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VOX AC30 CC2 WITH ALNICO BLUE SPEAKERS

 

Over the course of my career, I've played several different Vox AC30 amps; a C2, an AC30HW(for studio sessions), and various other models on road gigs.

Recently, I had the opportunity to buy an AC30CC2 from a student. The CC2 was made between 2005 and 2010 before the newer AC30C2 came out. There are a number of differences. the CC2 has a tube rectifier, along with a smoothing switch and a bias switch to vary the wattage.  There is also an input link to blend the Top Boost and Normal channels.The biggest difference its in the speakers. The Alnico Blue 15 watt speakers are to my ear, the most sonorous speakers I've ever played through. One would think that because of the lower power rating that they would break up quickly. But this isn't the case at all. Even though I like the Celestion 25 watt Greenbacks a lot, they don't seem to have the same projection as the Blues. And they fit everything I do musically.

The AC30 has a sound like breathing. It's like a really good black and white camera, that requires one to learn how to play the amp. It fits virtually every contemporary and classic guitar sound, sits in a band mix perfectly, and takes pedals very well. Two jazz guitarists who I listen to, John Scofield and Wolfgang Muthspiel, play an AC30. The amp has a history that goes back to Jeff Beck and the Rolling Stones, Hank Marvin, the Beatles, and many others going forward to modern country players like Brad Paisley. 

Randy Smith, the founder of Mesa Boogie amps, commented once on it's remarkable versatility from a very simple circuit.

I'm really thrilled that I get to play this amp.

CHANNELING MICHAEL LANDAU

 

The Fender Michael Landau 2x12 DeVille was inspired and co-designed by session guitarist Michael Landau; he has played and recorded with everyone from Joni Mitchell to Miles Davis. i remember seeing him play with Joni on the Refuge of the Roads tour. It was rack mount city with a 3 amp setup, wired by Bob Bradshaw. Quite a migration from then until now. Most guitarists have eschewed the rack mount idea in favor of one amp with a pedalboard.

For years, I played a Fender Deville; a really good amp that never broke down. However, I felt there were certain aspects that weren't necessary on it, and others that could be improved. Which is exactly what the Landau is. Instead of a clean and overdrive channel, there are 2 clean channels; one with a bright switch, the other with a 6 db boost. Also like its predecessor, it has reverb and a very transparent FX loop. What is different? The transformers are uprated, the speaker wire and jacks are much better quality, and the speakers are Celestion V70's, mounted diagonally.

The diagonal speaker mounting gives the amp an almost 'stereo-like' spread. Like the previous DeVilles, it takes pedals extremely well, and has a lot of clean headroom.

It is, in essence, an improved DeVille.

Thank you to Fender and Michael for such a great amp.

THE IBANEZ TS MINI

 

Over the past 4-5 years, pedals have gotten smaller. The realities of smaller stages and travel restrictions have made it imperative that pedalboards become smaller. Virtually every manufacturer makes mini pedals. I've got a small tuner and an MXR Sugar Drive(more on that one in a later post). And a small volume pedal.

Ibanez has produced a line of mini pedals to augment their line. The TS(tube screamer) Mini is one that recently acquired a space on my board. The tube screamer is arguably the most well-known and copied overdrive pedal in existence. While there are many companies that have modified the basic sonic blueprint, in my opinion, there is only one authentic one, the Ibanez Tube Screamer.

There have been a number of designs from Ibanez, from rather inexpensive to a somewhat pricey hand-wired version. Recently, i tried out three TS models; the TS9, the TS808, and the TS Mini.

The Mini, to my ear, represents the ideal marriage of the TS9 and the 808. It has the warmth and give of the 808, coupled with the high end stridency of the TS9. And to my ear, it has a bit more headroom than either one. 

One of the wonderful aspects of the TS is that regardless of which guitar I play it through, the sound of the guitar comes through. The Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with P90 pickups is a big sounding instrument, and because of its girth, the guitar sounds bigger and wider with the pedal. In fact, the overdrive knob is kept relatively low. With the John Page AJ, the tele quality really shines through.

Another quality is that with the overdrive knob turned up, the pedal doesn't lose clarity. While it doesn't have as much headroom as other pedals I use, unity gain is easily achieved, and in some ways, easier to dial in.

