Monday, August 6, 2012

Jazz Clarinet Gear Review: Boosey & Hawkes Edgware

There are many on the web who say the B&H Edgware makes a good jazz clarinet. I've always been a bit skeptical of this, thinking is says more of the player's poor understanding of jazz sound than the instrument. Top jazz players have always played top pro model horns, and the Edgware was a high end student model horn from the 50s-70s when Boosey & Hawkes were at their height.

B&H Edgware

So it was with a predisposition towards dismissiveness that I recently played an Edgware dating from about 1949 (if the serial number chart I checked is to be believed). The particular model I played was in excellent condition. The keys were beautifully preserved, and my general impression was that this horn had either barely been played, or wonderfully restored recently--perhaps both. Having said that, the keywork was not the standard of a top professional horn.


Of all registers, the Edgware chalumeau betrays its "student" status most. Comfortable, easy to blow, and somewhat open, the main problem is a lack of depth, power, and character to the sound when compared with a vintage Selmer or Fritz Wurlitzer (whose chalumeau is perhaps unsurpassed for power and timbral palette). Still, it yields a good, solid sound with considerable body--more than I expected, but difficult to project.


The first nice surprise was the clarion. On this particular horn, the clarion matched the chalumeau better than many Buffet R-13s I've played. Keep in mind that my biggest criticism of the average R-13 is the timbral shifts between every register (and many in the altissimo).  The Edgware's smoothness would make some sense of players preferring it as a primary jazz horn--especially if they are coming to it from Buffets. Oddly enough, the higher I climbed on this horn, the better and more professional it sounded. Which brings me to the...


Who would have though that a student horn could handle real altissimo playing? Yet the Edgware does. The altissimo on this horn is very close to a good Selmer. Flexible, with good punch to the sound, this a horn to be reckoned with.

So it is with a certain amount of surprise that I now say, if you are a doubler looking for a jazz horn with a very limited budget, give the Boosey & Hawkes Edgware a try. They are by far he best student level horn I've played, and the altissimo handles better than many contemporary pro models.


Susan Kolesar said...


We have a Boosey & Hawkes Edgware Clarinet made in England with a Serial Number: 109405

Does anyone know how to find the age of this instrument and it's value?

Also, how would this Clarinet be classified? Is it an R13?

Thanks so much,

Susan Kolesar said...

I'm finding that the Boosey & Hawkes are not worth much and thus the one in the family needs to be updated.

Does anyone have a used Buffet R13 Clarinet they'd like to sell?

If so, what year, what price are you asking, and what condition is it in?


Eric Seddon said...

Hey Susan--

I'd check eBay if you're looking for a used R13.

This isn't really a selling or trading site, and I'm not looking to turn it into one--I'll be keeping it pretty strictly a blog about jazz clarinet--so I won't be publishing any other comments on R13s for sale.

Good luck! (I personally can't stand R13s, and don't recommend them--especially for jazz.)


Susan Kolesar said...

Thanks for the feedback Eric. I respect keeping your blog a blog. I'm surprised that you don't like R13, is it R13 in general or would you recommend the vintage R13 from say around the 1960's and 1970's?

Also, if you don't mind, what type of clarinet would you recommend for high school and college?

Thank you!

Eric Seddon said...

Hi Susan--sorry it's taken so long to respond--been a busy month.

I've written a review of the Buffet R13 here:

I personally don't like the sound of them, and that's as someone who has used them in various situations. There are exceptions...I know of a handful of players who have recorded and performed brilliantly on them. Artie Shaw's last recordings were made on a Buffet clarinet (though I'm not sure if it was an R13--might have been just pre-R13). Back in the late 80s, Eddie Daniels briefly recorded on Buffet, I think, and had some great results. And I've always been a fan of Franklin Cohen's playing in the Cleveland Orchestra. But in the hands of most players, I feel they are very limited in their expressive palette, and yield a sound I just plain don't like. For these reasons and others, they were a constant frustration for me to play. When I was in college and afterwards, playing in orchestras, there was a still a culture that said you "had" to have an R13 to play in American symphonies. That attitude, never really true, is now obviously debunked, as many symphony players are using everything from Backun to Rossi to Selmer clarinets. There are many good instrument makers these days, and Buffet can't be said to have a corner on the top professional market anymore, IMO.

As a jazz musician, and as a clarinetist dedicated to the art of jazz clarinet specifically, it's worth noting that nearly all the great, iconic jazz clarinet players of the past used large bore Selmers or Leblancs. Benny Goodman (during his height) played Selmers, as did Artie Shaw. Pete Fountain used a Selmer early on, then became synonymous with his own large bore model Leblanc. Nearly all of the old New Orleans masters--including Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet, Barney Bigard, Jimmie Noone, Omer Simeon, and others, played Selmer Albert system horns. So the sound of jazz clarinet is one that is dominantly a Selmer sound. That's not say you can't play an R13...but it doesn't sound great to me, unless your name happens to be Artie Shaw (and truth be told, I preferred Artie's Selmer sound--even though his last recordings are some of the greatest masterpieces ever put on record).

I'm not sure what to recommend to a High School player or college player. The real issue is what works for each person--not a one size fits all. But as a starters kit, I'd make sure to try a Buffet R13, a pro-level Selmer, and a pro-level Yamaha. Unfortunately, all of these are narrow, polycylindrical bore instruments these days...but at least there will be a diversity of sound concepts to choose from. Good luck!


Destry Ransier said...

I have an Edgware serial 105976. My mother picked it up at a yard sale 25 years ago for $10. it was missing a mouthpiece. we got a replacement mouthpiece, and I used it in band for a number of years, now my daughter uses it. I am inquiring what it it's worth might be in today's world.

Destry Ransier said...

I have an Edgware serial 105976 that my mother picked up at a yard sale for $10 when I was a child starting band. it needed a mouthpiece but was otherwise fine. My daughter now uses in her band, and OMG you can definitely tell the difference of her clarinet from all the other resin clarinets. The sound that comes out of it is so Natural!! I am inquiring as to what it's worth is in today's world. I'm not looking to sell it, just want to know it's value. thank you very much for your time.

Eric Seddon said...

Hi Destry--

The answer to your question lies somewhere between "not much" and "whatever someone will pay for it"! Honestly, Edgwares sell for very little on eBay and other places--the best way to find out market value is to do an eBay search.

In general, I think the market tends to undervalue B&H clarinet, but there is one consideration worth mentioning: the keywork on the old B&H clarinets is often very brittle, and the replacement parts can be tough to locate here in the USA.

Sounds like you have a good one, though--enjoy it!


ben buchanan said...

We have an old B&H clarinet, serial number 52064. Best I could find date would be 1949. Daughter plays it. plays well. Have all parts. She would like to sell it but I would rather not. Know you don't have a selling site here, but thought I might ask just somewhere in what range. original case. beautiful sounding. Thanks so much.ben buchanan, texas.