Archive for October, 2007

Julie Is Her Name

October 29, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I just received my copy of Julie Is Her Name from Amazon. The Julie in question is Julie London (real name: Gayle Peck; 1926 – 2000). She was quite big in particularly the 1950s, and making Billboard Most Popular Female Vocalist in 1955, 1956, and 1957. London’s career was no doubt much helped by her very good looks — according to The Independent she was “the most tasteful sex symbol of the time” — but she did have a real unique intimate lounge-style smoky voice.

That voice is heard very effectively on Julie is Her Name. This is Julie, Barney and a bass player, Ray Leatherwoord, covering a series of standards (Julie’s version of “Cry Me a River” was a hit in 1955, was used in The Girl Can’t Help It and has recently been featured in V for Vendetta).

Barney’s accompaniment is just expert. He doesn’t solo, just comps and provides intros. Brent Stuntzner has taken the trouble of transcribing Barney’s chord work (here).

Jon Raney’s Jazz Forum

October 27, 2007

Nicolai Foss

One of my first great jazz guitar experiences was listening, as a young high school student, to Jimmy Raney’s talented son, Doug Raney. I remember several great concerts from around 1980, some of them in the classic “Montmartre” in Nørregade in Copenhagen, with Doug who was then in his late twenties, that is, not that distant from my own age. Doug became something of a hero to me, and I listened endlessly to his debut record, Introducing Doug Raney, which Doug cut at the tender age of 21.

I realized only yesterday that Jimmy Raney had another talented son, Jon Raney, who specializes in the piano. Jon runs Jon Raney’s Jazz Forum. For the Jimmy Raney fan, there is much interesting material. For example, here is Jim Hall on Jimmy Raney.

UPDATE: Here is the myspace page on Jimmy.

More Yahoo: An Archtop Group

October 25, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Strangely, I didn’t notice until today that there is a well-functioning Yahoo group on archtops. It is reasonably active with 88 members and 600 + posts over its about 3 years of existence (discussion intensity appears to be increasing). Interesting discussions on topics such as the Gibson ES 350T, Eldon Shamblin, and the fact that you can use toothpaste to polish your celluloid pickguard!

Epiphone Yahoo Group

October 24, 2007

Nicolai Foss

… and a very specialized one indeed: It is entirely dedicated to gather and publish information about the inexpensive but pretty Epiphone Olympic archtop guitar. 23 members (including yours truly).

Pretty Craptops

October 22, 2007

Nicolai Foss

The inexpensive, mainly postwar, archtops that were produced for the US mass-market and distributed by Sears and similar outlets are often routinely dismissed by archtop collectors and players. To be sure very few Kays and Stewarts and probably no Harmonys can compete against even the low-end Epis and Gibsons of the same period.

Still, it is necessary to recognize that some low-end producers were better than others, and that some low-end guitars may represent a lot of value for money. Here is a case in point, a very pretty SS Stewart. This unmarked guitar (but with similar binding to the Stewart’s) is also a good-looking specimen.

Levin Archtops

October 20, 2007

Nicolai Foss

The Levin Guitar Company was Swedish and founded by HC Levin in the beginning of the 20th century (some say 1900). HC Levin had served as an apprentice with Martin in the US, and, ironically, Levin was acquired by Martin in the beginning of the 1970s.

Levin produced a series of very pretty archtops that are seldom offered for sale. Stockholm-based Vintage Guitars features what is arguably the largest number of Levin archtops currently offered for sale anywhere in the World. The 18½ inch Levin De Luxe is particularly impressive and may have been intended as the Levin counterpart to the Gibson 400 or the Epi Emperor (I have seen it advertised elsewhere as “Levin De Luxe 400”). The 30,000 Swedish Kroner price tag seems very reasonable for this fine instrument.

Gypsy Waltzes on YouTube

October 16, 2007

Nicolai Foss

I am a great admirer of the “gypsy waltzes” written by Baro and Matelot Ferret, Tchan Tchou Vidal, Pattotte Bousquet, and, closer to our time, Fapy Lafertin, Moreno, Stochelo Rosenberg and Dorado (and of course Tony Murena, Gus Viseur and Jo Privat on a rather different instrument). There are plenty of nice examples of les valses manouches on YouTube. Here are the most famous ones.

It is appropriate to begin with La Minch Valse, here in a classic version with Matelot and Boulou from Samois. Here is the great Stephane Wrembel performing his version of Montaigne St. Genevieve, ascribed to Django (although I suspect that the real composer is Matelot). This is Bousquet’s version. Amazing!! Here is Baro’s great “Swing Valse”. And here is Tony Murena’s beautiful “Indifference.” Apropos Murena, the most beautiful waltz of them all IMHO is his “Passion.” Of course, there are lots of versions of La Gitane. Strangely, nobody has posted one of the earliest and most beautiful gypsy waltzes, Gusti Malha’s Valse de Niglos.

Meisterstücken on Ebay

October 16, 2007

Nicolai Foss

One of the top German archtop builders was Arthur Lang. Here is a very nice example of his art (illustrating the usual contradictions of early German lutherie: Innovative design, quality woods, and the cheapest tuners one could get). And here is a Hoyer Broadway, which is quite akin to the Lang.

First Wooden Tailpiece Ever?

October 11, 2007

Nicolai Foss

Perhaps. On this 1960s Albanus.

Kent Bargain

October 4, 2007

Nicolai Foss

The DeArmond pickup concept was copied by numerous firms, most famously by French Stimer. One of the successful and prolific adopters of the DeArmond concept was Kent. I once owned one of these, which was fully as good as a DeArmond (FHC).

The Kent equivalent to the DeArmond 1000 or 1100 is this beautiful pickup assembly. At 129 USD (buy-it-now price), this is one of the best archtop-related bargains currently on ebay.