Model D'Artagnan (Grand Bouche) Gypsy Jazz Guitar, from the workshop of Rodrigo Shopis, c. 2009, ser. #040109 14 fret monster....
Purchased from the excellent folk at Retrofret Guitars and the Musurgia in Brooklyn New York. This guitar was reviewed in an early post, but it's so good it deserves another!
I have been playing, loving, and obsessing over guitars for the better part of my life but made the jump to Jazz Manouche about a year and a half ago. If you are like me, you have two choices, by a cheap chinese guitar to start on, or wait, practice on your Gibson acoustic, and save your money until you can throw down. I chose the latter and I am incredibly happy I did. My choice was between an AJL 503 and the Shopis I purchased. I talked to Ari a bunch about a guitar and I really cannot say enough great things about him. He is cooler than cool and I look forward to working with him in the future, model XO anyone??? But fate (and the IRS) left me with less money than I thought, and Retrofret made me an offer I couldn't refuse.
There was more to my choice. When it came down to it, I wanted more that just a great gypsy guitar, I wanted a GREAT GUITAR. Not that the Sel/Mac sound isn't great, but I wanted an instrument to inspire me and take my playing, composition and song writing to new places. I want woodiness and volume. Treble is good but woodiness is what makes me want to play more. I was disappointed to no end by the various cheap chinese guitars I've tried. I won't mention names and I know a great player can make anything sound great but I would rather spend several thousand dollars on something I love, than several hundred on something I don't.
That is why I am so happy with this guitar. First off, It is pretty much the coolest looking guitar I've ever seen. The violin varnish makes it look 50 years old already! The wood is gorgeous, the frets are super thick and there is a bit of a flame on the neck as well. The guitar is also incredibly light.
The sound is... well, perfect. Growly on the bottom and crystal clear up top, there are times when I hit it just right, it sounds like a piano to me, and at other times it sounds like my favorite recordings of you know who. I received the guitar on Thursday and every second I play it, it opens up more and keeps sounding better and better. I can't imagine how this guitar will sound in 10 years or beyond. There is a bit of a buzz on my lower register but Rodrigo is helping me fix it. Honestly I could live with the buzz, but may as well get it perfect. I may also try 11's on it eventually and any advice on that would be great.
To sum up, it is my humble belief that anyone reading this should save their pennies and order a guitar from Rodrigo or from AJL, or from Djangobooks. My advice to anyone out there new to this style of music, is save money and go BIG. The difference is astonishing. There are many super cool people I've met online that are willing to help with insight and advice (big thanks to Benny Robertson and Charlie Miller). So practice hard, save your dough, and buy a bad ass guitar. If we all buy nice guitars, great people like Rodrgio, and Ari can keep making them, and Djangobooks and Mr Horowitz will keep pumping out all these amazing books and DVD's.
OK, back to my practice!
One writes music because winter is eternal and if one didn't, the wolves and the blizzards would be at one's throat all the sooner.