Flute/Bb Flute - D'Amore
Hi Herbert -
I am a veteran Jazz tenor saxophone player. I have not traditionally been a "doubler" on any of the other woodwinds (except for the other saxophones). I'm intrigued by the Bb flute "D'amore." I had never heard of such an instrument but Googled "Bb flute" and discovered it.
As a person with a vast repertoire of memorized Jazz standards, having a Bb flute would save having to relearn my songs in "concert." Another reason for my interest is that I am extremely tall and have really large hands. I find the concert flute keyboard small and cramped. I've never seen a Bb flute. Alto flutes fit my large hands much better than concert flutes. How much bigger, if at all, is the keyboard on the Bb flute as compared to the concert flute? The spacing and overall "length" of the key stacks is especially important. (Don;t get me wrong; I'd like to have both an alto flute and a better concert flute, but I only have so much money). An Altus is out of the question; my Selmer Mark VI saxophones cost about the same. Do you have any idea where to find an Emerson Bb flute? In terms of the sound, I envision something with most of the punch of a concert flute (helpful for salsa dancing on the Latin tunes) and the lushness of the alto flute (a la Chuck Mangione tunes). Am I roughly correct? Thanks for your insight!
The Bb Flute D'amore is a wonderful instrument, and if you have the interest in it, I would certainly encourage you to try to find one. Most of the players who I encounter with them these days are exactly in your position; they're jazz saxophonists who appreciate being able to play their tenor/soprano music on flute without transposing, so they absolutely can be used quite successfully for that purpose.
Anyway, the Flute D'amore was popular during the Baroque era as a carryover from the Renaissance. It originally fulfulled a role in the consorts of the Renaissance, but its mellow, rich tone was popular and flutes in Bb continued to be used into the Baroque. Several concertos were written specifically for this unique voice, but as ensemble sizes grew and popularity shifted from chamber groups to the very large Romantic-era orchestras, the Flute D'amore's relative lack of projection saw its popularity wane.
Because the alto flute has a much wider bore for its slightly greater length, it produces a dark, mellow tone. The Flute D'amore, on the other hand, maintains pretty much the same length/bore relationship as the standard C flute, so is slightly brighter than the alto, but maintains some of the warmth of the alto. It's an unusual hybrid with a voice all its own. While the fact that it does not carry the punch of a C flute means that I am not sure that it would be able to hold its own against a band playing Latin tunes (This would depend on the band, the arrangement, and any amplification that is being used), it would certainly provide you some of that Chuck Mangione-ness you're interested in.
As for the size of the keyboard, unlike the alto and bass, which generally employ extended key touches which may or may not be located near the associated key cup, the Flute D'amore is basically a C flute scaled up in size by perhaps 20%. The key cups are larger, as are the gaps between them, and there will be no extended key touches....Your fingers will rest directly on top of the A, G, F, E, and D keycups. Given your description of your hand size and the fact that you feel cramped on the C flute's keyboard, the Flute D'amore would likely be a good fit for you. It is not a massive instrument, but it definitely has a bit more space than the C flute.
The Altus Flutes D'amore are absolutely STUNNING instruments with one of the most gorgeous tones you could ever hope to hear and incredibly fast, agile response for one of these larger flutes, but as you note, are quite expensive. They do have the benefit of being easily available to anyone with enough money to pay, however. The Emerson flutes, on the other hand, are no longer being produced, so they can be harder to find, but are much more affordable. While they are very solid instruments, the Emersons don't quite carry the same finesse as the Altus models. If you're interested in an Emerson, you'll need to keep an eye on the various flute dealers (FluteWorld, Carolyn Nussbaum, Flute Center of New York, etc.) and eBay, as they will all be used at this point. They come up very infrequently and often sell very quickly, as these instruments are popular for collectors as well as players.
So to sum up, the keyboard of these flutes follows the same design as the C flute, but perhaps 20% larger. You would likely find the mechanism quite comfortable. The tone is darker than the C flute, but without the full richness of an alto because it lacks the larger bore of the alto. A Flute D'amore would certainly allow you to play without having to transpose to concert pitch, and has been used to just that end by numerous jazz players.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.