national awareness of the festival among both fans as well as musicians. “For myself, the primary musical influence is New Orleans … in music as well as horn making,” he explains. “I built the horn and donated it to French Quarter Festivals, in part with the goal of raising awareness of the festival given how few musicians [nationally] are aware that it even exists.”
Calling from his company’s headquarters in New Brighton, Minn., Harrelson describes the process of creating the instrument: “The design itself took a few months. I started in about February or March and was working on it all the way up until almost the day before this year’s festival [August 3-5, 2012].”
The horn, its auction proceeds of which will go to benefit Satchmo SummerFest, is the only trumpet of its kind ever to be created and features a fleur-de-lis mouthpiece, transcription of Louis Armstrong’s “A Kiss to Build A Dream On,” and a New Orleans water meter cover on the tuning slide.
While the aesthetics may seem to focus purely on Armstrong, Harrelson also points out the nouveau and art deco influences reflected in the shape and style of the instrument. “With the design itself, I wanted it to be something that wasn’t just Louis Armstrong but a true New Orleans horn,” he says.
Harrelson, whose trumpets have been patronized by many of the world’s great modern musicians including Kermit Ruffins, Shamarr Allen and Jeremy Pelt, built his first trumpet when he was 19 and has been constructing instruments full-time since 2001. As one of this year’s Satchmo SummerFest lecturers, the horn maker was actually able to demonstrate the Satchmo trumpet’s unique sound, which he designed to imitate Louis Armstrong’s vocals. “The acoustics were designed to be a big, dark, velvety sound,” Harrelson explains. “Basically to sound like Louis Armstrong when he sings.”
The Neal Auction House will present a preview party of its “Louisiana Purchase” auction on Thursday, November 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. at 4038 Magazine Street. The auction itself, at which Harrelson will be in attendance, begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, November 17. With neither the horn maker nor the auction house receiving any sort of compensation or commission for the sale of the Harrelson Satchmo trumpet, all proceeds will go directly to French Quarter Festivals, Inc.’s annual Satchmo Summerfest.