Gearhead: The Latest Instruments, Accessories and Educational Resources

New from Gibson, Roland, D'Angelico and more

Guild T-50 Slim archtop guitar
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Epiphone Blueshawk Deluxe archtop guitar
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Joe Pass Jazz Play-Along book from Hal Leonard
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Gibson G Force Automatic Tuning system
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Roland Blues Cube
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Gretsch Brian Setzer Signature guitars
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D'Angelico EX-63 acoustic guitar
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Revamped Gretsch Brian Setzer Signature Guitars

The best and brightest of the ’80s rockabilly revivalists, guitarist-singer Brian Setzer fronted the sharpest and most important of the retro-swing bands in the following decade, and through it all he played a Gretsch. The company recently introduced improved Setzer hollowbody axes into its Professional Collection-the Nashville, Hot Rod and Black Phoenix models-all featuring the new Setzer signature pickups by TV Jones, at once cutting up top and beefy on the bottom. ($3,000-$3,700 online)

Essential Guitar Books

How many times can you descend into the mines of jazz guitar instruction and find something new? Plenty, it turns out. Jazz Guitar Soloing: The Cellular Approach (Sher, $30), by Bay Area master teacher Randy Vincent, focuses on concise melodic “cells” that can be assembled into compelling narrative solos; Jazz Guitar Series Vol. III: Phrasing, Scales & Intervals (Jazz Link, $35), by Colorado-based guitarist and educator Dale Bruning, aims for fluid, vocal-like solo construction (think Bruning’s star pupil, Bill Frisell); and Hal Leonard’s Jazz Play-Along Volume 186, <1>Joe Pass ($17 book/CD), features 10 tunes, including the virtuoso’s underrated original music plus a few of his favorite standards.

Epiphone Blueshawk Deluxe

One of the cooler, quirkier axes Gibson manufactured in recent decades was the Blueshawk, a small-bodied bridge between a Les Paul and an archtop, featuring P-90 pickups, a Fender-style 25 1/2-inch scale length and a frequency-shifting VariTone dial. Discontinued in 2006, Gibson’s Asia-built Epiphone brand has relaunched the instrument at a student-friendly price point with a VariTone pot intact, plus Gibson-quality P-90 PRO pickups divided by a hum-cancelling dummy pickup. ($500 online)

Guild T-50 Slim

Part of Guild’s Newark St. Collection, a line of guitars reviving or indebted to the brand’s instruments of the 1950s and ’60s, the T-50 Slim is a thinbody archtop featuring maple-laminate top, back and sides; a vintage-styled Guild single-coil pickup in the neck position; a Guild Tune-O-Matic bridge; and-for bonus style points-no cutaway. From hot jazz to bop to jump blues to rockabilly, this is a guitar that needs to perform classic American music. ($980 online)

Godin Montreal Premiere Supreme

The Canadian brand Godin is sort of a best-kept secret, crafting affordable pro-level instruments in North America-guitars like the Montreal Premiere Supreme. An upgraded version of the successful Premiere model, it boasts figured flame maple capping a Canadian Wild Cherry top, back and sides, two Seymour Duncan humbuckers, and tuning machines and a bridge by Graph Tech. ($2,095 street)

D’Angelico EX-63

The revitalized D’Angelico company’s new acoustic line has yielded this inexpensive yet jazz-worthy archtop, featuring a round soundhole, a laminate spruce top and maple back and sides, a floating ebony bridge, and requisite D’Angelico trademarks like a stairstep tailpiece and pickguard. As the company says, it’s based on the last instrument the legendary luthier produced, completed by his protégé, Jimmy D’Aquisto, after he died in 1964. ($1,500 online)

2015 Gibson Les Paul Supreme

At every NAMM show, a few new instruments just seem to glow. Last January, one of those was Gibson’s 2015 Les Paul Supreme, a posh version of the brand’s flagship instrument with features jazz players will dig: a fully chambered body with a AAAA maple top and bound f-holes, a jazzbox-style floating humbucker in the neck spot and a wider neck and fingerboard. ($6,600 online)

Gibson G Force

Gibson’s G Force Automatic Tuning system has been a source of guitar-nerd Internet contention over the past year, mainly because of the company’s decision to make it standard equipment on most 2015 models. (A sizable price increase didn’t help matters, though that bump includes more feature updates besides G Force.) Nonetheless, it’s hard to deny how smart and effective a tool it is-an enhanced take on preexisting Min-ETune technology that gets a guitar in playing shape in a whole note’s time.

Roland Blues Cube

Another much-improved recasting of ’90s gear, Roland’s 80-watt Artist and 60-watt Stage Blues Cubes, debuted last year, strive for a common goal in amp design and get closer than most. Roland’s Tube Logic technology does convincingly allow this hassle-free solid-state box to evoke the sonic warmth and comfort of a temperamental old tube amp. And the supplemental Eric Johnson Blues Cube Tone Capsule (inset, $300 online) captures its namesake as well as a tone approaching the creamy, delayed overdrive of post-Rosenwinkel jazz guitar. (Artist, $900 online; Stage, $700)