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NAMM 2008

From Jan. 17-20, the 2008 NAMM trade show took place in sunny Anaheim, Calif., where tens of thousands of buyers, sellers, players and writers converged to gawk at new gear. Due in no small part to the shaky economy, this more conservative show brought fewer innovations but still plenty of shiny new toys worth taking out a loan for (especially if you’re a guitar player). Here’s a rundown of some of the best new stuff, so make note of what you like here and go purchase it at your nearest mom-and-pop retailer.

Guitars & Basses

Ibanez showcased a limited-run 30th-anniversary George Benson model with a metallic-flake finish, a new PM35NT Pat Metheny signature model that accommodates students with a list price just over a grand, and a few new additions to the Artcore line. For smooth-fusion fanatics, Gibson’s Custom Shop is releasing in limited quantities a Lee Ritenour ES-335 replica, complete with a relic aging process: It’s the closest you’ll get to owning Ritenour’s ax without stealing it from his tour bus. On the opposite end of the price spectrum is Godin’s 5th Avenue ax (pictured), a handsome traditional laminate archtop made in Canada with great playability and an old-school Gibson feel-all at a $625 list price. The artisans at Paul Reed Smith unleashed an avalanche of new product, including some sexy single-cutaway hollowbodies: Look up the SC Jumbo Thinline (with Bigsby tremolo), the SC Hollowbody I and the SC Hollowbody Standard. In solidbody instruments, acoustic manufacturers Taylor made news with their long-awaited foray into electric six-strings. Not quite the radical departure in instrument design Taylor’s ad campaign suggested, they are extremely versatile, sounding at home in fusion-friendly high-gain settings but cleaning up nicely at lower levels and with the tone knobs turned back. The big to-do at Fender’s booth (by far the coolest space at the show) was the redesigned American Standard series of Strat, Tele, Jazz Bass and P-Bass. Especially welcome are the new case designs-sturdy flight-style protection custom-manufactured for Fender by SKB. Other bass guitars of note include Yamaha’s RBX5 and RBX4 A2M models: futuristic, ultra-light-weight designs with sleek finishes and fast necks. On the bluesier side, National Reso-Phonic introduced the ResoJr-II, an affordable hybrid resonator perfect for electric players looking to pick some rusty-sounding country blues. Speaking of country blues, that genre’s premier clinician, Stefan Grossman, has a new signature dreadnought from Martin; it features a unique C-shaped neck, 14 Jumbo frets and a beautiful Sitka spruce top. For ax-slinging Hammond B3 freaks, Hammond/Leslie has released the G37, the company’s first rotating speaker cabinet with an integrated guitar amp, and the G27, a rotating-speaker cab sans amp.

Drums & Cymbals

The jazz-drum headliner this year was-surprise, surprise-Gretsch, which celebrated its 125th anniversary with a load of jazz-oriented must-have kits. The Limited Edition 125th Anniversary sets included the Progressive Bop Kit, featuring classic bop-sized drums with six-ply USA Custom shells. Then there’s the crown jewel in the bunch, the Progressive Jazz Kit (pictured), which is modeled after the house kit at the original Birdland in Manhattan. Both kits feature commemorative vintage-themed logo plates on their bass drums and are produced in very limited quantities: Only 125 of each will be made, so hop to it. Not as limited but still new and neat are the Catalina Club Jazz Kits finished in Satin Natural and Rustic Pearl, and the Club Catalina Club Mod (and Mini-Mod) groove sets-finished in svelte glossy black, they’re ideal for funk or fusion. In cymbals, Zildjian recruited phenom Terri Lyne Carrington to overhaul the 22-inch K Custom High Def. Ride-go test out this thinner, more versatile cymbal. Zildjian dropped the Armand series for those yearning for the sounds of the swinging and blues-rockin’ ’60s. Also new from Zildjian is a signature drumstick by Pat Metheny Trio-member Antonio Sanchez. Bosphorus’ hand-hammered Versa series cymbals are worth a Google search. Finally, props go to LP Percussion for a well-needed tribute shrine to the late, great Carlos “Patato” Valdez at its booth. Even if the company was hawking Patato’s signature congas, it was a heartwarming gesture.


Hammond’s XK-3c (pictured) takes the soul and vintage vibe associated with the brand and adds modern accommodations for studio and stage. Along with upper and lower split vibrato, the model features MIDI control for synth sounds, recording and other computer applications.


In brass and reeds, International Woodwind Inc. came correct with heavyweight endorsers and boothside jam sessions: Azar Lawrence played the IW-601 black nickel tenor and James Carter the IW-601 bass sax. Also in the 601 series is an alto endorsed by Donald Harrison. Other jazz-winds news is RS Berkeley’s Virtuoso series, developed by company president Les Silver with help from the late Michael Brecker, who played Virtuoso prototypes before he died in early 2007. Conn-Selmer introduced the redesigned Vito series student-level alto and tenor models, which now feature a high F-sharp key. Brass highlights include Bach Stradivarius’ New York #7 trumpet, a limited-run horn with a swing-era-style Vincent Bach #7 bell.

Last but not least, golfer-investor-sax extraordinaire Kenny G unleashed the G- and E-Series signature soprano saxes. No, really, he did. The E-Series is a student-aimed horn, and the G (pictured) is based on the G-Man’s own beloved ax. Reportedly, Kenny himself sold the first G model to none other than Barry Manilow. I can’t make this stuff up.

Originally Published