Nat Gonella's Trumpet & Clarinet
On the 7th March this year, 2008, the people of Gosport will be celebrating what would have been Nat Gonella's centenary birthday. Bass player Derek Brown, from Bamber Bridge, Preston, thought this was a good time to do something about a trumpet he's had in his possession for some years. This is his story -
I have just sent down to Gosport, Nat Gonella's trumpet that I have had since playing with him in the clubs in the North West around the 60's. As you can imagine, it was a complete thrill to be playing with Nat, as my father was his greatest fan. I must say that all the musicians around the Fylde Coast and the Northern clubs got the same thrill when playing with him. There will be too many to mention by name, but in this message it would be nice to remind them all, that on the 7th March 2008 it would have been his 100th birthday, and in his home town of Gosport, it will be a day of celebration for the life of the great Nat Gonella.
A lot of his friends and fans won't be aware that a garden of remembrance has also been created in memory of Nat in Gosport. His daughter Natalie opened the garden, which was a gift from the Gosport Council, shortly after he died.
I had trouble bending down to pick the trumpet up and blowing it cold, so it was suggested that I hang it around my neck on a piece of string to save me bending down and to keep it warm. One day, Eddie Taylor threatened to run over it after a gig, so I decided to give it to my dad as he was Natís greatest fan. My parents used to dance to Natís records and had good memories of the Georgians. Unfortunately I upset the Cleveland Sound by not playing it again, so they made me go for the chips every night.
Derek Brown, Preston.
Scrolling through Jazz Extra I found an interesting reference to Nat Gonella and his trumpet. Well I have his clarinet!!
I hear you say! Well yes. I first met Nat when he was in his
80s. We became good friends and I would visit him in Gosport and
bring him up to Stafford for weekends to sing a few memorable
songs with our visiting bands at Stafford Jazz Society. he
became a Life Member. Two years before he died he had a present
for me - a clarinet in an ancient case! So how did that great
jazz trumpeter end up with such an instrument? Well, Nat
explained to me - in his early days in the music business if you
could only play one instrument you could be out of work. So he
bought a clarinet and taught himself to play it. How often he
played it I don't know, probably rarely. It now sits in my front
room together with a Certificate signed by the great man to
confirm he gifted it to me. Trouble is I am no musician just a
humble jazz promoter. Can't play a note on it and they call it a
"simple" system clarinet! I know it plays well, for George
Huxley took it from me a year or so back, and at one of his
concerts played Nat's signature tune Georgia on it whilst
recording it on a CD for me. Proof that Nat's old liquorice
stick could still play a good tune when in the right hands.
Lovely to own
a small slice of British Jazz history.
interesting to see the Conn Trumpet originally owned by the
great Nat Gonella. Some people may be interested to know that
the Coprion bells were unique, being made by electroplating a
steel mandril with copper ions (thus cop-r-ion) until thick
enough to 'pop off' (don't ask me how) as a completely seamless
bell - one of the best of their range. Conn claimed they
projected sound better and were capable of greater volume, much
of this to do with the copper atoms not being under strain from
being hammered into shape in the traditional manner of bell
making. I have a student model 18A Conn Director Long Cornet
with a Coprion bell, but though it plays well I can't swear that
their claims are true. I don't know why they put the bell on
some of this student range, maybe they had some spares. I
understand that the conventionally made seamless bells found on
expensive trumpets do in fact have a seam lengthwise though not
a circular seam where the end of the bell is attached. Maybe a
more technically minded brassman can clarify or correct me. I
look forward to this.