Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Made-in-Indonesia G&L Guitar For Jazz

'72 Fender Telecaster Thinline
G&L Tribute ASAT Classic Bluesboy
Made in USA guitars are increasingly becoming beyond the reach of ordinary working jazz guitar players. With Gibson jazz archtops priced between US$6000-US$15000, its time to ask if we are paying a premium just for the brand name and the image that goes with it. In fact its time to re-look whether a jazz archtop is de rigueur for playing jazz. It is possible to get that fat mellow tone which is the characteristic of jazz guitar music without using a big hollow-body guitar. A favorite of many jazz guitar players has been the Fender Telecaster, a solid body guitar that is usually associated with Country music. When played with the neck pickup, using flatwound strings and good technique, a Tele with Rosewoord fingerboard can sound pretty jazzy. Ed Bickert, Joe Pass, Lenny Breau and many others have used Teles for their music. Perhaps its that string-through body, that sweet neck pick-up, the brass saddles, or maybe because of the Tele's plank-like slab of wood body. But all jazz guitar players know that a Stratocaster, the Telecaster's 'brother' and probably the most popular guitar in the world just doesn't cut it as a jazz guitar even though it can be used for almost any type of music.
Recently I found a G&L ASAT Classic Bluesboy that is the epitome of the Tele jazz sound- and more. G&L, as every guitar enthusiast knows, is the Company that Leo Fender founded after he left Fender Inc. Most of the G&L guitars are based on his old Fender designs, but with some refinements. The ASAT Classic comes in various versions, and the one shown above is a 'copy' of the '72 Tele Thinline, a semi-hollow Telecaster with humbuckers. The best thing about my G&L is the price. Many American guitar brands have outsourced their production to other countries because of the much cheaper cost of production. In the 80's it was Mexico and Japan, but as Japan became more expensive, guitars were made in Korea, then China. And now we have made-in-Indonesia guitars. My made-in-Indonesia G&L is a steal. The quality and finish are as good if not better than made-in-USA guitars, and while previously, poor quality pickups were a major grouse, the manufacturers have addressed the issue by now using American electronics.
I string my G&L with Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Swings 0.11s and play it through my Acoustic Image Clarus II and Raezers Edge Stealth 12 speaker. The result is a tone that has the fat mellowness of an archtop, but without the boom that most archtops occasionally have. What I like about it is that its easy to carry around, its price means that I don't have to worry about it being scratched, damaged or stolen, and it does not have the feedback of archtops when played in a less-controlled environment. The chambered hollow body adds an acoustic edge to the tone, and when played with fingers is good for Bossa Nova tunes. Played with a pick's tip angled to attack the strings at 90 degress, it produces a smooth as butter tone. Its time to have a paradigm shift about jazz archtops and American made guitars. You can save a bundle in these recessionary times by exploring made-outside-USA guitars and Tele-like hollow bodies for your jazz.
Here's what the G&L sounds like through a LunchBox amp. http://soundclick.com/share?songid=8440204 . It's just my amateurish noodling using Band-in-a-Box software for backing
For more about the incredible ZT LunchBox amp, see my facebook album at www.facebook.com/tiankhean

1 comment:

  1. Those guitars look cool. This just shows that Indonesia can also make world-class gutars of top quality. We hope it can also expand it's guitar making industry.

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