As I started to dig in with some Freddie
Green-approved chords, the guitar seemed
to really find its voice, and I could hear
some intriguing overtones depending on
how I held it. In photos of many old-school
jazz players, you can see they held the guitar
at an angle, with the back being free
and able to vibrate. By tilting the Dutchess
just slightly, the sound opened up and
seemed to breathe a lot more, perfect for
holding down the rhythm chair in a big
band. The tone became more focused with
some added presence when I held the guitar
I wanted to test the different possibilities
with an archtop guitar, so I followed
the luthier’s request by testing out some
altered tunings on the Dutchess. Starting
with open D tuning, the guitar was very
responsive and bright. Although the action
wasn’t set up for it, even some bottleneck
slide guitar sounded pretty good. When
I dug in, I could get close to some Delta-inspired
mojo, but it didn’t quite make me
want to replace my acoustic guitar.
As I explored the Dutchess acoustically, it
seemed to shine with short chord stabs and
single-note lines. The single notes had a real
bite to them and sustained for days. In a
solo or duo situation, such enhanced sustain
can really help carry things along and make
playing ballads a lot more fun.
I tested the Dutchess with two amps, a
Vox AGA70 and a Goodsell Valpreaux 21.
The Vox amp took the existing acoustic
tone of the guitar and gave it a little more
presence. The treble really came to
life, and I discovered I needed to handle
single-note lines and chord stabs a
little more delicately when plugged in.
When I plugged into the all-tube Valpreaux,
the guitar still held firmly onto its acoustic
tendencies across all six strings. The
Bartolini pickup was really clear and precise—
something I look for in any kind of
acoustic or archtop pickup—and was a nice
compliment to the natural sound coming
from the guitar. Considering the different
types of room and amp combinations
players encounter, I think an added tone
control would give this guitar some versatility.
The tone was close to a Jim Hall-esque
sound—much like his trio recordings from
the mid ’60s—but didn’t quite get there.
More of the acoustic sound came through
than I usually prefer, but that could be
adjusted depending on the situation.
The Dutchess is a
great sounding, well
made archtop that would
excel at either your solo coffeehouse
gig or in a small combo setting. The rock-solid
construction and interesting twists on
the traditional archtop design makes the
Dutchess a strong contender for players who
aren’t concerned about price and want to
invest in a pro-level axe.
you want a custom high-end archtop
that has a strong acoustic side.
you need to cover a lot of musical
bases during a gig and can only
bring one axe.
Street $6500 - Paul Hartmann Guitars - 845-229-9581