|early 1990s Aria Pro II Fa 70|
I remember buying my first used archtop in the early 1990s. I don't have a picture of it anymore but, after some research, I think it must have been an Aria Pro II FA 70. I found this pic on the internet and it is the exact guitar I once owned, even in the same finish. It had an ugly pointy headstock but was a nice enough guitar. I played it for a couple of years and took my first jazz guitar lessons on it.
|Action ES 175 copy|
A few years later I came across an ES 175 copy with the brand name "Action" on the headstock. It was cheap so I bought it and replaced the neck pup with a Gibson humbucker. I had the headstock oversprayed because I did not want to be seen with a guitar under the obscure "Action" brand name :)
My first "quality" jazz instrument was a 1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith (model 2461 BS). I bought it for my 40th birthday back in 1998. It was a very beautiful and well built guitar. I was never comfortable with the tinny sound of the floating pups though. Like the 70s Ibanez L5 guitar (model 2471 NT) , the Ibanez Johnny Smith has a laminate top. You still see guys selling these "golden age" Ibanez clones as "better than the original" but you have to take that with a grain of salt. I mean, we are talking about laminate copies of carved Gibson guitars so do not expect them to sound like the original. Still, the JS was a remarkable instrument with a pretty big acoustic tone. I traded it on on a Gibson ES 175 in the mid 2000s. Later I noticed it was sold in that same store at a price that was higher than that of the 175 I had traded it in on and at over twice (!) my trade in value. It seems these 1970s lawsuit Ibanez archtops have mythical qualities to some but I think they may be overrated just a bit ...
|1977 Ibanez Johnny Smith (2461 BS)|
|Cort ES 335|
The early 80s Yamaha AE 2000 that I purchased in the late 90s was my first high end guitar with a carved top. It was Yamaha's top of the line jazz archtop from 1978 onwards until well in the 1990s and pretty expensive. Excellent guitar, modelled after the Gibson L5. I liked it so much that I bought another one a few years later. In the first pic you can see the first one. I had to replace the pickguard on that one. The second pic shows the AE 2000 that I bought a few years later. Joe Beck, Martin Taylor and Bireli Lagrene all played the AE 2000 for a while. Later in the 1980s, Yamaha started producing this model as laminates under different model names. My AE 2000s were outstanding guitars, both of them, but in the end I preferred the classic sound of Gibson laminate guitars and I sold them or traded them in.
|early 80s Yamaha AE 2000|
|late 1980s Yamaha AE 2000|
Here's Bireli playing a similar Yamaha:
And here's a sound sample of me playing it. At the time I must have been studying Joe Pass for there are quite a few Pass licks in it.
The next pic is of a Samick L5 style (model HJ 650) that I bought just because it was inexpensive. A really nice El Cheapo jazzbox. I liked the tobacco brown finish a lot and the sound was more than decent. Great value for money.
|Samick HJ 650|
I remember trading an acoustic guitar for this 1970s Aria Pro II PE 180 guitar. It proved to be a very enjoyable instrument. It had a big fat chunky neck but a very decent sound. And it looked like a million bucks! I think Robert Conti endorsed one of these equipped with a Charlie Christian pup for a while somewhere in his career.
|Late 1970s Aria Pro II PE 180|
Here's an old clip of me playing this guitar years ago. The tune is "I cover the Waterfront." Recorded with a cheap webcam because that's how I recorded back then. Not sure I should have sold this one though ...
And here's Robert Conti playing his in 1986:
Next guitar. I think I purchased this Gibson ES 335 somewhere in the mid 2000s. It was a 1987 model. Very comfortable to play and sounding good for bebop. It did not own it for a very long time but did use it for a few gigs and a number of videos. Later on I traded it in on a Gibson ES 350t that sounded a big "bigger" to my ears. But it was a nice guitar.
|1987 Gibson ES 335|
Here's a clip of the ES 335 "Triste":
In 1998 I purchased my first vintage Gibson archtop. It was a 1951 ES 125. I always enjoyed that one and I recorded many vids with it. I think it had the best sound of all the guitars that had owned until that time. Well, most of you guys will know this model anyway. I think this guitar paved the way to me finally settling down to the classic Gibson sounds of the ES 175, the ES 350 and the Tal Farlow in the mid 2000s. I probably would have kept it but at some time I simply did not want to own more than 3 guitars anymore.
1951 Gibson ES 125
And, to conclude, here's a take on "Tangerine" with the 125: