Archive for February, 2009

Barney Kessel Anecdotes

February 25, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Here is a nice bio of Barney with some personal reminiscences by the author, Larry Grinnel. Ever wondered about Barney’s, uhhmmm, characteristic wardrobe, such as those over-dimensioned bow-ties, yellow shirts, and alternatively matched trousers and jackets (e.g., here and here)? Here is the explanation:

Barney was also known for his outlandish wardrobe. He often got himself “out front” by arranging with his fellow players, such as Charlie Byrd and Herb Ellis with the Great Guitars, agreeing to wear a conservative business suit. When they all met up to do the show, there was Herb and Charlie in the agreed upon suits, while there was Barney in some wild Hawaiian print. The folks in the audience were not about to forget Barney Kessel!

“Archtop Guitars and Books”

February 24, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Aussie readers of J&A (in particular), take notice: Richard Autenzio has just launched a new site that offers “Australia’s Best Collection of Archtop Guitars and Books” –for sale, that is. Among the nice archtops offered for sale is a Gibson Herb Ellis, which is a lovely guitar. Remember also to check out the gallery part (Richard’s own collection?), in which I thought the Ibanez Salvador was a particularly interesting archtop. Richard: If you read this, could you add details on the Salvador?

“Kilgore Trout” Putting Me Straight

February 22, 2009

Nicolai Foss

A gentleman (who has clearly read too much Kurt Vonnegut) mails an extended and very interesting comment on my earlier mocking of a Clifford Essex archtop being offered at 15,500 USD at ebay. The comment is reproduced here in its entirety:

Just an FYI re: Clifford Essex Paragon guitar article from May 2, 2008. I’ve owned a spectacular Clifford Essex ‘Special Order’ for many years that is tiger maple and spruce and made sometime in the 1950’s by Marco Roccia. I was interested about your reference to a ‘James Bond Guitar, errr Almost’ that was on Ebay with a ‘buy it now’ price of $15,500 to which you made the comment, albeit by acronym, “(GMaB) Give Me a Break?”. I took my chances and lug mine to the NAMM show several years ago in Anaheim to get some feedback. Each time I opened the case a crowd formed with lots of Ooohs and Ahhhs. One gentleman who asked to buy it referred me to an older gentleman sitting not far from George Lowden’s display. He said he was a retired luthier from France and when I asked him if he could help me get an insurance appraisal for my guitar, he took it in hand, gave it a look and a strum and said “Priceless”. He said that he almost certainly knew the man who made it, one Marco Roccia, with whom he had worked with at Selmer in France. I showed him the piece of paper that was in the guitar besides the Clifford Essex Music label, which simply said ‘Special Order M.R.’ He said that was certainly his friend Marco Roccia, and that I would likely find the same initials inside on the back of the top of the guitar, which was how he signed his instruments. When I pressed him to put a value on paper for me he said the instrument was one of very few ever made (well under 100 total) and couldn’t be replaced. He said it was easily as valuable as an early Super 400 (which I have one of) and I told him that I had an old appraisal from a former-Gibson luthier for $20,000, and he said, ‘that won’t touch it, because you’ll never find another like it, especially with the woods, workmanship and the headstock inlays.” So, is $15,500 really off the wall? The link to that Ebay sale no longer exists, so there is no way to see the instrument, so maybe it was a roach, but still, they are quite rare and it least mine is very well made and is quite a sound cannon. I hope this is helpful.

Chico Hamilton Bargain

February 21, 2009

Nicolai Foss

Over the years Chico Hamilton (b. 1921) has featured an unusual number of talented guitarists in his many groups. His first recordings as a leader was with a trio featuring a young Howard Roberts (recorded in Dec.1953), and his somewhat later quintets — with a cello in the lineup — featured John Pisano and Jim Hall. His early 1960s quintet featured Gabor Szabo and Larry Corryell played with him around 1970.

Avid Jazz offers a twofer with Hamilton’s first three albums at a bargain price. The music is pleasant chamber jazz with plenty of space for the guitarists (Hall, Pisano, Roberts). I think this must also be some of the earliest recorded work of Hall, who plays marvelously (on a Les Paul). Definitely worth buying.