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Old 07-24-2016, 05:58 AM
L50EF15 L50EF15 is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 74

Carl Kress & Tony Mottola - Jazz In G

This provides an interesting contrast in tone, Carl Kress and Tony Mottolla on a pair of L5s. I believe it's from 1941 and was available on the "Fun On The Frets" album. Kress handles the chords, albeit in an unusual tuning that I think he derived from the tenor banjo. Mottolla's leads are a good demonstration of archtop lead playing. It is midrange focused, but it has more in common with flattop tone than the rhythm cannon big band image might imply. Check out anything Kress did up to 1941, solo and duo: Though he was the master of chordal playing, his tone was anything but the often harsh "drive the big band" sound.

The irony is that what many people consider the definitive fingerstyle steel string, the Martin OM, was designed to compete with the Gibson L5 as a plectrum dance band rhythm instrument. I believe that Perry Bechtel found the L5 too harsh and went to Martin for something that would give volume with a less cutting tone. Given that history, I guess the quest for a flattop tone in that setting has always been there.

To me, a 16 inch Gibson "L" series f-hole has more of an intimate, almost parlor voice compared bigger instruments like the 18" Super 400 - itself capable of more suppleness than one might think at first listen. But I do agree that modern archtops seem voiced emphasize the frequencies most associated with flattops.
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