Tuesday, 26 June 2007

I was in London's West End recently, being reminded of what a dearth of shops there are for jazz guitarists. In Denmark Street you see the odd new archtop or American classic at vastly inflated prices. As a 14 year-old, Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Denmark Street was a mecca - I would spend hours browsing, having spent hours of prep pouring over the back pages of Melody Maker. I bought my first quality classical acoustic in Ivor Mairant's in Rathbone Place. Now, Ivor Mairant's seems to employ staff who really don't care for anything that has to be amplified, and whose customer service is less than satisfactory ("I need to take this (personal mobile) call", I was told mid-conversation).

Which is just as well we have Gillan's guitars, run by Dave Gillan and partner Kim from Perthshire in Scotland. Dave and Kim are jazz guitar enthusiasts, specialising in quality hand-built archtops, mostly from the US (Campellone, Briggs, Comins, Gagnon and more). I first came across the shop when looking for a UK Sadowsky dealer, as I wanted to order the limited-edition Jim Hall model. I waited about a year and then took delivery of this beautiful guitar (pictured left).

I had the chance to meet Dave and Kim at this year's guitar show at London's Excel. I'm not sure they'll be going again. it was impossible to enjoy the guitars and amps with the barrage of sound that came from the on-stand demos. It was like WWIII. They had brought down a Henriksen Jazzamp, a beautiful little amp that seems to have taken the (admittedly small) world of jazz guitar by storm, being used by the likes of Jim Hall, Jimmy Bruno, Joe Diorio and Ronny Jordan.

I now have a guitar and amp combination I am really happy with - high quality, lightweight, responsive, warm. I only wish I can find a good excuse to get up to Scotland to visit Dave and Kim and try out some more of their stock - for market research purposes, of course.


chipboaz said...

I wish that I had access to a dearth of stores for jazz guitarists . . . or just about jazz anything! I like the look into the local store - its great to hear about all aspects of different scenes. Thanks for the expert opinion on the shop!

John Clarke said...

Nice Blog John. Denmark St and Charing Cross Rd have been guitar mecca since I were a lad in the fifties. Good stock, but indifferent sales people, and not the best place to try out guitars and amps. Mairants was very good when Ivor and his Missus ran it

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Anonymous said...

Hi John. Nice blog! Sorry to spam you but just letting you know that up in Derby I run a guitar shop that caters for the jazz guitarist (being one myself) that stocks Henriksen, Jazzkat, Raezers Edge, Eastman etc etc. www.fouldsmusic.co.uk



John Harris said...

Thanks for letting me know about the shop. Gillans seems to have disappeared so I need another source of jazz supplies in the UK.


Anonymous said...

I am considering buying an amp. You all seem to have had a go at quite a few ones.
Could you tell what are the main differences btw a Jazzkat and a henriksen? apart from the obvious one which is the price they sell at.

John Harris said...

I haven't played a JAZZKAT, though a friend of mine owns one. I wanted an amp that was functionality very simple. The JAZZKAT has two channels, the JAZZAMP only one. THE JAZZKAT has a host of digital effects, the JAZZAMP has none. THE JAZZKAT has an FX send & return. The JAZZAMP just has a line out.

On the face of it, less to go wrong on the JAZZAMP. I've had other overspec'd amps before (e.g. FENDER HOT ROD DELUXE) & I don't like paying for functionality I don't use.

That said the JAZZKAT has very robust construction and some of the JAZZAMP component are very poor (notably, the pots).

Anonymous said...


do you get a lot of mains hum from your jazzamp at low volumes? - I had one and it drove me nuts using it at home!


John Harris said...

I've had no problem with mains hum. However, it's possible that Henriksen have had some issues with their quality control.

Anonymous said...


How does your Sadowsky compare to a 175 in terms of sound and playability? I'm interested in getting a Sadowsky JH but concerned it might not do that "dark/smoky" sound characteristic of the 175. How is the wider nut compared to a Gibson width fretboard?



John Harris said...

Hi Bill,

I have to confess that I haven't played a 175. The guitar has a pretty dark/smoky sound and I can't really fault it's playability. i can only suggest you try one before you but it.