Godin 5th Avenue Jazz Guitar Review
Godin 5th avenue jazz guitar
REVIEW BY DIXON NACEY
FEATURED IN THE JUNE - AUGUST EDITION OF ROCKSHOP GEAR
Late last year, the guys at The Rockshop called me and said ‘Man, have we got a guitar for you to try out’. Knowing how much I loved playing jazz and how important tone, control of sound, build quality and appearance were to me, (aren’t all guitarists vain?!) – they lined up a Godin 5th Avenue Jazz for me to put through its paces.
I immediately loved it, after playing it for only a few moments in the shop. I’d been given the natural flame finish to vet and my first thoughts were; ‘This is seriously good looking’. On close inspection one can see immaculate binding and finishing as you might expect from a top of the line jazz guitar. In fact, this guitar is of a very high build quality throughout, certainly in terms of its design, materials and fittings. I also liked the look of the fingerboard, with the smaller off-set position dots creating a more subtle effect – those less experienced in how harmony sits on a guitar neck might find this disconcerting (as in ‘what-the-heck-note-am-I-playing?’) but I found it to be no problem. I would say that overall it is a guitar given more to subtlety and ‘cool’ than any overt ‘look at me’ status or vibe, arguably in alignment with the style of music most suited to it, which I personally dig!
What I love most about this guitar is the incredible acoustic tone – ‘springy’ and bright off the sound board, without any ‘boxiness’ where the low mids can sometimes cloud out your sound (particularly as volumes increase at a live gig) common to some of the bigger jazz-box style guitars. This is one of the most live sounding jazz guitars I’ve ever played; there is a distinct and likeable difference between this and other similar models at the top end of competitive brands.
Plugged in – well seriously, it just gets better the more you turn it up. Whatever the secret ingredient inside the custom built mini-hummy is; they got it right. And I really mean that – first run outside of my studio was at a small roomed rehearsal with a vocalist, so I plugged it into the amp (of no particularly great quality) that came with the room and then mixed in a little of the amp tone with the (very cool looking and feeling ebony) volume knob. And voila – brilliant control of tone and a smooth ‘warmth’ as the volume increased. Perfect for smaller, more intimate gigs. When we did that same rehearsed tune at a 100-seater concert hall; the guitar performed brilliantly at around 75-100% electric volume through an amp; no feedback – great tone.
I will say that I thought it was a bit ‘bright’ at first but if there’s something you want in an un-effected guitar tone, it’s brightness, which can always be dimmed down with the tone knob or on the amp – it’s hard to do it the other way (try adding ‘brightness’ to a dull, boxy guitar).
I found the shape and design of the neck and fingerboard (ebony ‘Ergocut’) highly playable, instantly – where I would normally need a good week to get stuck into a brand new guitar, playing a few hours each day etc – this baby played great, literally straight out of the case.
The body, similar in size and shape to say a GB10 (perhaps a little bigger but no deeper, from my memory) was a comfortable fit also. To a certain degree I think we adapt through experience, to new sounds, feels, looks etc – but this guitar needs little of that ‘adaptation’ – a process which can sometimes create too much ‘work’ to do to get a sound or that annoying ‘why am I not happy with this’ indefinable kind of niggling feeling. None of that happened here!
While it is hard to use the term ‘innovative’ when speculating about a traditional jazz guitar which essentially is built to perform a musical style that is over 80 years old, perhaps you just tweak rather than innovate – and to that end, Godin has used a few different ideas and materials very effectively with the 5th Avenue Jazz Guitar. Instantly playable, great sound (acoustic, electric and anywhere in between) and attractive to boot!
The only ‘con’ (if you can call it that) is that it is a bit of a one trick pony – it plays jazz, and perhaps associated styles or sub-genres (Manouche, trad, Latin, swing etc) very well, but there is no back pick up so you can’t switch it back, put on a tubescreamer and sound like Scofield. For those who love that jazz-box sound (and something a little more hip, modern and edgy) this is pretty close to the ultimate gat for you.
Dixon Nacey is a dead set legend of the Auckland Music Scene. He is well-known as one of the finest Jazz guitarists in the country, evident on his incredible work in SNH Trio (Samson/Nacey/Haines), Dixon has also been a mainstay on the premier covers band circuit for many years, firstly with the legendary “Kick” and currently with both “The Kingpins” and the RnB flavoured “Black Salt”
As part of the faculty at the Auckland University School of Jazz his passion for teaching eventually led him to starting a YouTube channel that became wildly popular (over 250,000 views) and to create the excellent (and successful) teaching website: www.jazzguitarlegend.com