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  1. #26

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    And as always, there are lots of discrepancies and variation in everything that Gibson did in these early years. Gruhn currently has a 1933 L5 with the one-piece, rounded "C" profile neck as you describe on your '28:

    AR4455 Gibson L-5 1933

    I wonder if there is any chance of it also having solid, non-kerfed tone bars. I haven't asked - I don't need that temptation!
    Last edited by backdrifter; 11-02-2015 at 05:25 PM.


    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
  3. #27

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    There is no lacquer on that neck at all, so maybe it got re-profiled ?

  4. #28

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    It's certainly possible, but Gruhn is usually pretty good about mentioning things like that. AND, it's still a one-piece neck, which as Roger points out, is rare. I don't believe I've seen a one-piece V-shaped neck on a 16" L-5 (not to say that it doesn't exist somewhere).
    Last edited by backdrifter; 11-02-2015 at 05:36 PM.

  5. #29

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    He are some old pics of mine, for your enjoyment. Pics 1, 5, & especially 6 will give you some idea of the neck's big v-girth.

    The Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-1-jpgThe Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-2-jpgThe Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-3-jpgThe Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-4-jpgThe Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-5-jpgThe Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-6-jpgThe Venerable Gibson L-5-l5-7-jpg
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 11-03-2015 at 09:05 PM.

  6. #30

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    Woody - that's a beautiful guitar. I'll bet the sound is as rich and lustrous as that beautiful burst! Congrats!

  7. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74
    Woody - that's a beautiful guitar. I'll bet the sound is as rich and lustrous as that beautiful burst! Congrats!
    Thanks, but it's long gone to someone else. I was entering married life and homeownership in the 80's before the rage of the internet. Sold it through a dealer. Would fetch a LOT more now. I do miss it.

    ps - Notice the plain birch back but fancy maple sides on the early models.
    Last edited by Woody Sound; 11-03-2015 at 09:15 PM.

  8. #32

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    Just what I was working on today:

  9. #33

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    Very nice Jonathan

    now I have to get one, too :-(

  10. #34

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    the reason the L-5 is so conspicuous among jazz guitars is:

    the notes you play on it last (they sustain) better than on other archtop guitars

    2 moments after you've played a little chord, or a melody note - 2 moments later its still there - and almost as strong as it was the moment you made it.

    so if you do want to do anything with it - if you want to let it keep singing, then you can, and it will.

    even 4 moments later the note is still there - though not quite as strong as when you made it.

    solid bodies generate similar or even greater sustain (i'm told) - and i bet that makes e.g. teles great to play jazz on. but the original sound or attack lacks a certain complexity - or something.

    anway - the idea is just that what makes L5s magic is something very easy to identify. they produce such a 'full' or 'thick' sound because - if the player holds down the strings in the right way, then the sound is almost as full just after he produces it as it as when he produces it.

    it makes the guitar feel totally distinctive (and gorgeous) to play - of course. and it makes me realize how little i know how to really let the instrument 'sing'. i choke off my notes in a rush to get to the next one and it produces an unmusical over-staccato effect.

    so part of the point of saying this is this - if you've got an archtop that has great sustain (and a nice original attack - so to speak) then you've got what is necessary. you have to be able to choose to let the note sing, to let it last. then its much easier to sound good on the guitar.
    Last edited by Groyniad; 12-31-2015 at 11:39 AM.

  11. #35

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    I don't quite know, if the sustain is the secret of the L5. In fact I don't know the secret. But every time I have had the chance to play one - "Zing, went the strings of my heart."

  12. #36

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    2 things an L-5CES has are a thick top top and usually a tune o matic bridge as opposed to a wooden one. For me I enjoy those attributes very much. But I do find a lot of std. L-5CES to be rather dull acoustically, not all.

  13. #37

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    Tony Mottola, Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, Grant Geissman, Tuck Andress. Each guy has a different take on jazz guitar; each guy plays a Gibson L-5CES. Every one of them sounds outstanding. The tone of each guy's instrument is amazing.

    The Gibson L-5CES is a tremendous jazz guitar. IMO, it is THE jazz guitar. You have the L-5 and you have all of the other jazz guitars. You basically compare jazz guitars against the L-5.

    I am not sure that a better tone exists than the early-60s recordings that Kenny Burrell made with his L-5.

  14. #38

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    I've always thought long sustain was not necessarily desirable in a jazz guitar....

  15. #39

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    I have been using different guitars on different gigs for the past years, but when i'm called for an "important" gig i always bring the L5.

  16. #40

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    Very well stated and I can entirely relate to your experience on my 2014 L5. I play chord melody- mainly acoustically ...and just love the sustain. In fact - I find myself slowing down the pace to relish the carryover effect - it a very lyrical experience and a bit intoxicating ........ my recordings even sound better.

    I'm assuming your referring to your new L5 - which is heavier than earlier generations and contains the TOM bridge.

    I had a mint 1948 non cut L5 years ago and did not have that same experience- it was lighter and had that chomp chomp bright loud tone with a quicker decay - well suited to orchestral accompaniment.. ..but you still knew you were playing an had that famous Gibson sound.

    For me - I find the modern L5 ( TOM) to be heavier and somewhat quieter than earlier generations......,but the sustain and balance is extraordinary... and I find myself playing this guitar often.... and not because it's new ..... because it's magical.

  17. #41

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    Quote Originally Posted by boatheelmusic
    I've always thought long sustain was not necessarily desirable in a jazz guitar....

