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2003 Michael Dunn 'Photonic Grand Slam'
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Serial #: 454, hand signed by the builder
Body size at lower bout: 20" Body depth: 3 3/4" Scale length: 25 3/4" (655mm) Nut width: 1 7/8" (47mm)
Finish: Hand rubbed French polish
Materials: Solid fine grained bookmatched spruce top; solid ebony and Mexican Chakte-Kuk back and sides; solid mahogany neck; solid ebony fingerboard, compensated ebony bridge with bone saddle; hand-laminated internal sound reflector with maple inset; clear scratchplate.
Hardware: Black Sperzel 16X1 tuners; machine-turned brass tailpiece with Chakte-Kuk inset; adjustable truss rod.
Notes: If there's a bigger (or more spectacular) gypsy guitar out there, please give us a shout. Otherwise, we're calling Guinness.
Starting in the late 1960's, Michael Dunn virtually single-handedly jump-started the revival of Selmer/Macafferri style guitars in North America. An influential teacher whose students include accomplished builders like Shelley Park, Dunn remains the single most imaginative builder in the history of Gypsy jazz guitars. Working in the Classical and Flamenco style of his Spanish teachers, Michael shapes each guitar by hand without a form. With his restless creativity in design and materials, each Dunn guitar is unique unto itself, a work of visual as well as audible art.
This gargantuan instrument was commissioned by a collector from the great state of Texas, where they are known to do things in a big way. The star of a collection known as 20/20, this one-of-a-kind creation was one of 20 guitars all custom built with lower bouts of no less than 20 inches each. (For reference, the largest archtop guitar in regular production was the Stromberg Master 400, with a girth of a mere 19 inches in width.) Inspired by the original Maccaferri Selmer Modele Orchestre of the early 30's, the 'grand bouche' soundhole of the Grand Slam is constructed with a curved sound reflector and internal port, designed to enhance the acoustic projection of the instrument.
The back and sides are crafted in marquetry style, with intersecting pieces of solid black ebony and a Mexican hardwood known as Chakte-Kuk, whose chestnut color presents a lively contrast in coloration. The art-deco pattern represents rays of sunlight emanating from an orb of rock maple, whose beams crisscross the back and up the sides, in a pattern of contrasting diagonal stripes, which even extend to the heelcap itself. (This maple sun is echoed in a finial atop the peghead as well, hence the designation 'Photonic', natch.)
The motif continues around the soundboard with inlaid checkerboard purfling, which is relieved at the lower bout with a contoured Laskin-style edge bevel, a challenging feat of custom luthiery in itself. The solid ebony fingerboard is graced with a Renaissance style hand-scalloped bone nut, and the solid spruce soundboard is protected with a clear scratchplate.
The voice, as one might imagine, is simply cavernous, with thundering bass, sparkling highs, and an exceptional shimmering of acoustic reverb in the upper register. And it's loud. Boy, is it loud. Equally at home in a campfire jam or a museum of modern art, the Photonic Grand Slam is an instrument of truly surpassing musical and artistic dimensions. So go big, or go home. But call now.
Setup: This instrument is strung with light gauge silvered steel strings.
Case: Original fitted black plush lined arched hardshell case.