First, a disclaimer: Though I am a fairly experienced jazz musician, I have NEVER had my hands on a Selmer-style guitar prior to this and have been actively studying jazz Manouche technique for only a few months, so you may take this with a grain of salt. As many forum members have indicated an interest in the Asian Dell’Artes, I offer my humble opinion here, for what it is worth.
I was the guy who snapped one of the two DjangoBooks.com had in stock (the other one being the Robin Nolan model.) I had previously ordered the Gitane DG-340, but, as they had none available, opted to change the order when it was announced that the Pigalle had come in. Michael had suggested that the DG-340 would be a better deal, as the earlier Asian Dell’Artes had neck issues, but I liked the traditional Selmer look of the Pigalle and didn’t want to wait any longer. Josh assured me that this Pigalle was much better than the ones in the earlier batch that they had sent back. He had it on the bench and said that, with the custom set-up, fret level and bridge upgrade, I’d have a really good guitar. (This is one of the reasons why doing business with DjangoBooks is a good idea, when buying a non-luthier shop guitar.)
It was, however, with a certain trepidation that I took the new axe out of the box, tuned her up and started to play. At first, I was disappointed- though the guitar is absolutely gorgeous, the action was high, the sound seemed overly boomy and foggy, and the overall feel stiff and uncomfortable. But, right out of the box, this is not unexpected; the question was, would she eventually open up and could I get the feel and action where I wanted it; or, did I have a ‘dud’? I spoke to Josh and he addressed these issues. I resolved to play her to death over the weekend, while slowly adjusting the action. Whipping out my trusty Swiss Army knife (horrors!!) and some extra fine sandpaper, I started shaving away at the top of the bridge, taking the action down to just below 3 mm at the 12th fret, where it now feels fast and comfortable. Still no buzzing and the fretboard remains true. Since the initial unveiling. tonal issues have improved dramatically as well, which may be in part to my getting used to playing the wider fretboard (well, wider than my D’Angelico, anyway) but I believe she is actually improving and drying out after being played for a few days.
So, after several days of adjusting and playing, here’s my overall impression: this is a really good guitar and, with time, may even be a great guitar, especially for the money. Intonation is flawless and the tone is increasingly brilliant and clear. In the lower register, it has a rich, crisp classical timbre. There is ample evidence of the Selmer ‘bark’ in the upper register. And, as I said earlier, she is a beautiful instrument. I believe the setup work and quality assessment from Josh and Michael are essential and I would hesitate to buy one of these from eBay or some other online retailer. Having said all that, at this juncture I am a very happy camper. Not ever having the opportunity to play a Dupont, Favino or Ald, I can only assume that this guitar is probably not in that league; but, for an overall cost of around $1,000, I believe that this was a really good choice. My thanks to the folks at DjangoBooks!
"Listen to this, it speaks like a cathedral!"- Django, on the Selmer (from Michael Dregni's Django, the Life and Music of a Gypsy Legend)