Shelley Park: The Ideal Cross-Over Gypsy Jazz Guitar?

I own a lovely Park Encore (#230) as well as a Dupont, and I've noticed that if I'm playing any other kind of music than GJ with other musicians the Encore is far better. The Park gives you the option of a GJ sound but you MUST play right on top of the bridge, whereas with the Dupont that isn't as necessary to get a dry sound, although there is no option with the latter for getting a deeper sound (e.g. playing over the sound hole). So, when I hear people say, as they often do, that the Park is not a true GJG, I would have to say yes, but....


  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465

    I own both a Park (an Encore) and a Dupont (MD-20) myself. They are different. The Dupont is a classic Selmer guitar sound, much like you hear on the Django recordings. The Park gets a Gypsy guitar "bark", but is much warmer and is kind of a cross between my Dupont and one of my acoustic archtops. I am happy to have both in the "arsenal".

    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 361

    Another Park Elan owner--and I went for it precisely because I'm not a big fan of the dry sound that lead players tend to favor. The Park sort-of replaces* a Dunn Daphne that my left hand can no longer play for a full set without discomfort (it's the wide, flat, low-profile neck). Shelley's instruments are more tonally flexible than, say, the new Eastmans I tried, especially for a rhythm player with no lead ambitions. I acquired the Elan in the middle of the pandemic, so I haven't been able to play out on it, but its voice is close enough to the Dunn that I'm confident it will work fine for my usual combination of swing, country, and folky fingerpicking. I just wish it had a 14-fret neck.

    FWIW, I tried another Dunn, a Stardust, that had a more comfortable neck but a more Selmer-like voice. It would have worked fine as a rhythm guitar (and was very good amplified) but was just a tad too dry and barky to replace the Daphne as a general-purpose instrument, and I reluctantly returned it.

    *Sort-of because I have not yet been able to bring myself to sell it on--maybe, I keep thinking, my hands will get better. I take it out of the case every so often to check. So far, I'm still old, as are my hands.

  • flacoflaco Shelley Park #151, AJL Quiet and Portable
    Posts: 102

    I wish I had more informed feedback to give. The only really nice Gypsy guitar I've gotten to play is my Park Encore (#151). The others I've been able to play are the Sagas and Gitanes for sale in the local music stores. It certainly feels like I can get an authentic sound if I pick right over the bridge, as Paul mentions. But I'm not really a Gypsy player, and I'm really more of a bluegrass and old time player. The Park sounds great on all those kind of things (but not exactly authentic for those either). It's my most played guitar even though I only play Gypsy music maybe 25% of the time. Mine has a solid mahogany back as opposed to laminated.

  • StringswingerStringswinger Santa Cruz and San Francisco, CA✭✭✭✭ 1993 Dupont MD-20, Shelley Park Encore
    Posts: 465

    All of Shelley's guitars up to this year have solid backs and sides. As I write this, Shelley is finishing her first batch of Gypsy guitars with laminated sides and backs. I have owned many Gypsy guitars with both solid woods and laminates. My Dupont has solid maple sides and back and my Park has solid rosewood sides and back. My opinion is that choice of materials is but one of many factors that determine how the guitar sounds.

    I owned a Dunn Stardust some years ago. It was the loudest Gypsy guitar that I have ever played, but the wide, square and very flat neck was a deal killer to me (it was very much like playing a classical guitar). What makes Shelley's guitars wonderful is her modern C shaped necks, unbeatable workmanship and superb wood choices. If you want to slavishly imitate Django, get a Dupont. If you want a Gypsy guitar that does other styles and still can get a "Gypsy" sound, Shelley Park will build you a bespoke guitar that delivers on many fronts.

    "When the chord changes, you should change" Joe Pass
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,344

    @Russell Letson You mentioned your Park as a "sort of" replacement for your Dunn. Didn't Shelley apprentice with Michael Dunn for a short time in the 90s? Would make sense there would be some commonality, although I fully recognize her instruments are truly her own. Been happy with mine these past ~18 years. I mostly use it for rhythm playing.

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    edited November 2020 Posts: 361

    The "sort of" signals that the Park's voice is along the same line as, but not duplicating that of the Dunn, which I picked out precisely because it was not limited to the barky Selmer sound. Actually, I hear not only conventional-flattop sounds but an echo of National resophonics--a slight nasal honk--in both instruments. I have a similar persnickity take on archtops--I tend favor old Epiphones over Gibsons of the same vintage and design formula. (All tonal characterizations should be taken with the salt-grain that my ears are 75 years old, with an 11K response top.)

    When I was still attending Djangofest Northwest, I was able to play a lot of guitars, and the ones I liked best came from Michael, Shelley, and Bernie Lehmann because they were the least Selmerish and most versatile for the kind of music I play. I love the Dunn partly because would serve in nearly any playing occasion.

    I should add that what has made me set my Dunn aside is that neck profile Stringswinger describes. I was fine with it up to about three years ago, when the big muscle at the base of my left thumb started to get crampy and my index finger joints could no longer take the tight flexing the profile demands. A fatter neck and somewhat narrower fingergboard (1.75" is fine) takes some of the stress away--and the Epi-style neck on my Eastman is still comfy. Getting old sucks.

  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    Posts: 191

    I own a Park Montmarte (#250) and love its tone. I've compared it with others on display at DjangoFest and must say that few compare with her guitars. Tonally it seems that I can also change things simply by the choice of strings, as well as the type and shape of picks that I am using. Its a great guitar that provides such voicing opportunities.

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