Remembering Don Jacoby….again

HaveConnsWillTravelThroughout our lives, we sometimes think back to people who have influenced our lives. Such is my case when remembering one of my favorite trumpet teachers, Mr. Don Jacoby (or just “Jake” to the trumpet world).

It was a trumpet custom while attending North Texas State (now University of North Texas) to study with Mr. John Haynie on campus for your degree and at the same time study with Jake in Dallas for making contacts in the area. Both teachers were exceptional players as well as teachers and each excelled in his own area; Jake in commercial playing and Mr. Haynie in the technique of playing the instrument. Although this practice was common, neither teacher endorsed the other. The same situation was accepted when discussing your membership in one of the many jazz bands and participation in the University orchestra. In both cases, it was a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” issue.

My first contact with Jake-

A wonderful player and friend set me up with a lesson with Jake. This great player and good friend was Larry Ford, the current lead player for the world famous 1:00 Jazz Band at that time.

Taking lessons with Jake was not a normal lesson. After the usual greetings at his home in Dallas, Jake would invite you to join him while he finished watching a golf match, football game or any other sporting event he was enjoying before you arrived. For the next two hours he would dramatically expound his excitement at every pitch and putt as the time passed by. Eventually he would ask you to get your horn out for your lesson. Lessons sometimes lasted over an hour or as short as twenty minutes depending on how busy he was. Usually at the completion of your lesson, Jake would ask what you were doing for dinner or what you were planning that evening. You were always invited to stay for supper or join him at the club where he was performing. He was that kind of guy. During one of these “sit and wait” experiences I remember that it was in his home my wife and I watched our first color television. Boy does that age a person!

My second contact with Jake-

During my second lesson, Jake received a phone call from either IRI or PAM recording studio. As I waited for the conversation to end, Jake turned to me and asked “What’s your voice range”? Not knowing the reason for his inquiry, I said “Tenor”. As he continued his phone conversation with the party at the other end of the line, I began to realize that my trumpet teacher was now trying to get me hired to sing a commercial at the recording studio! On and on the studio was filled in on my background as a great sight reader and master of intonation and who would do a wonderful job on whatever jingle they were trying to record; all the time I am shaking my head back and forth trying to get out of the gig. He was always trying to help young players whenever he could; even if the musician had limited experience in the situation. That was Jake.

My next contact with Jake-

Through Jakes help, I was able to secure the second chair in the State Fair Band of Texas. During a Fourth of July concert in the middle of the Cotton Bowl, Jake joined the first chair player (I think his name was TBone) and myself in doing a peppy rendition of “Buglers Holiday”. When I say “peppy” I actually mean, heart stopping, finger busting, lip spreading, fire eating version. I don’t remember if we ever rehearsed the number with Jake for the tempo he kicked off was close to hyperspace tempo. Most musicians are content to count this well-known piece off in four. Not Jake. His only comment was, “let’s make this interesting at which point he counted it off in a supper fast “CUT TIME”. As the hammer went down both TBone and I shared the looks of disbelief. Subconsciously we shared the same thought- BIG BREATH AND HANG ON. The instant we played the last note, the place exploded. It sounded as if the Cowboys just won the Super Bowl as the Cotton Bowl roared. I will never forget the exhilaration as we shook hands and took our bow. That was Jake!

My next contact with Jake-

During another lesson I mentioned that I was thinking of moving to Las Vegas after I secured my degree. In no uncertain terms my teacher strongly argued that I would be better off staying in Dallas. He convinced me to stay and for that I will always be thankful to him for through my eventual contacts in Dallas and through a wonderful recommendation by my trumpet teacher at NTS (John Haynie) I was very fortunate to join the music faculty at the University of Northern Iowa where I stayed until retirement.

My next contact with Jake-

From time to time Jake would double book a concert or gig and a couple times he would call me to cover one of his jobs. On one of these occasions, he asked if I would sit in for him at the Club Village in Dallas. Those calls always generated an almost paralyzing effect on me for the musicians in Jake’s band were the best players in Dallas; light-years above my ability. On one such occasion I showed up and visited with Lou Marini the sax player in the group. Jake had asked me to fill in his part and at the same time Lou had asked Gary Grant to fill the same chair. Obviously I relinquished the position and went home.

My next contact with Jake-

When our first child was born, Jake and Dory, his lovely wife gave us a very simple yet precious gift of an engraved diaper pin for our newborn. The inscription read “SAC” for Scott Alan Chidester. Those three letters also stood for SAC (Stratigic Air Command) which Jake held great respect for and each time we met, he would repeat the importance of the letters. That was Jake!

My last contact with Jake-

Many years ago I received a precious gift in the mail from Jake. He had just published his book, “Jakes Method” the trumpet method of Don “Jake” Jacoby. As I scanned through the pages, I came across a picture of my trumpet teacher with a inscription written at the bottom.

“Bruce- Too much water has gone under the bridge. Got to get together soon! I love Y’all”.

I’m sure this message was sent to countless trumpet players around the world and for that I am grateful, for that was Jake.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to our stage, Mr. Victor Haskins”.

VHIn my original post introducing this musician, who I considered to be a moving force in the universe, was on September 29, 2012 when I published “Please Welcome Victor Haskins”.

At that time I predicted his continued success and I wanted to share his talents with my readers. As in all predictions, sometimes you get it right and sometimes you learn to eat your words. I am pleased to announce that my earlier predictions are continuing to come true for this unique individual and for that reason; I have asked Mr. Haskins to share “in his own words” what has transpired during these past three years.

