Veillette Jazz Archtop
THERE'S ALMOST NOTHING MORE EYE CATCHING than a big jazz guitar with all the binding, gold hardware, and fancy woods. But for a lot players – especially those who travel – a guitar's compactness and roadworthiness can be more important than the bling factor of a classic jazz box. With those utilitarian needs in mind, Woodstock, New York, luthier Joe Veillette recently came up with a design that achieves the playing feel – and much of the tonal richness – of a full-sized archtop, but is lighter, sleeker, and better suited for a life of long drives and one nighters.
When we first pulled the Jazz Archtop from its padded gig bag, it seemed like an ideal guitar to pack for a road or air trip, thanks to its small body, 20-fret neck (plus a zero fret), and slightly compressed scale length of 25". The gently arched top sports an airfoil-shaped soundhole (a $280 option), and upon it resides a shapely fixed bridge and a cleverly designed inset tailpiece that is compensated to provide a longer string path for the bass strings in order to increase their tension. The top is edged in carefully applied black binding, and the only other cosmetic touches are a wenge overlay on the headstock and black chrome hardware (which adds $45 to the price).
The Duncan Jazz humbucker sits in a matching black bezel, and its lower front corner actually touches the binding on this pre-production model. [Veillette reports that the design has been altered slightly in production models to provide more distance between the pickup and the binding.] The only other things that could stand a bit of attention were some roughness on the bass-side fretboard edge, a loose nut (which could be nudged in its slot by bending the strings), and the knobs that were not quite centered in their routs.
Who's it for?
Veillette says he studied the necks of several high-end jazz guitars in order to create the JA's wide/thick stick – which has a gentle "C" shape and mild volute where it transitions into the headstock. The action is reasonably low, and the intonation is very accurate when comparing fretted notes and harmonics at the, 12th fret. The JA plays very nicely, and it sounds tuneful when fingering chords in various positions. The medium frets are tightly seated and polished to a satiny gleam, and the upper reaches of the fretboard are easily accessible, thanks to the generous cutaway.
ONE FOR THE ROAD
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