But I didn't meet David until 20 October 2016 when, during a very brief visit to New Orleans, I literally bumped into him. I pushed open the door to the Yuki Izakaya Bar in Frenchmen Street, and David was immediately on the other side. He was guesting in Haruka Kikuchi's Band.
During the interval, David kindly and generously joined me for a very interesting chat.
I was not surprised. In his fluency, creativity, attack, tone and technique, David's playing always reminds me of Bix.
But here's something astonishing. David plays a cornet that is over 120 years old; and he still gets a beautiful tone from it. The cornet is an 1893 English Besson, a vintage 'Prototype' (serial number 48XXX). David knows that F. Besson was at the time located at 198, Euston Road, London; and that the instruments were distributed in the USA by Carl Fischer of New York. David bought this cornet from an antique store in Annapolis, Maryland, in the 1990s. As the US Naval Academy is based in Annapolis, David surmises that the instrument may originally have been played by someone in the Navy band.
After a few years, David passed the cornet on to his friend Dave Sager, a jazz trombone player in the DC area. Mr. Sager spent a deal of money in having it brought back to a pristine condition. Since about 2011, it has been back in the hands of David Jellema:
I remember hearing the late great British jazz trumpet-player Humphrey Lyttelton say that some instruments (such as Stradivari violins) improve with age but that brass instruments begin to deteriorate from the first time they are played and go on getting worse.
Well, David's cornets seem to discredit that theory. Or perhaps it is simply that they really knew how to make solid and enduring brass instruments in the Victorian Age.