Of course, no Junior or Special ever came
with a Strat-style vibrato bridge. The sturdy
Wilkinson version here was set up to float,
and it rocked smoothly and stayed in tune
as well as any nonlocking whammy I have
played. Further, the instrument’s 24.625"
scale, 12" fretboard radius, and medium-high,
flawlessly finished frets made the
Tornado a dream to play—sliding into
notes and bending proved equally easy,
while its 7 pound 10 ounce weight was
easy on the shoulders.
Bark and Bite
The Tornado’s pickups stray from
the ordinary, as well. They’re made
by TV Jones, and they use Gretsch
Filter’Tron-style magnets to produce a
variation on the traditional P-90 voice.
And when driving an Orange Tiny Terror
or the lead channel of an Egnater Rebel
30, they delivered all the bark—think
“Mississippi Queen” or Humble Pie—that
has made the P-90 style
pickup a rock-and-roll legend.
But with the Tiny Terror set clean,
or through the Rebel’s clean channel, they
offered a bit more twang than your average
soapbar. These pickups make this particular
Tornado model especially versatile. The neck
pickup had enough bite for articulate solos
in everything from clean-ish blues to higher-gain
hard rock. Pairing the two pickups in the
middle position produced plenty of jangle
for pop or, with a little whammy-bar rocking,
creditable Gretsch sounds. In clean mode,
I felt right at home chicken-pickin’ with the
bridge pickup, but as soon as I started pushing
the gain, the classic P-90 snarl reared its
aggressive head and fattened my leads.
The P-90 pickups could be a little noisy—
like any high-output single-coil. The signal-to-
noise ratio of these pickups ensures
that, in most live situations, you will not be
bothered by the hum while you are playing.
However, when you stop playing you
will want to be quick on the volume knob
or pedal (or use a noise gate). Such are the
trade-offs for a sweet-sounding P-90.
There are some custom builders who build
objects for collectors, and there are those
that build guitars for working players. Saul
Koll has several years of practical touring
and playing experience, and it shows in this
instrument. The Tornado is beautiful and
meticulously constructed and finished. But
it is, first and foremost, a player’s guitar
that reflects the savvy of someone who
knows what performers want and need.
Such an essentially simple instrument might
seem pricey at over three grand, but what
you get is a guitar that can serve a variety
of purposes without requiring a manual—
and that rings and plays like only an brilliantly
constructed instrument can.
you love P-90s and want them
mounted in a first-class instrument.
more traditional single-coils, humbuckers,
or stop tailpieces are your thing