Stefan Sonntag – Jazz Guitars

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Let me introduce to you a luthier from my hometown Augsburg, Germany. His name is Stefan Sonntag and he is one of the finest luthiers in Germany. He is not only able to build excellent guitars but he is also very actively organizing workshops with some great guitar players.

Typically he organizes an autumn workshop in France and this year for the second time a spring workshop in Italy.

I just received the invitation for the workshop in the south of France from  October 21. – October 25. 2014. This year Stefan invited Mimi Fox from San Francisco and Ulrich Hoffmeier from Berlin.

The spring workshop in Bolzano, Italy might also be quite interesting for vocalists. Jazz-vocalist Jeanne Gies and Jazz-guitarist Howard Alden from New York together with Helmut Nieberle, a long-time friend from Stefan, are the instructors at this workshop which takes place from April 25 to April 28 and there are still seats available.

During the workshops you can also play and try out Stefan Sonntag’s instruments and if you are interested on playing a real “classic”
archtop Jazz guitar, excellently constructed and built, with a perfect acoustic and electric sound then this is the perfect opportunity.

I am a lucky owner of one of Stefan’s guitars and I’m very happy with this instrument. Stefan is able to fulfill many different ideas and visions and he is capable to build an instrument according to your specifications.

I wanted to have an archtop guitar (“archtop” means that the top of the guitar is arched) with a 17″ size body and a floating pickup. I tried out some guitars but I always found one or more things to complain about the guitars I tested, so in the end I had a list of things which I didn’t like and a vague idea of how the guitar should look like and went to Stefan Sonntag’s factory and tested some guitars to find the right size of body and neck.

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The picture here on the left shows the model I ordered. It is a J17 Standard guitar which is his “more elaboratly decorated version of the solid built Sonntag archtop”. The guitar has a full acoustic sound,  can be very loud even without amplifier and produces the perfect Jazz sound. I had to wait for some months to get the  guitar to be built, but the waiting was worthwhile: I got my perfect guitar.

 

If you want to read more about Stefan Sonntag please check his website under:
http://www.sonntag-guitars.com 

There is also a nice video (in German) where you see Stefan explaining how to build a guitar. For those of you who do not understand German here is the summary: “Take a tree and cut away everything that is not part of the guitar.”

Arturo Sandoval: Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)

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Last summer I saw Arturo Sandoval live in Fribourg (to be precise on July 9, 2013). We heard many tunes from the CD “Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You)” and this concert was quite remarkable, because Arturo Sandoval was the jack-of-all-trades on stage, he was basically everywhere, playing his trumpet, he sang, played the piano and the timbales. But behind all this activities it was also possible to feel his deep reverence for Dizzy Gillespie, his friend and mentor. I bought the CD and it turned out to be one of my favorite CDs of last summer.

The music of Arturo Sandoval is full of energy, very rhythmic, inspired by his Cuban roots, perfectly arranged and excellently played. Arturo Sandoval is supported by many famous musicians like Gary Burton on vibraphone, Bob Mintzer on saxophone and organist Joey DeFrancesco. The result is a remarkable reminiscence to Dizzy Gillespie and his music and gives the “old” tunes a fresh new look and Arturo Sandoval’s trumpet is shining and sparkling above all.

The CD starts with the excellently swinging “Be Bop” and a groovy Salsa inspired version of “Salt Peanuts”, followed by the “Pink Panther – Henry Mancini” style arranged version of “Birks Works”. After that the CD reaches it’s first highlight with “Things To Come” which is really fast and furious.

We get a little bit of a break afterwards with the string quartet plus trumpet arrangement of “Con Alma” before the “must” tune “A Night in Tunisia” ends the regular part of the CD. If you haven’t seen Arturo Sandoval playing this tune I have added a video for you, since this was also during the concert the best moment. And I guess this is perfectly in line with the way Dizzy Gillespie would understand how to play this song. You’re not allowed to rest, you have to be brilliant and steal the show with this tune. 

The CD ends with the title song. In “Every Day I Think of You” you feel that Arturo Sandoval really misses Dizzy Gillespie, his long-time friend and mentor, the person who basically gave him a second chance in life after leaving Cuba.

If you want to know more about that special relationship you might also take a look at the 2001 movie “For Love or Country” (starring Andy Garcia, Mia Maestro and Gloria Estefan).

I think this CD is perfectly arranged and show that the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Be Bop in general have not added any rust, it is still the style we associate typically with Jazz music, and Arturo Sandoval is the true heir.

The first video shows you a live version of “Night in Tunisia”:

The second video includes some interesting promotional material from Concord Records:

Finally, a link to the album if you want to hear some more…