A pleasant surprise in Miami and carrying instruments on aeroplanes

Well, it was too good to miss. Not the greatest instrument in the world and needs a bit of work, but probably this is just a bit of ‘rod, strip, oil’ maintenance. So, a couple of things to relay:

Firstly, and I’ve always been amazed by this since the days when I lived in Charleston, South Carolina, back in the mid-1990’s. In the USA you can go into pawnbrokers and they have various instruments, most of them are rubbish but occasionally you get a real gem. In 1996 I went into a Pawnbrokers in Charleston and bought a tenor sax. It had been dropped on its crook and bent back so it had a profile like a rhomboid. Nevertheless, it was an early serial number Selmer Paris Mark IV and I paid $250 for it. I sold it “as was”for £1000 plus a Selmer Modele 26 Alto from 1928 thrown in which I still use (and love).


I was in Miami last week and I walk into a pawnbrokers to see what they’ve got. Surprisingly there’s a Vito Bass Clarinet – nothing exceptional but a student instrument going down to Eb, but it works. Its been 10 years since I last had one ( a lovely Mpingu wood Noblet – I was short of cash at the time so I sold it, a major decision, but worth it). Anyway, $170 later its a Bass Clarinet that works and a lot better than #NoBassClarinet. When I played with Yazid Fentazi last year he asked if I had one, as it was his wind instrument of choice to blend with his Oud – lets see what happens on September 8th?


The second point is then how do I get it home? I was flying from Miami to NYC (with Delta), and then NYC home (with British Airways/American Airways). Well, I ditched my holdall with the broken zip and transferred most of my clothes into the Bass Clarinet case; stuffing the bell and various other orifices. It is an ‘in-line’ clarinet so the case is long and thin; looks a bit like a shotgun or worse. The rest of my clothes went into the laptop case.


I was flying economy ‘hand-luggage’ only and Delta had quite a small carry-on dimension. However, ‘BRILLIANT’, they did have a statement respecting the fact that small musical instruments cases were acceptable. ‘Small’ is debatable but full marks to Delta. Even though it was a full flight and they asked for cabin bags to be checked in. When I offered it up for checking in with some reservations, they told me to just take it on board. As for American/British Airways the same story: a fully rammed flight with no space left, but the guy with the musical instrument was respected and accommodated. Thank you! At last. There are so many horror stories of instruments on planes but there seems to be a growing acknowledgement of the problem.


Only a couple of months ago, Steve Berry was in Russia with his double bass and told the story of it not turning up on the extra-large luggage conveyor. It turns out the baggage handlers “hadn’t noticed it in the hold, so left it on the plane”. Well bit like elephants, tough things to loose, but a good job they checked.

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