On a crowded Midtown street, through a nondescript lobby, up nine floors in the elevator, at the end of a hallway, is a door labeled J. Landress Brass. I opened the door last Wednesday and stepped into brass heaven.
My wife Yvonne and I were spending a few days in New York with our good friends Tony and Cathy Plog, and, as always when Tony’s around, eventually the subject turned to trumpets.
“I’ve got a place for you,” Ray Mase told us at dinner the first night. Ray is Tony’s friend, fellow trumpeter, and chair of the brass department at Juilliard. “J. Landress Brass—you’ve got to go. He has Arban’s cornet. He has Schlossberg’s trumpet.”
J.B. Arban and Max Schlossberg were iconic trumpet soloists and teachers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This was like hearing about Einstein’s slide rule or Babe Ruth’s Louisville Slugger. How could we not go?
So, a couple of days later, Tony and I headed across town, up that elevator, down that hallway, and through that door. We entered a large, high-ceilinged room lined with glass cases that literally gleamed, because they were filled with trumpets, cornets, and flugelhorns made of highly polished brass and silver. Hanging from the walls all around us, shining just as brightly, were French horns, trombones, and tubas.
Josh Landress and his staff repair, restore, collect, and sell instruments to brass players around the world. We found the group of them working in the shop at the back of the store, where they greeted us enthusiastically, named which of Tony’s brass compositions they had played, and told us about their own very specialized work.
Josh, shown here with Tony, is a big man with a warm smile and a booming voice. He walked us around the place, pointing out the Arban and Schlossberg treasures, plus instruments and mouthpieces used by, among others, Freddy Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson, and William Vacchiano, the legendary former principal trumpet in the New York Philharmonic. Josh said their latest job was restoring five trumpets sent by the Louis Armstrong estate.
He explained that every instrument they sell gets the same painstaking care, so that a customer, whether the principal in the Berlin Philharmonic or a young player in high school, can trust the quality of what they receive.
It was clear that, beyond the gleaming instruments, what made the place special was the feeling of good people doing important work, and doing it happily and well.
Josh was proud. Tony and I were impressed. Arban and Schlossberg would be pleased.