Saturday, January 21, 2006

Martin D-45 Guitar

The weekend WSJ has an article about the Martin D-45 Guitar:


Listen to audio excerpts of Wayne Henderson playing on a D-45, from "W.C. Henderson & Company" on Hay Holler Records.
St. Anne's Reel
Peace in the Valley

The pearl trim on an heirloom Martin may be tremendously labor intensive, but the payoff is stunning. With Mr. Henderson's D-45 on your lap, it's easy to understand why Autry ordered the extra bling. On the company's lesser models, the pearl trim on the spruce top faces the audience. On a 45-style Martin, the best and most ornate inlay is visible only from the driver's seat. The gleaming abalone accentuates the graceful curve of the neck heel, and no fewer than eight separate lines of inlay converge within the player's line of sight. On close examination, the work on a vintage D-45 is clean and precise but not quite perfect, clearly crafted by hand.

It is the tone of a prewar D-45, however, that is its hallmark. Mr. Henderson's Martin sounds a bit like it looks, regal and majestic. It has a James Earl Jones voice, rich and resonant and oh-so-distinctive. Strum a simple E chord and the massive guitar will ring for almost 30 seconds before fading to silence. It's got power, the ability to respond to even the most aggressive picking and strumming with increased volume but still pristine tone. But the big D-45 also responds surprisingly well to a delicate touch. Hand it to a master player like Mr. Henderson, who's performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House, and you'll hear what it can do. (He plays his D-45 on his "W.C. Henderson & Friends" CD.)

While it sounds like an interesting instrument, I remain partial to local boy Jesselli and his hand made Axes:

Sl1_1_1 Joseph Jesselli, 56, starts with fine seasoned wood, and finishes -- countless details later -- with pieces of functional art, mostly electric guitars, that have won customers ranging from obscure collectors to Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones.

Electric guitars did not hit their stride until the 1950's, but to hear Mr. Jesselli talk, and to see his work, is to be taken back earlier in the 20th century. He draws his inspiration from Art Deco and Art Nouveau, from gun and furniture makers and from what he believes is a dying group: skilled artisans who served true apprenticeships and know how to use their hands.

''To me, an artisan has to chop stuff, really do a good job, like a woodcarver,'' Mr. Jesselli said at his studio. ''A guy who inlays, a guy who gilds, a guy who finishes. These take lifetimes to really master these things.''

His obsessive attention to detail shapes every part of his process, from start (''I don't want to use a piece of wood unless I've had it 10 years'') to finish (''a finisher is not just a guy who schlops paint on a piece of furniture -- it's a really very intense thing to do''). As a final touch, he even makes leather and oak cases with tools and straps to match that guitar.

That's One Big, Beautiful Guitar
The Martin D-45 is an 'amazing' acoustic instrument to play -- and to behold
WSJ, January 21, 2006; Page P14

Huntington's Stradivari
NYT, September 25, 2005

Posted at 06:13 AM in Music | Permalink


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