For years, vintage National style "O" and Stella 12 string guitars have been my instruments of choice. These steel string wonders have accompanied me to every gig and have always provided the big voice and unique sound needed for my completely non-electric performances. While I am fond of vintage instruments, I am also keenly aware that some of the finest guitars ever concieved are being built right now. In my ongoing search for the ultimate contemporary steel string, I have bought and sold Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Santa Cruz and Franklin guitars over the last decade. I have always wanted one that would complement my vintage guitars and also work well for the aggressive style of hot jazz and blues playing that have become my trademark.
One evening while browsing in typical fashion, through the pictures in my favorite guitar books, I revisited the section devoted to Mario Maccaferri. I became struck by his design wizardry and the sublime beauty and overall achievement of his Selmer made jazz guitar from the early 1930's. I wondered if this instrument might possibly possess the sound that I was looking for.
I purchased several vintage recordings featuring these guitars and although I don't play Gypsy Jazz, I sensed that the guitar's unique voice showed potential for a variety of applications and that it might be perfectly suited to my musical needs. I became obsessed with learning everything posible about Maccaferri, his unique instruments and the Selmer guitar atelier. Although I had hoped to find one to play, I guickly found out how rare and expensive they are. Given that I am left- handed as well, I realized that if I wanted one, I'd need to have it custom built. And so began what turned out to be a year long search for the finest luthier available to make one for me.
I began by telephoning the owners of the big vintage houses in America and soon found out that accurate information on Selmer guitars was difficult to come by and contemporary versions of these instruments are scarse. I eventually located several luthiers who were making variations of these guitars and they graciously agreed to send me audio tapes showcasing their various models. Sadly, none of them sounded close to the original Selmers and I came to find out that it was because each luthier had changed one aspect or another of the original design.
Next, I turned my attention to finding anyone who might have been closely connected to Maccaferri or his guitars. I questioned a variety of knowledgeable people about the structure and characteristics that were essential in order to create a guitar whose sound closely resembled that of the old Selmers . I had a long conversation with the distinguished luthier, John Monteleone, who had worked with Mario Maccaferri on a limited run of the mestro's resonator jazz guitars in the late 70's. John graciously shared personal stories and offered me a wealth of information about Maccaferri and his instruments. He recommended a luthier from France named Maurice Dupont as a fine maker of Maccaferri style guitars and in my case as an affordable alternative to himself.
That recommendation led me to Maurice Dupont's U.S. distributor, Paul Hostetter and also to Michael Simmons and the French authority on Selmer guitars,Francois Charle all of whose knowledge and advice on the subject I found invaluable. Through my conversations with them I came to understand that the musicans who played deeply in the Gypsy Jazz style and actually owned vintage Selmers also enthusiastically played Dupont guitars.
Still, there was not a single Dupont D-soundhole guitar available in Los Angeles to play; so I bought a Gypsy Jazz instructional video that coincidentally showcased Maurice's Selmer reproductions. After seeing and hearing the D-hole model featured on that tape,I knew I had found the "Maccaferri sound"! When I learned that Maurice was making exact historical copies,it all made sense and I put my money down in full without even having played one first. Some might think me foolish, but after listening to that video,I was sure that the sound of the Dupont guitar was closer than anyone's to the original article.
This past September I finally took possession of a beautifully made left handed MC 30 with a French polished top and an extra wide fingerboard. It is an exact Maccaferri/Selmer copy right down to the label. The guitar is built surprisingly light and best of all it has a wonderfully unique and quirky sound character. Paul said; "It's a cannon!"and he was right. I never dreamed that it would be so loud or ring so beautifully! I use it for a variety of music and whether I play it furiously or gently;it never fails.
Maurices craftsmanship and attention to detail would undoubtedly make even Mario Maccaferri nod in approval. I feel happy and fortunate to have found the ideal complement to my Stella and National in the suprising form of a Maurice Dupont Maccaferri style guitar.