Van Laar Trumpets & Flugelhorns
by BENJAMIN STRICKLAND March 5, 2017
The first time I played one of Mr. Van Laar’s instruments was in late 2013 after just moving to Naples, Italy at Raffaele Inghilterra a local music store just south near the Amalfi coast. I was there with my sax player who wanted me to listen to him try the large number of vintage Mark VI saxophones they had in stock. I was currently playing Monette equipment exclusively and definitely not on the market for a new horn and did not even intend on trying any horns at the store. Raffaele, however, insisted that I play the Van Laar trumpet, an OIRAM II in raw brass, he had in-stock before he would let me leave store. He pulls the trumpet out of the display case, hands it to me, I put my mouthpiece in expecting to play three or four notes thank him and go back to listening to my friend try saxophones. This was not the occurrence. When I started playing the sound immediately filled the room with this large robust sound that felt like a warm hug all around me. In amazement, I continued to play moving all over the horn. My sax player, two rooms over, stops playing rushes over and proclaims “what the @#$% is that!”. Describing energy and overtones that he had never heard in my sound before, he was more excited about the trumpet than the saxophones he was trying. Between the two of them they convinced me to take the trumpet home and test drive it for a few days.
After playing the OIRAM II, going back and forth for a week, I decided to make the change. The Van Laar played with such ease, bravura at loud volumes and a sweetness at soft volumes. It also has an evenness throughout all registers making it very easy to produce the sound in my ear to make it my own. One audience member described my sound as “a warm knife cutting butter”, this may be the best complement I have ever received. Over the next two years this trumpet renewed my love for playing music every time I picked it up whether it be a practice session or a jazz festival.
2016, I decided to visit the Van Laar workshop in the Netherlands. Hub, Heidrun, and team were very accommodating and very generous to both me and my wife Erin. I was in need of a new flugelhorn for some upcoming recordings and had heard legend of Hub’s masterpieces. The first day, I spent hours playing every model the craftsman had ready. Every single one of them played extremely well in-tune having its own sound that I could mold to be my own. One of them inparticular, the BR1, fit my personal playing needs and I really loved its versatility being able to easily switch between bop, ballads, and classical music all while keeping its luscious sound and impeccable intonation.
Recently, I have found myself playing more commercial music with electronic instruments as well as playing more section and classical trumpet. While able to do this on the OIRAM II is possible, I want a trumpet even more versatile that is able to cross over sometimes even on the same gig with ease. I called Hub and discussed this with him and he invited me back to his lab for a second visit. The craftsman and his apprentice Yannic have spent the past two days developing the absolute best trumpet I have ever played in my life. It was sad to leave this work of art with him for polishing, I did not want to put it down. I am very excited to receive it in a few days. Videos to come!
Thank you, Hub, Heidrun, Yannic, Angeline, and the rest of the Van Laar team for everything!