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Old 01-25-2021, 07:44 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: Staten Island, NY - for now
Posts: 11,531

I've played a number of acoustic L-5's over the years, mostly of the "Advanced" 17" non-cut prewar/early-postwar variety...

I also had the pleasure/honor of playing Wes' personal circa-1963 L-5CES, when MandoBros had it on consignment in the early-2K's...

To my ears it was apples and oranges - the old Big Band comp boxes had been played hard early on and, although each one was tonally unique (archtops tend to be highly idiosyncratic), with an additional quarter-century of aging under their belts they all had the classic archtop bark and punch...

The Wes L-5 was softer and sweeter-sounding, set up as an electric jazzbox (flatwound strings and ultra-low action) rather than something designed to cut through a 20-piece horn section without amplification - a lovely couch guitar, great for subtle unamplified solo work behind a soft-voiced vocalist, in Wes' talented hands an iconic plugged-in tone, but not something you'd take if you were auditioning for Freddie Green's old spot with the Basie band...

IME if you're simply looking for a cutaway with true acoustic/electric capability - perhaps a presumption on my part based on your question - I'd strongly recommend an early-postwar (late New York-production) Epiphone 17-incher: the Triumph/Broadway/Deluxe "Regent" models are regarded as some of the very few cutaway instruments that were a match for their non-cut counterparts, in terms of tone and projection, and when paired with a DeArmond Rhythm Chief 1000 "redhead" or 1100 floating pickup (available through the Guild parts shop) and a low-/mid-powered tube amp, you've got classic Bop-era jazz tone for days. Good news is that they're also less - sometimes far less - expensive than their Gibson equivalents, still a bargain given their level of craftsmanship (IME you'll pay about 30-40% less for an early-50's Deluxe Regent than for an L-5C, 25-30% less for a Triumph Regent versus an L-7C, in comparable condition), and while it's quite understandable that sometimes you just have to have "that" guitar it's also quite telling that, in the heyday of the archtop, Gibson considered Epiphone their only competition...
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