A special thanks to Ibanez for producing the most famous overdrive pedal on the market.

CHARLIE BANACOS-A PRIVILEGED EXPERIENCE

 
I started studying with Charlie in 1991, when I was living in Newburyport, Massachusetts--I was on his waiting list for about a year and a half, when the call from his secretary came that there was an opening on Tuesday at 8/30am--It took all of 15 seconds to say yes!!!!!; so I would make the trip down to his studio in Beverly--It had the weight of meeting a guru, but a funny one---I used to call Charlie the missing Marx brother as he was really funny and at times just goofy, but in a very real way---He used to kid me about the fact that I recopied his lessons with a fountain pen(mr mont blanc!!!) There was no pretense about him--and when it came to music, there was absolutely NO MESSING AROUND--you had to work or you could not study with him---No exceptions---He could play everything literally from Bud Powell on up, but I think Bill Evans was his favorite, if there was such a thing---And he had a way of giving you exactly what you needed to work on at that time in your development---Uncanny, very intuitive---I've kept all of his lessons and studied with him from 1991-5, then took a break beacause it was a really busy time with a lot of gigs---But if a student cancelled and there was an opening, he'd have me come in----When I left Boston, I did not get to see him often, hardly at all---I would return for a weekend to 'get away' but it was really an excuse to see if he could fit me in; and it was the same as on the first day I started with him--He was always positive, encouraging, an incredible player, funny, warm and genuine to the core---Charlie was the kind of person no one could buy, one of a kind--- When I learned that he was ill with cancer in 2008, I was not sure as to how far it had progressed---A few days later, the word came that he passed away, and was devastated---Actually, it was a rather strange feeling, because a part of me understood that the lessons he gave me would last for the rest of my life, so I didn't feel like he was gone, at least in a metaphorical sense,but it was terribly saddening to never see him again in person---More than that, I came to realize how grateful I was to have had the honor, the privilege to have him take me on as a student---and am eternally grateful, even more so now---

A TIME FORGOTTEN? JONI MITCHELL, MILES DAVIS, PICASSO

 
Joni, Miles and Picasso are my patron saints. The thread that runs from them into my musical, personal and spiritual life is truly intoxicating, like a fine cognac; layers of art and inspiration. Song to a Seagull, one of Joni's early recordings, weaves a story of late 60's Greenwich Village; innocent, authentic, and utterly compelling. Kind of Blue, THE modal masterpiece, hits me on any number of levels. It's pure jazz, it's chamber music, it's NYC cool, in the truest sense. Joni and Miles were for real, not a creation for the masses. The reason why this music isn't heard or expanded upon is the culture we now live in doesn't support it. It's a largely artificial and digital age. It's interesting to note that guitarists Robben Ford and Michael Landau,& saxophonist Wayne Shorter worked with both Miles and Joni. Joni is also a painter who was largely influenced by Picasso. And Miles' music is timeless, like Picasso's art. Over time, I've come to understand the influence they have left on me, when I was younger, and more so now, that I am older. One of my favorite recordings is Joni's MILES OF AISLES; recorded live in 1974 with Tom Scott and the LA Express with guitarist Robben Ford. This is a must listen for any guitarist in terms of how to play behind a singer. Seriously, I hear so many guitarists who do not know how to play underneath a singer, especially a female vocalist. Joni and Miles brought out the absolute best in any musician they worked with. They had the magic touch, the Midas touch, if you will. There is nothing left to say or improve on KIND OF BLUE, SKETCHES OF SPAIN, ESP, or anything else that Miles recorded. There is nothing left to improve on BLUE, COURT AND SPARK, THE HISSING OF SUMMER LAWNS, HEJIRA, or anything Joni did. There is nothing left to say about Picasso's GUERNICA. I remember a sunny March afternoon, walking in Paris to go to No5 Rue de Thorigny, to the Picasso Museum. And being left speechless, like a sword split me in half. I remember seeing the 'We Want Miles' tour and having that same speechlessness. Likewise with Joni's 'Refuge of the Roads' show. That there is nothing left to say is to say there is everything to learn; a timeless well to drink from.

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