Nat Gonella's Trumpet & Clarinet
Nat Gonella 7th March 1908 - August 6th 1998

 

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.

There was a seat, which had been made for him, outside his flat in Gosport where he used to sit and watch the world go by. The seat was designed in the shape of a large metal trumpet and his daughter Natalie recently told me that he loved that seat and whilst sitting in the sunshine, he would talk to everyone who passed by. He had many friends who would drop by and even the kids coming home from school would stop and chat to him. When Nat died, the seat was full of flowers and the kids who used to talk to him had laid many of them. I hope they will all remember him as one of the greatest trumpet players of his time.


Nat singing "Oh Monah"

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. 

Nat left a £1,000 bequest to the Gosport Jazz Club to 'keep the music going' and the club in turn pledged to donate any future profit to disadvantaged children in the town, in memory of Nat. They did this by setting up The Nat Gonella Memorial Trust Fund in honour of the jazz musician who lived in Gosport for 21 years and who was a faithful supporter of the club. Husband and wife team Pat and Tony Wing, along with Maurice Kemp administer the fund and although the bequest is used as a reserve fund for the non-profit club to make sure it met the costs of events it put on, the Trust is there to help disadvantaged children, by buying shoes, bedding, coats and possibly musical instruments for needy children in Gosport, and for organising food hampers at Christmas for them. It was Nat's own background in a children's home that inspired them to do this as he had a love of people and especially children . I think this is a lovely tribute to a Great Star.

The trumpet I have donated, was an old Conn Coprian 12b, which I managed to acquire when Nat was parting with it when updating. I played it for a while doubling on bass guitar with a band from Bolton, the Cleveland Sound. I used it to blow the intros and endings to give the band the big band sound. 

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.

I hope that if and when they auction the trumpet, they will get a bob or two for it. If it helps to buy some kid a pair of shoes, that's great, it's what Nat would have wanted. I hope that all the musicians and friends of Nat who find this article interesting, raise a glass or two on the 7th March on what would have been Natís 100th birthday.

 

Derek Brown, Preston.       
February 2008   
      


Nat's Clarinet

18/04/2013 -

Scrolling through Jazz Extra I found an interesting reference to Nat Gonella and his trumpet. Well I have his clarinet!!

 "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.

Nick Balmforth


21/04/13

Just been reading through the articles about Nat Gonella. It may interest you and your readers to know that I now own the Conn Coprion trumpet which was gifted to Derek Brown by Nat. I came by it by chance via a very convoluted route and have spoken to Derek about it. With the trumpet was a brilliant oil painting of Nat (artist unknown) and a load of cuttings and other memorabilia. Alas the trumpet has no authentication certificate like the clarinet and was in really bad shape when I got it in January. Since then I have had it it partially restored by Neil Edwards (see photos) Cosmetically it is looking good but could really do with the valves re-plating. It would be nice to get some form of authentication to keep with the trumpet for whoever gets it after me.

Lovely to own a small slice of British Jazz history.

Paul Marks


22/04/13 -

It's 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.

Peter Boswell

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