Classic jazz sounds from five smooth guitars
Jazz guitars are big bodied, often semi-acoustic, and designed to coax out some wonderfully rich, warm tones. Historically jazz was played on acoustic guitars, however in the days before amplification the guitar often became lost in the mix of the big band sound so the introduction of arch top acoustics, containing a magnetic pickup, ushered in a new era of guitar manufacturing which meant players could be heard in the way they wanted.
The only problem with these arch top guitars was that the vast hollow area inside the guitar’s body could, and often did, create high levels of unwanted microphonic feedback. This particular sound, while quite wonderful when tamed and used in the right context, was completely out of sync with jazz’s more sedate requirements.
To combat this, many jazz players began to favour semi-acoustic guitars which often came with feedback reducing wooden blocks installed inside the body. This added extra weight to the instrument, but had the welcome side effect of increasing the amount of sustain produced. Gibson and Ibanez cornered the mass-production market, offering a range of hollow bodied guitars which were well received by jazz players as well as players of genres like blues and rock n’ roll. As time went on, many players even gravitated towards solid body guitars, on account of the unique and arguably more versatile palette of sounds on offer.
In terms of sounds, jazz requires a balance of warmth and clarity. While many solid body guitars can do an approximation of a jazz sound using a clean tone played through the neck pickup, in reality a dedicated jazz guitar will offer this particular sound without becoming overly woolly when lines are played at any speed. Let’s take a look at our pick of the 5 best jazz guitars.
The Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II is the signature guitar of one of jazz music’s great guitarists. Joe Pass played on records with Ella Fitzgerald, and his influence has cemented his name among the greats of the genre. The guitar which bears his name is a fine example of a guitar geared precisely towards one genre; it won’t win any awards for versatility, but the Emperor II is a fantastic instrument for jazz fans of any skill level. It features the classic hollow body arch top design of old, but has two high quality Burstbucker pickups for a range of silky tones.
Despite its rather clunky name, the Ibanez AFV10A-TCL Spot Run is a stunning looking arch top guitar which is just begging to be played. Its all maple body and solid mahogany neck will ensure a great balance between the brightness of the body wood and the rich mids of the neck, while its single cutaway design is perfect for providing access to the higher frets. The AR1 bridge and VT60 tailpiece adds an extra dimension to its visual appeal whilst increasing sustain and offering reliable intonation, while the weathered hardware and heavily toured, relic aesthetic add to this guitar’s luxury credentials.
For players looking at the high end of the market, you will definitely want to consider this breath-taking Gibson 2016 ES-335 Satin. Following the tradition of the classic 1958 model of the same name, this guitar features traditional “F” cutaways in the body and a solid centre block to minimise feedback and provide you with that gorgeous hollowbody tone you need. Its Burstbucker 1 and Burstbucker 2 pickup configuration offer a fantastic mix of warmth and clarity, making it perfect for jazz and other clean styles. Plus, jazz or not, this is one of the most attractive (and most famous) guitars you’ll ever see in the flesh. Truly, a masterpiece.
At the more reasonable end of the price scale compared to other Gretsch guitars, sits the Gretsch G2655T Streamliner. While not an arch top like the guitars listed previously, this guitar does feature a hollow bodied design making it perfect for clear, ringing chords and lead lines. Also in its favour is the G2655T Streamliner’s thinner body depth, making it more comfortable and slightly less cumbersome than the bigger, more traditional jazz guitars. You’ll also get more versatility from a ‘regular’ semi acoustic, meaning you can dabble in blues, rock and country with the Streamliner models.
We’ll round this list off with a slightly different proposition, particularly with jazz in mind. The Fender Classic Series ’72 Telecaster Thinline is a semi-hollow guitar in the guise of a traditional solid body. It features the same body shape and size of a standard Telecaster, but has its horizon’s broadened thanks to the internal routing of the wood and attractive ‘f’ hole on the guitar’s top. Two humbuckers – again, not traditional on a Tele – provide exceptional warmth and versatility, while its high levels of construction and craftsmanship make this a guitar which will last a lifetime.
We hope this list has helped guide you towards five high quality jazz guitars for every budget and playing style. If you have any questions our in-store product specialists will be happy to help or you can call our mail order team on 01925 582420. For a complete range of electric guitars, visit the Dawsons website.