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    Earl Groner’s Kruspe Bass Trombone

    some interesting facts, and my own observations……

    This horn was built By Kruspe around 1935, for the Berlin Philharmonic. While Earl was in the Army overseas he studied from the bass trombonist of the Berlin Philharmonic, and was given this horn as a gift from him. (quite a gift I’d say and a nice act of friendship too ) Earl played it until he took some lessons from Robert Harper, the bass trombonist in the Philadelphia Orchestra at the time, they traded (for what I don’t know) it was used by Harper for a few years and at some point they traded back. later on it was on loan to Charlie Vernon, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony, then returned after a few years. It is rumored that the New York Philharmonic, and Boston Symphony used it on occasion as well, the New York and Boston loans are anecdotal, the Berlin and Philadelphia connections and Chicago loan are a fact as I know things now.

    This trombone retains it’s original finish, and as the bell and outer slide material is very soft, and thin, I would not recommend re-finishing it at all it is in very good condition.

    It is a Dual bore instrument, top slide is about .535 to .547 on the bottom, with a long slide and short wide bell flare typical of most German basses of that time. The bell lock is a simple screw clamp, the screw for it is missing, as well the threads on the lock are very worn and partially stripped.

    There is a tuning slide extension for the F attachment to lower the pitch to E, right now because of issues with the valve lever, it cannot be used easily.

    There is a mouthpiece receiver, but interestingly no leadpipe.

    The inner slide tubes are nickel silver, with Nickle silver slide stockings that are soldered on. As could be expected the slide handgrips are VERY worn and show signs of numerous repairs.

    The original valve linkage was a spring loaded valve with a string/ thumb loop typical of the period. At some point within the last 15 years or so the valve was modified to use a more common and modern stop arm, lever, and ball linkage. Unfortunately the linkages are plastic/nylon model airplane linkages, and the lever itself is not well thought out mechanically. (it has an excessively long travel, and it’s location blocks removal of the F tuning slide – this would be fairly simple to remedy)

    Some thoughts… This is not a student (even college level) instrument.. It is fragile, much more so than a “modern” instrument. In order for this instrument to be played regularly ( not likely ) it would require some expensive restoration work.

    Work to be done ….. At a minimum addressing the valve lever issues, and the bell lock is needed. Next at some point addressing the worn out components of the slide – (this is akin to opening the proverbial can of worms, as repairing the slide grips will require a substantial effort and custom machine work – if replacing the inside slide tubes is opted for, it would require custom tooling to draw new modern tubes unless similar sized tube can be sourced ( I haven’t found any yet ), and once fitted, it will change the way the instrument plays, possibly improving it, most definitely changing it (it could alter the sound enough to make it too “modern”). In my opinion, there are only a very small number of repair shops capable of doing the slide work adequately. ( one in New York, another outside of San Francisco )

    On to Earl’s mouthpieces… Earl was known to have helped develop a large bass trombone mouthpiece with the help of the great brass manufacturer Schilke, in Chicago, of the 9 mouthpieces some are early variations of that mouthpiece stamped “Groner” (naturally) All the mouthpieces are in good condition some have some minor flaws. Two are not pictured below.

    here are some links, the second , if you scroll down Earl talks to a class of kids about his bass trombone …. it is charming and shows the person he was.