The new "Jazz Standard"
This instrument, originally designed to fulfill a custom order for Bay area guitarist, Pat Smith,
has been redesigned internally and externally to improve the acoustics and feedback resistance.
The intention was to provide an intermediatepositioned instrument for the Jazz guitarist,
combining the best traits of an acoustic archtop and eliminating the bad traits (feedback).
I feel the solidbody and the chambered solidbody approach to feedback suppression
is the ‘cure’ that kills the patient. While it's true that a very select few can achieve their goals
musically with the solidbody, I can’t help feeling that there is another design based on the
traditional acoustic Archtop that would either make their jobs easier or allow a broader range of
expression tonally and musically.
A recent customer’s experience supports just that.
I received a phone call one morning from John Abercrombie, inquiring about the Jazz Standard model he had seen in an ad.
It intrigued him partly because of the lack of sound holes, which he equated to feedback suppression. I asked what guitars
he had played in his past, and he mentioned he played an L7 early on that sounded great, but was a handful at gigs because
of feedback. He resorted to stuffing rags thru the soundholes in an attempt to resolve the situation. This unfortunately
reduces the acoustics in an unpleasant manner, which will affect string vibration and finally the electric tone thru the
pickup/amp combination. In effect, this is a cure that doesn’t kill the patient, but instead leaves him suffering tonally.
To make a long story short, after another player sat in at a gig (with John) and proceeded to play
his Les Paul without any concern for feedback, John decided to jump the acoustic Archtop ship and has played solidbodies
ever since. Still back in the depths of his musical soul, he missed the magic that L7 exhibited at low SPL playing
conditions. I had to explain to John that the new redesign of the Jazz Standard included the addition of soundholes,
as well as internal changes. Removing the soundholes had a similar effect to tape covering them as a means to reduce
the acoustics. You end up with a ‘bottled’ up tone that isn’t completely natural. By adding back the soundholes and
allowing the soundbox to breathe in a normal manner, and then ‘controlling the acoustics thru internal bracing structures,
the instrument now exhibits even more natural tone thru the pickup/amp along with the ability to vary the acoustics
(and feedback suppression) to suit each player’s needs.
I fortunately had a six string demo Jazz Standard that I shipped John to establish a baseline in what
I would ultimately build him with respect to feedback suppression. John received the guitar just prior to leaving on a
tour overseas, and asked if I minded him taking it along. Upon his return, I met up with John (and his close friend Steve
Salerno) at his house to spend an afternoon swapping pickups and stories. He explained that he really hadn’t had much time
to play the instrument prior to the trip, and upon arriving at the hotel after his long flight, he took out the instrument
in his room to play unplugged, and spent the night sleepless. It was the first time in a long spell that he had an
instrument on the road that responded acoustically so that he could practice in his hotel room, resulting in an all night
He actually said that he believes this has resulted in an improvement in his playing, and although
the demo six string (the most acoustic and least feedback resistant version of the redesign) was not bulletproof enough to
work on the loudest gigs, he didn’t want to return it. Instead, he has commissioned a second instrument to be built that
will handle the more demanding SPL gigs, while playing the demo at quieter gigs and in the hotel room on road trips.
The following is an unsolicited posting to a jazz guitar newsgroup about John and his new Jazz Standard:
For what it's worth, I saw John play in CT recently (guitar and acoustic
piano, in a very intimate setting). He played a Mapson 16" (I believe)
archtop most of the night. Played some standards and a number of originals
and sounded (to my ear) fabulous, with a fat, warm archtop sound. He also
played a couple of tunes on solid-body with modest effects thrown in, but it
wasn't over-the-top chorus, etc. All in all, a very straight ahead set and
he sounded great.
‘The Cure that doesn’t kill the patient’
The redesign of the Jazz Standard has accomplished just that.