I Have Been Blessed With Wonderful Guitars Throughout My Career.
Like So Many Things, Choosing A Guitar Is A Matter Of Personal Taste.
The Relationship I Have With The Guitar I Play Is Profound. It Is Often Ineffable.
Where would we be without those Luthiers around the globe who are not only seeking to build better instruments but actually doing it? A great guitar will inspire you in a way that is as distinctive as the instrument itself. My guitar-playing friends are always on the look out for a better guitar even if they adore theirs. What follows is a list of the guitars I have owned and/or admired. The guitars are listed in order of newest to oldest.
Since December (2013) I Have Been Transported And Inspired Each Time I Pick Up My New Gary Leeguitar And Play It. It Allows Me The Freedom And Ease To Express My Deepest Musical Feeling And That Of The Composers. What More Can A Player Ask For!? Gary Is A Builder Who Is Not Content To Rest On His Past Successes. Over The Years I Have Seen His Guitars Develop Into What Is Now A Truly Outstanding Concert Instrument. To Say It Will Be Exciting To Hear And Play The Guitars That Gary Will Produce In Years To Come Is A Huge Understatement! Bravo, and thank you Gary!!
Otto Vowinkel Baritone Guitar
Since March, 2013 I have been playing Bach's 4th cello suite on my new Otto Vowinkel Baritone guitar with strings by D'Addario. I've been greatly inspired by the sound of this magical instrument. Bach's cello suites are a perfect fit for it. Playing the 4th suite on this instrument is so emotionally and musically satisfying. I have other repertoire planned for the "bari"! Stay tuned
I have known Jeff for perhaps 15 years. My steel string duo partner, Bill Coulter who has played Jeff’s guitars for years introduced him to me.
Since that time Jeff and I have gone back and forth about him building me a somewhat unique guitar. We settled on an eight-string instrument in which the first and second strings are doubled with fan frets. The electronics in the guitar are LR Baggs Element active System
Jeff was responsible for launching the first album I made with Bill, Song for our Ancestors. We will always be thankful to him for that! I have played my Traugott in concert with Andy Summers and will use it in the score I am writing for a documentary called Corrida Goyesque. I never heard a steel string that I liked more than this. It’s a dream guitar!
blackey: My electric
This electric guitar has been dubbed the name Blackey either by guitarist Bryce Dessner or radio producer extraordinaire, Jay Allison. I can’t remember which.
They both loved the guitar. Bryce borrowed it for 5 years. It appeared on the first three recordings of the National. Jay and I have often played deeply moving and transcendent (so we thought!!!) blues together through the years and he always made me promise that if I ever sold it that it would have to be to him! I used it on all three Latitude recordings.
I can’t say what the electronics are. I don’t think they are anything highly unusual or even high end. It has a Schecter neck and a heavy strat-like solid body. It was put together by one of my all time favorite guitarists, Bill Connors. Bill traded it with me for an semi-hollow bodied Epiphone with pick-ups by a French pick up builder Benidetti. I have not seen Bill in years. He was a huge inspiration and great friend in the early eighties.
Jack makes beautiful modern guitars as well as exquisite replicas of period instruments. I’m thrilled to say Yale will be acquiring a guitar resembling the 7-string Lacote in the photo. Although I will not own it, I'm certain I wiull be playing it a lot.
Jack has been a friend for years. In addition to being a builder, he is a wonderful concert guitarist and teacher. I’m looking forward to playing his 7-string Lacote copy.
This is a guitar I love but do not own. Ugh!!! I wish I did!!!I have used it in concert and will record with it soon. Bruno Jacquet (jacquetguitars.com) a maker of wonderful guitars custom electric guitars himself, in collaboration with Jack Vees made this one. Jack is a Yale colleague and dear friend. He is a fabulous bass player, composer and teacher. In the past few years has been putting together guitars, each one better than the next.
I would like to note the guitars that I don’t own but have made an impression on me:
Three classical makers have moved me in the last year: Raphael Granados from Mexico, Thomas Fredholm from Sweden, and Gary Lee from New Jersey. In my studio at Yale I have one student who owns a Granados and another who owns a Lee.
I have played The Granados (thanks to Arash Noori) and loved it. In the case of Gary Lee, in addition to playing Hermelindo Ruiz’s guitar, I have been to Gary’s shop and played three of his guitars, all of which thrilled me. What with Gary being so close by, I will take the opportunity to hear and play his newer guitars.
I have played a fair amount on Andy Summer’s Fredholm as well as John Dearman’s and found them both to be magically musical.
In order to know a guitar I have to play it extensively. I will say that usually within less than a minute of picking up and instrument, I can tell whether or not I will want to continue. That having been said, I’m not always correct! I prefer to play a foreign guitar alone. I tend to like all guitars when the maker is present. This is indeed a golden age for the guitar. Not only are the younger players getting better but so are the younger guitar makers. It’s exhilarating!
For a few years in the late eighties and early nineties I worked with Doug Ching. I learned much from Doug and from playing his guitars. Often while playing them, I noticed they produced a glowing shimmery quality that was hypnotic. I recently heard one played by Jeffery Van that was both beautiful and powerful.
