When Musical Instruments Become Family

The other day, I saw some beautiful congas that were for sale. I paused, because they're considered valuable collectors' items.

conga drums i

Four Valje congas by the late Southern California master drum maker Tom Flores, c. the mid-1970s. courtesy of Felix Contreras hide caption

itoggle caption courtesy of Felix Contreras
conga drums

Four Valje congas by the late Southern California master drum maker Tom Flores, c. the mid-1970s.

courtesy of Felix Contreras

The gentleman who was offering them for sale later took them off the market mostly because of a personal connection to the instruments. He just couldn't part with them.

It got me thinking about jazz musicians and their instruments.

My own experience is that they become like members of the family. That's how I feel about my own collection of hand drums and other percussion instruments: Can't be sold no matter their monetary value. I mean, would you sell your brother or sister? (Those with intense sibling rivalries: don't answer that!)

My own brother wrote me back after I shared the picture of the drums to say he still has his 1970 Fender Jazz Bass. These days, it might be priced at much more than he paid for it new. Same with his Gibson 335 guitar. "I love playing that guitar on gigs!" he wrote.

How about you players out there? What's the story behind your favorite axe?

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