    You are right, but The L5 sustain has a different timbre and not an
    overlong sustain, but a different quality . It is the benchmark by
    which others are compared. I agree with Groyniad, an L5 has a
    uniqueness which is hard to describe, but becomes clear if you own
    or play one. A marked difference to a solid body ( LP for instance)
    i briefly used mine yesterday , after a honeymoon period with the
    Memphis ESLP's . The tone is unparalleled IMO.

    Happy New Year.
    Last edited by silverfoxx; 01-01-2016 at 09:41 AM. Reason: Spelling

  18. #42

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    I really like what Steve Longobardi and Greentone have to say here, tho I agree with everyone.

    I had a '65 Johnny Smith, and I regret saying this, but, it did not do what great jazz guitars do. (and there was little sustain - so the expressiveness of chord melody and single note lines was at a minimum for me)

    Later on, after years of admiring and lusting for the L5 CES tone, I found and bought one I could afford. (Credit cards are wonderful).

    I think a great New Year's resolution for me would be to play the L5 much more. It's not my first choice for my "blues" gigs, tho it really really shines when I do play the gig with it! People sit up and notice its tone and fullness. The sustain is a great aid when playing blues and rock!

    But, Greentone, what KB recordings were done with an L5? I revere "Blue Bash" with Jimmy Smith. I was raised on that LP since '67. Love the tone there, but wasn't sure what he was playing??

  19. #43

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    And then there's George Benson's "The Other Side of Abbey Road". Don't always know what he was playing back then on his recordings (Gibson or Guild?), but his tone there was beautiful. The notes fat, full and sustaining. What an L5CES does so well.

  20. #44

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    I kind of go with 'boatheelmusic' (above). I too thought jazz guitar playing requires short, unsustained notes to get that be bop kind of pointalistic sound in the riffs, licks, comping, solos. Not knocking the great L5. I wish I could own one too. But, If it is that jazz guitar is changing to a, let's say, twangier sound, almost like solid-body rock players get, then maybe we should consider going to Martin D28s or Gibson J200s. I sound sarcastic but I don't mean to. I'm merely saying that, perhaps the era of the big, chunky, chunk chunk, F holed arch tops is ending; that jazz guitar is moving toward a more sustained, singing quality, closer to a violin's than say, well, a penny whistle's (which, btw, I hope it's not)....Mark
    P.S. Unrelated: The phrase, I believe is: " cat's pajamas ", not whiskers. This reminds me of folks who say : "He's laughing all the way to the bank !". That kills the sarcasm intended. Of course he is laughing, that's why you say "crying all the way".."Boy, that Bill Gates is crying all the way to the bank !!"
    Last edited by MarkInLA; 01-03-2016 at 03:26 AM.

  21. #45

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkInLA
    I'm merely saying that, perhaps the era of the big, chunky, chunk chunk, F holed arch tops is ending; that jazz guitar is moving toward a more sustained, singing quality...
    That started happening about 60 years ago, give or take a few orbits.

  22. #46

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    Quote Originally Posted by rpguitar
    That started happening about 60 years ago, give or take a few orbits.
    Probably correct, but what are you concluding; that that 60 year old sound should remain, or, not remain ? I.E. Are you agreeing with 'boatheelmusic' and I that the 'staccato' sound is what jazz guitar is all about ? Or are you implying that this is now,say, archaic a sound; that sustained notes and chords is the new jazz tonality ? (again, I like the old, traditional, arch top sound (little to no twang),.. Mark

  23. #47

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    It seems a bit of a sterile debate, when the difference between the two sounds is a wooden vs TOM bridge....

  24. #48

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkInLA
    Probably correct, but what are you concluding?
    What I am concluding is that the traditional swing band accompaniment style/sound began phasing out somewhere in the 1950s. Of course it still exists in the huge panoply of jazz guitar sounds that we musicians have at our disposal. But D'Angelico, D'Aquisto, Benedetto, and other luthiers drew the acoustic archtop out from its place at the back of the orchestra and that vector remains in full force today.

    I'm not saying that jazz guitar is "all about" any one sound (how boring would that be!?). It's about the notes, played with any sound you like.

    I own a '47 L-5 that would be happy in an orchestra. And I have a CES that is a stellar electric guitar with big, warm sustain. (BTW, it's not a wood bridge vs. TOM thing - it's the bracing and intrinsic build qualities of these guitars.)

  25. #49

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    Bee's knees

    What I find interesting is owners of Gibson solid body humbucking guitars tweak their pickups heavily - there's a whole cottage industry of PAF cloners with some clones fetching $1500 for a set, yet I never see anybody replacing the Classic 57s in L5s - a much maligned pickup in Les Paul circles.

    A hollow-body should theoretically have a sharper decay on notes because more energy is transferred away from the string into the top/body but there is also the feedback loop of the top/strings picking up the sound from the amp's speakers, so it gets complicated.

  26. #50

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    IMHO the L5 is one of the most visually pleasing guitars I've ever seen (and owned). It's easy to fall in love with a Gibson archtop. There's a reason why it's called "The Lady".

    Sonically there's no question that some great artists played and recorded with the L5.

    BUT...when I think about it, the list of great guitarists and recordings that are my dessert island picks don't necessarily include the L5 as part of the deciding factor.
    Lennie Breau, Jim Hall, Ed Bickert, Kurt R., Julian Lage, Silvan Luc, Charlie Christian, Django R., Pat M., George B., et al.

    Yes the L5 is a seductively beautiful guitar, but it's the player that ultimately brings the music forward, not the instrument.

    Note: I had a 2000 L5 CES that I sold because I fell out of love with her. Would I consider buying a model from the 40-50s? Absolutely!