I had the special opportunity to see Chet Baker in a small jazz club in Toronto. We were sitting so close that his horn case was under my table.
As you can expect, he was mesmerizing. But I also noticed another detail that stuck with me since that night over 30 years ago. He was playing a Connstellation model trumpet, likely the 38B. This is the same trumpet that was also played by high note specialists Maynard Ferguson and Cat Anderson. It's a silver horn with a big bell, and is heavier than average. Chet was using a Bach 7C mouthpiece, which was typically included with new trumpets and is often classified as a beginner or student model. I was astounded at the sound Chet coaxed out of that horn. I mean, he sounded like Chet Baker! I had the exact same horn and mouthpiece, and I probably sounded more like Kenny Baker than Chet. (Always good to slip in a Star Wars reference....) When I overhear trumpet "gearheads" discussing the most picayune details of the newest gadgets, my mind wanders back to that Chet Baker show. Granted, there can be a huge difference between entry level horns and pro models. But if Chet Baker can make that equipment sound like, well, Chet Baker, then I suspect that the player is a MUCH bigger factor than the equipment.