Selmer Modele Jazz Acoustic Guitar (1947)

Selmer  Modele Jazz Acoustic Guitar  (1947)
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Item # 11349
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Selmer Modele Jazz Model Acoustic Guitar (1947), made in Paris, France, serial # 678, natural finish, laminated rosewood back & sides, spruce top; walnut neck with ebony fingerboard, brown tolex hard shell case.

This is a fabulous sounding if heavily played (as most are) Selmer Maccaferri "Modele Jazz", one of the truly iconic guitars of the 20th Century and the most celebrated steel-string ever built in Europe. These very rare original Selmer instruments are of course indelibly associated with Django Reinhardt, and the design has been copied and expanded upon right up into the present day. Beyond this they are a unique and important piece of guitar history as well as fantastic instruments to play.

Italian guitarist/luthier Mario Maccaferri was responsible for the original then very futuristic design. In 1931-2 he persuaded the French Selmer company to market them and provide factory space where he could oversee their manufacture. Disagreements between himself and Selmer ended Maccaferri's involvement after about 18 months, but the company continued to build the guitars for some years. The design evolved considerably after 1933; this instrument (#678) was built just after WWII and has numerous differences from the original Mario Maccaferri design. Selmer had also deleted any reference to his name on the headstock and label.

The original "Modele Orchestre" (nicknamed the "Grand Bouche") was the steel-string guitar in a series of Selmer instruments introduced in 1932. They were distinguished be a host of unique features including the arched laminated rosewood body and bent (not carved) spruce top. The walnut neck has a spliced heel and headstock and ebony fretboard. The early models feature a 12th fret neck joint but access is facilitated by the unique stepped cutaway, a radical feature in 1932. Everything on the instrument including the tuners and tailpiece were custom designed, in-house Selmer creations.

This guitar is the later Selmer "Modele Jazz"; an evolved version built after the mid-1930s and the de facto Gypsy Jazz standard. Among the many changes from earlier models is a longer scale, 14 fret neck with a narrower fingerboard, more suited to the "jazz" players who adopted the Selmer as a de facto standard. The most visible difference is the small oval soundhole, much smaller than the original large "D" shaped version. The neck has a fairly deep "U" profile with a back that gets flatter as it nears the body. The back and sides are laminated rosewood, the top solid spruce bound and with the soundhole inlaid with wood. The unique tuners, tailpiece and 3-piece floating bridge are the standard Selmer designs.

Well under 1000 Selmer guitars of ALL types were built from 1932-52. Production stalled during WWII but re-started in 1946 at around serial #590. This guitar was built in late 1947; it is recorded as shipped in December of that year to a buyer designated as "Paste". This is the classic "Django" model; his accompanists sometimes preferred the older "Grand Bouche" models, but the "Petit Bouche" instruments are the ones Django himself usually picked. A very fine modern repro of the vintage Django-approved Stimer pickup by Pechealamouche is included allowing it to be accurately electrified if desired.

Beyond "gypsy jazz" stylings Selmer guitars were used by many diverse French performers from the 1930s on in varied styles from musette to the backing of chansonniers as well as in English dance bands associated with performers Len Fillis and Al Bowlly. Many were played hard, heavily worn and poorly cared for, so survivors are now quite rare and sought after. This guitar is a well worn but wonderful player, a true veteran with the expected classic sound and more.
Overall length is 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm.), 15 3/4 in. (40 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 in. (10.2 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 26 1/2 in. (673 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/4 in. (44 mm.).
This guitar shows a decent amount of general wear but remains better preserved than many for this often heavily used model, often played virtually into the ground and/or heavily modified along the way. The thin lacquer finish shows scrapes, dings and chips overall; the back and sides appear completely original with some noticeable checking. The back of the neck is also original, somewhat worn down to the wood from play and naturally polished smooth.

The top has a lot of touch up/polish out related to a number of visible crack repairs. There is some typical pick wear, including a small areas worn into the wood on the upper edge of the soundhole and a wider swath below, both of which have been overfinished. The very thin spruce top has a number of repaired spruce grain slits; the area between the bridge and back edge has nine of varying lengths, all sealed with thin splices to the longest one under the bass foot of the bridge. The area around the soundhole has several other grain splits, some running neck to the bridge.

The only notable alteration to the instrument is a re-inforcing plate installed under the front edge of the soundhole. This is non-intrusive sonically and helps support the top below the fingerboard extension. There is some minor bulging to the top off the treble edge of the soundhole but as these go (considering the top repairs) this is a very solid example. All hardware appears original; the center part of the bridge is likely a reproduction but if so is very nicely done. To achieve proper intonation it is set back farther than the side pieces would indicate it originally was, but the guitar is euphonically happy this way.

The fingerboard has been very neatly refretted. Even played in and with the repairs old and new this is still an excellent playing example of this rare and much sought after guitar. Original Selmers were never imported to the US and have always been very hard to find here. The continuing interest in the music of Django has given this exact instrument a holy grail status among players who seek to chase down this unique style; for that the Selmer Modele jazz is the only choice, and originals like this the ultimate goal. Very Good + Condition.