In recent editions of Vintage Time Machines, we’ve looked a number of defiantly rock ’n’ roll electrics. Today, we’re training our sights on something a bit different: a Di Mauro Grand Bouche acoustic jazz guitar from the 1960s, currently listed by Cranes Music in Swansea.
This instrument is what historically has been referred to as a ‘gypsy jazz’ guitar, though more and more the frenetic acoustic style is being known as ‘hot club jazz’, ‘jazz manouche’ or simply ‘Django-style jazz’. And with good reason, as this genre’s hallmarks are almost entirely associated with one player – the great Django Reinhardt.
Key to the sound of the genre are the unique guitars Django used, which were made by Selmer, originally under the direction of Mario Maccaferri. These guitars remain extremely coveted by jazz manouche enthusiasts today.
Selmer produced fewer than a thousand of this type of guitar when they were made between around 1932 and 1952, but by that point, a number of other builders had adopted the style. Today’s guitar represents one such example, and comes from the workshop of Antoine Di Mauro.
Like Maccaferri, Di Mauro immigrated to France from Italy where had built classical guitars and mandolins.
Setting up shop in Paris, Di Mauro was one of many luthiers that focused on building guitars based on the earlier Selmer templates to serve the many jazz musicians of the city. These guitars were designed to project and be heard through the rest of a hot jazz combo, as well as the noisy clatter of a Parisian cafe.
To that end, this Di Mauro model features a large D-shaped soundhole also known as a ‘Grand Bouche’ (‘large mouth’) – though Di Mauro also made guitars with a smaller soundhole that offered a tighter sound for lead playing. Other Selmer-like features found on this instrument include a floating bridge and trapeze tailpiece.
Compared to authentic Maccaferri-era Selmers – as well as the work of contemporaries such as Favino and Antoine’s brother Joseph – Di Mauro’s work has historically been ranked in the lower tier in terms of craftsmanship, with more basic bracing patterns and less refined features. Then as now, his guitars were considered more player-grade instruments, which the ample road wear, repair work, and asking price on this specimen seem to validate.
For guitar players, however, Antoine Di Mauro’s guitars are most celebrated for their magnificent sound. It projects and sings and delivers that unmistakable Django Reinhardt magic with every swinging strum.
1960s Di Mauro Grand Bouche
• Price: £2,079
• Manufacturer: Di Mauro
• Type: Selmer-Maccaferri-style acoustic guitar
• Reverb seller: Cranes Music reverb.com/uk/shop/cranesmusic
• See more: reverb.com/item/1703771-di-mauro-grand-bouche-1960s