DownBeat March 2021


B.A.C. Paseo Trombone Hand-Built Production Model With Vintage American Sound K ansas City-based B.A.C. Musical Instruments is well known for building custom trombones that are not only fine instruments, but playable works of art.

fast and smooth. The slide positions relative to the bell are closer to those of a wide-slide orchestral trombone. I happen to like that, but if you’re looking for narrow-slide positions, you may be thrown off. I also really like the internal slide lock, its slick design hiding the working parts for a clean look. My only beef with this awesome slide was the water key placement. Its central location meant leaning to the left to use it. This is hardly a deal breaker, but worth noting. Most trombones of this size are either .500 or .508., so this dual- bore slide (.500/.508) is a bit unusual. I thought I might find evidence of the intonation quirks sometimes present in dual-bore horns with a larger spread between the two bores, or be thrown off by an unfamiliar back pressure. But if I didn’t already know it was a dual bore, I wouldn’t have guessed. Perhaps the bores are too close to notice, or maybe the fixed Williams 6 leadpipe gets some of the credit for this great balance. Regardless, the response is immediate with no intonation surprises, and the back pressure is even in every register. Here’s where the design of this horn gets really interesting. Remember that this trombone has three very different alloys in its design. As I see it, the solid core sound from the yellow brass slide tubes and tuning slide should have some “snap” added to the articu- lations by the silver neckpipe, and then all of that is amplified by the beautiful, resonant copper bell. A great deal of thought went into these choices, and when paired together with the .500/.508 bore slide and the Williams leadpipe, the results are wonderful. Such a great sound: dark with plenty of core at any volume, and with a surprisingly even response in any register. I can get some bite in the sound if I press the volume or sharpen my attacks, but I never need to do that just to get the notes to speak. It is such a treat to play a smaller-bore trombone that doesn’t require a stri- dent tone in the extreme registers and where all the notes feel the same, all with the same great sound. I have found this in some American- made orchestral trombones, but never in a trombone this size. I didn’t think it was possible; I stand very much corrected. The Paseo is a fantastic instrument, but its price point also makes it a great deal. Buyers can get a hand-built B.A.C. horn that looks, feels and plays like something truly special without having to navigate a world of endless custom options. Including a Protec Pro-Pac case sweetens the deal even further. The Paseo is the best production-model trombone I have ever played, and I am going to be very sad send this demo model back home to Kansas City.  —Ryan R. Miller

Best American Craftsmen (B.A.C.) is the brainchild of repair techni- cian and instrument historian Michael Corrigan. Once a small repair shop in the basement of Mike’s Overland Park, Kansas, home, the com- pany has since grown from those humble 2004 roots to occupy a fac- tory near downtown Kansas City’s historic jazz district. Today, B.A.C. is hand-building some of the most unique instruments available any- where, and although their customization options and imagination seem endless, the manufacturer continues its quest to preserve the quality and sound of the quintessential vintage American-made instrument. This incredible level of customization and craftsmanship often comes at a price. While there are other American companies mak- ing modular horns at a lower price point than a full one-off cus- tom, even those instruments can be expensive and the many design and options downright dizzying. That makes the B.A.C. “Handcraft” series a welcome option, indeed. This instrument line is still hand-built but narrows down the endless options of their custom horns to fixed designs that don’t lose the feel of owning something really special. The Handcraft series includes both trumpets and trombones and is further broken down into the Paseo (jazz models) and Plaza (orchestral) lines. This review will focus on the Paseo model jazz trombone. As I open the B.A.C. stenciled Protec case, the visual appeal of the Paseo model is striking with its satin-finish full copper bell, nickel sil- ver neckpipe and satin yellow brass slide tubes. And that beautiful hand-lettered engraving adds a classy touch of distinction. The visu- al effect isn’t full-on “steampunk” like some B.A.C. custom designs, but it is stunning. The tuning slide’s counterweight could also be seen as a steampunk element, looking like another piece of tubing through which no air could actually pass (or could it?). These different materi- als are there for more than just looks, however, as each one will serve to color the horn’s sound. The first thing I notice while assembling the Paseo is the angled left- hand grip. The lower cork barrel is moved forward a bit so the bot- tom of the brace is angled forward (actually fitting the human hand). Because most trombones are built with this brace set perpendicular to the slide tubes, it felt awkward at first. However, I quickly grew to like this design, and started to wonder why trombones haven’t always been made this way. The right-hand grip uses a slightly smaller-diameter tubing, giving the slide a lighter, more precise feel. The slide is light and its action is


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