A ‘Martin Committee’ Trumpet in B Flat, Model T3460, by the Martin Co., Circa 1980. Estimate: $70,000-100,000. Offered in the Exceptional Sale on 29 October at Christie’s in New York.
The trumpet was made by the Martin Company, which had been founded in Chicago in 1865 by the German instrument-maker, Johann Heinrich Martin. By the middle of the 20th century, demand for its trumpets was pretty much insatiable. Dizzy Gillespie was a huge fan, Miles Davis was another.
Davis was particularly fond of a model called the Committee. So much so that when the Martin Company was sold to a rival manufacturer in the 1960s — and the production of Committee trumpets officially stopped — they continued to be custom-made for Davis.
The Committee horn being auctioned was one of a set of three conceived by designer Larry Ramirez, who was a part-time jazz trumpeter himself. At Davis’s request, one was coloured red, one blue and one black — each of them decorated with a gilt moon and stars, and with the word ‘Miles’ inscribed inside the bell.
Ramirez lived in Denver, which — as good luck would have it — was where Davis was playing one of his first comeback concerts, in the summer of 1981. The designer was able to hand-deliver the first two trumpets he’d finished (the blue and the black) to Davis’s motel room one night.
Ramirez told the story, in later life, of the nerves he’d felt at the moment Davis handed him back one of the horns and said, ‘You play, don’t you?’. He duly played a tentative passage from Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez and remembers his relief when Davis observed, ‘Man, you play pretty good’.