Metheny-Manzer, Part II

J-A: How involved was Pat in designing the new version of the new Manzer 6 model?

Linda: Pat and I wanted to design a special limited edition guitar that celebrated our (over) 25 year relationship and base it on the original Linda 6, the very first guitar I made him. We also wanted it to pull out the design stops and embellish it with tremendous inlays and cross over into the “Work of Art” category: thus a limited edition Metheny Manzer Signature 6.

We started the design process as we usually do – bouncing ideas back and forth until it all felt right. The main thing was to duplicate the Linda 6 sound and vibe and to create a work of art that was a collectible sound sculpture. First was the careful wood selection, so I went into my wood vault and pulled some of the crème de le crème woods I have been saving all these years. I tried to duplicate the sound and the woods on Pat’s Linda 6 (A “Manzer model”). After that, I wanted to incorporate some of the design improvements I have developed over the years, including the “Wedge”, designed for Pat’s Pikasso guitar in 1984, plus a new edition to the design arsenal – Pat’s “Thumb Notch and Neck Groove”, plus ebony binding and a few design elements I personally love such as mitered joints and a slightly antiqued top.

The inlay was obviously a central part of the design. This was based on what I have watched Pat do informally backstage over the years – his “Doodles”. I always loved them and we transferred them to this guitar in a gorgeous black pearl, my favourite in the pearl/abalone family. I put together a sketch of what I proposed and Pat approved it with some slight tweaking. I am working with an extraordinary inlay artist – Mark Kett – who pushed the design even further. He knocked it out of the park. And because of Mark’s amazing technical abilities with cutting and working with pearl, I think this is an incredible piece of art. It’s very bold and dense (over 200 pieces in each guitar) and I think a fantastic interpretation of Pat’s art.

Pat and I also designed the artwork and colour of the special Calton Case that was designed specifically for this project. The good folks at Calton Cases let me push them into a design and technical territory they have never attempted before. I hope they’ll talk to me after this. (laughs) That has been exciting too. Plus I have allowed a Pulitzer Prize nominated photographer, Norm Betts, full access to my shop to document the building process so we can issue a gorgeous limited edition numbered “art quality” book of photographs, leather bound with an embossed cover signed by Pat and myself. One for each guitar.

I want to emphasis this project is entirely handmade in my workshop. Each piece of wood is carved, bent, and assembled painstakingly by hand. I wanted complete control and attention to how each piece of wood was assembled and how it sounded. Because of the enormous amount of work involved I have asked for some help from a very select few colleges I completely trust. I have yanked them away from their own illustrious guitar making careers and they have very generously agreed to help me with this specific project. Mark Kett, a young marvelous inlay artist is helping out with the inlays. Joseph Yanuziello, my spray booth partner and guitar maker, is helping me with lacquering and polishing. Tony Duggan-Smith, my long time assistant, who is now doing restorations and building his own guitars, is helping me with fret work.

After almost a year of work, the first ten guitars will be ready for delivery mid-January in Manhattan, presented by both Pat and I to the first ten clients. Anyone who orders a guitar between now and then will be invited to this event.

J-A: Linda, every time there is a subject about a great luthier such as yourself, the pricing of the guitars becomes an issue… Some will say that you create a true art piece and that price should not be an issue. Others will denounce the price of high end luthier guitars, comparing them to the much less expensive factory instruments. Most of the time, this creates a very lively discussion (or worse!). I would be curious to understand your vision on this subject.

Linda: Pat and I have had a very special relationship over the past 26 years. As two artists in different fields within the music industry, we found a way to inspire each other and to grow with each other. It’s a pretty amazing situation. We wanted to create a special limited edition guitar that would reflect that relationship, a very special guitar that would grow sonically as it is played, and ages, but also, a very collectable work of art… numbered, signed, and documented. My heart and soul has gone into making this the best guitar, I believe, that I have built in my 35 years of being a luthier. We chose to build thirty because that was the number I felt comfortable building over the course of a year and a half.

Obviously this is not for everyone and it wasn’t mean to be. This is a departure from my usual building schedule because it will be all-consuming for one and a half years of my life and it is a joint project with Pat Metheny. We designed it together and it is a gift for those for whom this entire concept resonates with. The fact that from a monentary point of view, it’s a good investment, is a wonderful bonus for the buyers. It’s meant to be a guitar to be played and enjoyed sonically and visually. …. a work of art.

J-A: Can you tell us more about the special features of this guitar? The woods, the construction and the wedge, etc…

Linda: I made a conscious decision to go with Indian Rosewood because I love working with it. It’s a very stable wood and I selected 30 gorgeous sets that had the same acoustic properties that Pat’s original Linda 6 had. I loved the way Indian Rosewood complements the highest quality aged German spruce tops I have saved for many years for a special occasion such as this. The neck is South American Mahogany. The fingerboard, bridge, head plate and body binding are all ebony. The binding is joined with 45 degree mitered joints throughout. A subtle antique honey burst on top makes the guitar appear slightly aged, similar to Pat’s original guitar.

I have carved a special new feature into the neck and body that I call the “Thumb Grove”. Because Pat is unique in that he plays with his thumb all the way up the bass side of the neck, I decided to design a playful new feature just for him and this guitar. Where the neck meets the body there is grove cut in the heel of the neck and a notch cut out of the body which makes the landing for the thumb much more comfortable. It’s a feature that allows a little more access to the upper bass frets and is extremely comfortable. It’s as if the guitar is shaking hands with you when you play the upper register.

The Manzer “Wedge” was first designed and implemented by me in 1984 on my 42 stringed Pikasso Guitar for Pat Metheny. I taper the body under the right playing arm and widening it on the knee side. The guitar is more comfortable to play. The internal box volume remains the same (maintaining low end). Because the depth of the body is decreased under the right arm, it provides more comfort and better visual access to the top.

Even the side dots on this guitar are special. They are a hollowed out copper dots filled with a phosphorescent paint that glows in the dark onstage, giving you a slight advantage when the stage light go low. Also for tactile fun, a diamond has been inlayed in the 7th fret, so as you play up the neck you can actually feel it. That way you have a tactile maker as well as visual markers. Inside each of the 30 guitars is a special numbered label signed by both Pat Metheny and myself. There is a signed Certificate of Authenticity accompanying each book.

And, finally, to document the entire process, there is a limited edition hand bound book that accompanies each guitar that is signed by both Pat and myself. It is designed by the very talented Jason McDonald (Spydesign) and it is a work of art unto itself. It is leather bound and hand stitched with acid free paper and high quality colour reproductions of the building process. I have had the pleasure of working with many great photographers over the years. Their work will be featured here, particularly Norm Betts, who was just nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He was given full access to me in my shop throughout this process and took some great shots that I think capture the romance, but also a bit of the grittiness involved in building a guitar.

J-A: After many amazing guitars, including the outstanding Pikasso, and now this very special project with Pat, what else will be exciting to do for you? Do you already have new exciting projects on the way?

Linda: Sleep? That would be very exciting to me right now! Yes there are some other projects on the horizon but not ready for announce just yet. I guess that it will have to wait for the next scoop!

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