Doug impressed me greatly because he is so clearly on a quest to find “his” sound. I’m not even sure when I first met Doug but he was born and raised in Hawaii and that was our first connection.
I have owned and played Chris Carrington’s guitars since the late nineties. This is me playing a Carrington with Andy Summers. Chris has been so generous in helping me with electronic in the classical guitar and I have loved playing his guitars in concert when I play a piece which calls for electronics. Yale has purchased one of his classical-electric guitars and the students use it frequently. Acoustically Chris’s guitars are very fine. The electronics he uses are made by B band.
I first met Chris when I was John Williams’ teaching assistant at the Paco Peña International Guitar Festival in Cordóba. He is not only a wonderful maker but also an excellent guitarist. He toured with Al Dimeola for several years.
For a few years I owned a Lacote copy made by one of the greatest contemporary builders of classical and Romantic guitars, Bernhard Kresse. Bernhard makes modern guitars as well but I am not familiar with them. I am sure they are excellent.
The Lacote copy was a beautiful and wonderful sounding guitar. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how much care it needed as Bernhard used animal glue. The guitar cracked early on because of the excessive lack of humidity in my New York City apartment during the winter. I did not tend to the cracks well.
I ended up selling it for a vey low price to a student who wanted it. I played it in concert a few times and used it in the last section of the piece Chant on the Ufonia CD.
I was introduced to Berhard’s guitars though Raphaella Smits and Thomas Offerman. He is a wonderful person and true lover of the guitar.
the aldo parisot guitar
Aldo is a legend. He was a world renowned touring cellist, (for you guitar players reading, he was great friends with Villa-Lobos and premiered his cello concerto) and was a world renowned cello teacher. In addition, Aldo was a fantastic artist.
He taught on the floor below me at the Yale School of Music. Lucky me!
About 15 years ago he said to me in his great Brazilian accent ” Verdery, give me a guitar and I will paint it for you”. I had a $100 Yamaha at the time and paid my son John $30 to sand it down so Aldo could paint it. It was not an easy job but for an 8 year old it was a big job and a lot of money. It remains in my office and as much as any of my guitars is a prize procession. I have played it once in concert at Sprague hall accompanying one of my favorite violinist and people at Yale, Shoko Aki who played on a Parisot violin!!!!!
I have known Sterling Ball over years through our mutual friend Jim D’Addario. He generously gave me one of their early models. It sounds great and plays easily. This is most likely due to the fact that Sterling can really play the guitar! Of the factory-made electrics, it’s one of the most inventive and musical I have found.
I have been playing Greg Smallman guitars almost exclusively since 1988. I adore the instruments Greg and now his sons build. I have owned three over the years. The guitar in the photo is a Smallman I have had since 1995. John Williams introduced me to Greg's guitars. After a few visits to John’s house, I decided I could not live without one. The sound haunted me right from the start.
Over the years, musicians (beginning with my wife) I have worked with have said how much they love the sound of the Smallman. Audiences speak warmly of the guitar as well.
The recordings I’ve made with my three Smallmans are listed in the discography. Apart from the releases mentioned above, all of my recordings were made with a Smallman guitar.
I had the most glorious visit with Greg and his wife Robbie when I went to their home to pick out a guitar in 2003. I hope someday to revisit them in their new home. I still get a thrill each time I play my guitar. It inspires me daily.
I believe my Gilbert guitar was made in 1982. David Leisner, Fred Hand and David Russell had all introduced me to John’s guitars. I played my Gilbert on the J.S. Bach Concerto in D minor of Musical Heritage Society recording, Bach: Two Generations, Reverie and the first two Latitude recordings.
John and his wife Alice were so wonderful to me in the years I played his guitar. I have nothing but the fondest of memories of my time with them. My "Gilbert" was stolen near Santa Cruz CA. I have not seen it since. I hope whoever has it is enjoying it!!!
The first handmade guitar I owned was made by Thomas Humphrey in 1975. I met Tom through my teacher Fred Hand. I believe I played this instrument on my very first recording of Anthony Newman’s Variations and Grand Contrapunctus on Cambridge records. The last of Tom’s guitars I owned was made in 1980 and I played it on my Bach Transcriptions recording (Sine Qua Non Cassettes, reissued on GRI records) and on The C.P.E. Bach concerto on the Musical Heritage Society recording, Bach: Two Generations. This guitar is close by and is owned by my dear friend and extreme guitar enthusiast Joe Schwartz.
Tom was kind enough to lend me what he called a “hybrid F hole” guitar for recording the CD Ride the Wind Horse.
He was a dear friend. For many years he was like an older brother. His death was a huge loss. I could talk for hours about the 124 W. 72nd Street days where I lived above him. Players like the Assads, Eliot Fisk, Sharon Isbin, Kozahito,Yamashita, Oren Fader, Bill Matthews, David Starobin, The Newman-Oltman duo, Bruce and Adam Holtzman, Alice Arts, Sergio Abreau, Fred Hand, Bill Kanengiser, John Dearman, Tom Paterson, Bill Conors and many many others could be found in his front room playing the “new batch” of Tom’s guitars.