Jim Hall is often called the Father of Modern Jazz Guitar and for good reason. He was an influence on so many...including me.
Besides his wonderful approach to music it's hard not to fall in love with his sound, especially earlier in his career when he played that mutt Gibson ES-175. A while ago I was beyond fortunate to play the very guitar. Truth be told, it didn't sound at all like those recordings!
So what was going on? I needed to better understand. Could it have anything to do with the Gibson® GA-50 amp that Jim played during those years?
I mentioned this in passing to a great Seattle area guitarist who never gigs publicly. Sometime afterward I was over at his house for a jam session and suddenly there it was in front of me: a friend of a friend had made a 1948 Gibson GA-50 appear.
Out came my guitar from its case. I plugged in. And there it was...the classic Jim Hall sound. Well, er, minus Jim! :-/
But the point had been made. If there was a "secret" to Jim's early sound, the amp clearly played a very important role. It had a certain clarity to the middle strings and an overall hi-fi character that seemed more like a vintage PA tailored for guitar than a standard guitar amp.
One thing led to another. Found the schematics. Some tube types no longer manufactured. Tiny transformers. Rudimentary capacitors. Clearly technology had changed during the 65+ years since the original production. Straight up cloning didn't seem the right approach. Rather, I felt it would be wiser to embrace technological developments and incorporate those into the circuitry.
But then too it shouldn't just sound good, it should sound beautiful. And that meant upgrading components, evaluating custom high-end transformers crafted in small batches, speaker selection, chassis and cabinetry. And careful listening, patiently tweaking. Plugging into the original 1948 then plugging into the new.
At long last the near production "alpha" prototype was ready. It was 2:30pm. Rush to the concert hall for a 4:30pm sound check where Jim would be playing with his Quartet that evening. Jim enters the room. Smiles recognizing the retro appearance. Plugs in. "Great!" he exclaims. Barely touches the EQ once. And plays the amp during the 4-night engagement without making another adjustment.
What an honor and privilege.
The amp didn't have a name previously. I was thinking about the "Jim Hall model" but that somehow felt trite. Then it came to me that the work involved was a respectful tribute to the man and his music. So SeQuel TRIBUTE it became.