Boosey & Hawkes “Concert” Double Bass anno 1938 – Review

What will I like about this Hawkes Concert?

In a word I'd describe this Hawkes as an imposing instrument. With it's violin outline, full swell back and outer linings - the model is grand and impressive.

The instrument looks very pretty too.

Yes it certainly does. The spruce used for the table shows a nice even straight grain. The maple wood used for the back and ribs is very well flamed and one can even see the grain lines running downwards.

What about the sound – that's much more important to me?

Simply huge - on top of which there are lush-dark tonal qualities.

I am an orchestral player / I am a jazz player.

That's great. You'll absolutely love this instrument.

What is the overall condition of the instrument like?

We'd describe it as being in pretty exceptional condition. On the table there are only four minor cracks that run up from the lower edge of the table. Amongst the six ribs – there is only one small crack in the bottom treble side rib. That's it – apart from these now well-restored cracks – the instrument is mint.

Is the varnish original?

Yes it is and what's more the quality and texture of the spirit-based varnish is really glorious. The colour is chestnut brown over a yellow ground and there is an ever-so-slight craquelleur to the surface of the varnish, which is truly fabulous.

Have you upgraded the instrument at all?

Yes - internally the instrument sports a new bass bar of the correct length and depth while externally there is a set-up par-excellence.

Is the instrument labelled?

Yes. It bears it's origional label which states: The Concert Bass, (Registered), No1 1938 – Boosey & Hawkes Ltd, 295 Regent Street, London W1. A second label gives the number 634 in large figures.

Do you have any general info on Hawkes & Son?

Yes - the instruments manufactured by Hawkes & Son during the latter quarter of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century were often supplied to the many army and military bands that existed especially in England. There were three grades of instruments - namely Professor, Concert and Panormo - that were based on the unsurpassable form of Vincenzo Panormo's instruments.

All the models are characterized by their violin outline, deep ribs and generous proportions which are by no means too large to play easily. The Professor was a flat back model with an upper angle break and often outside linings - while the Concert and Panormo were produced with full swell backs.

To meet the demand for these robust and well-constructed instruments a great majority were imported from Germany and France - the Concert and Panormo models being superior in their choice of timber, workmanship and finish than those of the Professor. In 1924 the four string Professor instruments were being advertised at £22, the four string Concert at £26 and the four string Panormo model was £36. For the three string versions of these same models prices were £20, £24 and £32 respectively. The advert aptly proving that in England there was still some demand for the three stringed instruments even at this late date.

Final Summary

It is a well-known fact that the majority of Hawkes double basses had a very hard life - so to find this particular example in a near mint state - is quite remarkable indeed. With its massive sound and full-tone this really is an attractive option for an upwardly mobile, budget-conscious orchestral professional. Fitted with a set of Thomastic Spirocore meds or softs - it really does produce the kind of juicy-groove sounds that you jazz guys & chicks are all after. In terms of investment potential – this fashionable piece of bass making history is sure to provide excellent dividends.

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