In his own words-

“I have launched into a number of new ventures over the last several years. In 2013, I released my debut album—“The Truth”—which contained seven of my original compositions for an improvising quintet. Later that year I began to be an endorsing artist for Sonaré Pro Brass (trumpets and flugelhorns) and Denis Wick (mouthpieces and mutes). In 2014, I created the content for and began directing the Jazz Outreach program for the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and later in 2014 I announced the official release of a new musical genre/concept called ImproviStory.

ImproviStory combines improvisation, audience interaction, and storytelling to generate unique musical experiences. It is a concept that I developed as a result of trying to find a way to connect with audiences in an improvisational setting where nobody needed to “understand” anything about music to appreciate and relate to what was being played. Instead, those present during the performance use their imaginations to access and control the direction of the where the music goes and what it means, thus involving the audience in a deeper way than they would normally be involved with a musical exhibition. I have been working (successfully) to get ImproviStory in front of different audiences, and especially in front of kids in educational settings.

After the release of my album, I changed my main ensemble project from a quintet to a trio (consisting of cornet, bass, drums), which was called the Victor Haskins Trio. In May of this year (2015), I began to learn how to play the Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI for short), and when I added this element to my trio, it changed the sound and my concept for what the ensemble would do and sound like, so the trio became Victor Haskins’ Skein (cornet/EWI, bass, drums), which just had its debut performance at the Richmond Jazz Festival.

In addition to my musical activities, I began dancing salsa in December of 2014, and as of June 2015, I have become a salsa dance instructor and I regularly host salsa-dancing events”!

Now enjoy a few of his videos which demonstrate his talents both as a performer as well as an articulate spokesman for his artistry-

Victor Haskins’ Skein featuring EWI:

ImproviStory TEDx talk:

Live Kennedy Center Jazz Outreach Ensemble performance:

How and When To Use A Plunger…..”and which one”?

imagesObviously most people know the “When” and “How” use of the common sewer plunger but many trumpet players are not familiar with its use as a trumpet mute.

Commercial plungers are available in most well equipped music stores and the offerings on line are numerous. Examples and instruction of the plungers use is available on YouTube as well. The design and cost of such plungers can be confusing and to help you decide on which one to buy or upgrade to is the purpose of this post.

The common sewer plunger (small size) is the most widely used. The cost is low and every plumbing/hardware store has one on their shelves. Most players pull it out when needed and seldom try to improve its capabilities. I have found that a better sound and ease in playing can be achieved by making a couple simple improvements which will help your performance.

How to improve the simple sewer plunger-

1. Turn it inside out.

I find that the contour of the inside out plunger fits the inside of the bell better and you don’t have to explain why you are using a sewer plunger.

2. Drill/cut a hole through the middle of the plunger. The size of the hole should be approximately the diameter of the handle you through away.

By cutting a hole in the middle of the plunger, you will relieve any possibility of total closer of the air through your mute. If the mute is totally sealed to the bell, your notes will break and you will have less control of intonation.

When to Use a Plunger-

The use of a plunger in trumpet playing can range from Jazz to Classical, from Polkas to Taps. This little accessory can drastically change the affect you are striving for with very little expense or effort.

Which plunger is best?

As you can see from the following photos, the assortment of commercial plungers is impressive.
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Humes &Burg Stoneline Rubber Plunger- $27.99
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Mutec MHT Ruber Plunger- $23.00
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Humes &Burg Tuxedo Plunger- $25.30
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Denis Wick Aluminum Plunger- $32.99
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Jo-Ral Aluminum Plunger- $29.99

But…. here is my choice for a dependable, effective and CHEAP plunger.

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PlumbCraft Mini Bellos Plunger– $2.24

Once you have purchased your very own plunger, the next step is to modify it so that you will not have pitch and control problems when using it.

Step 1.

Cut the handle off.
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Step 2.

Place the rubber ring of the plunger at the left edge of your bell.
Mute Position

Step 3.

Close the plunger tight against you bell.

Step 4.

Play a note and at the same time open one side of your bell while keeping the other side tight against the edge of your bell.

Your sound should be a beautiful “wah” starting one-half step flat and ending in tune. Be sure to keep the opening at the end of your mute clear.

Keeping the left edge of your mute in constant contact with the edge of your bell will establish the position and limit any inconsistencies in your tone.

How Many Ways Can You Use Your Plunger?

1. Positioning your plunger ½ inch straight out from the bell will give you a louder cup mute sound.

2. Placing the mute tight against the bell and blowing hard will give you a louder straight mute sound. Remember that a tight mute will raise your pitch a little. It will also make it extremely easy to bend notes for more of a jazzier sound.

3. With a little practice you can imitate a “Wah, Wah” mute by covering and uncovering the hole in your new mute.

4. Inverting the plunger so that the handle end is in your bell will lower your pitch ½ step but I can’t think of any benefit from this exercise.

To illustrate the possibilities of a plunger, I have included a video of one of, if not the best plunger player in history…Clarke Terry who can almost talk to you with his mute. At the end of his vocal, notice his technique of “ mumbling” which he continued to entertain his audiences with for many years.

Check out his plunger work at 19:42



This video contains foul language and intense personal anguish.

If you are offended by aggressive, confrontational behavior, do not view this video.

If you are underage, do not view this video.

If you have ever been attacked by a small man (woman?)on the street when practicing your horn, do not view this video.

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