Legacy Series Guitars
Belleza Grand Concert #128
Michael’s Legacy Series guitars demonstrate the highest form of the luthier’s art. Extraordinary in every detail, these instruments give Michael an opportunity to explore new directions in design and embellishment, materials, construction and acoustics.
Of the many guitars that come to life in Michael’s shop, only a handful are Legacy instruments. These guitars represent the very finest expression of Michael’s craft. Though all Bashkin guitars are essentially custom guitars and they are all collectibles, his Legacy Series guitars stand out for their unified design aesthetic, special features and exquisite detailing not found on standard models.
Michael designed the Belleza Grand Concert #128 in an unusually close collaboration with the customer, a lifelong woodworker. This lovely guitar combines a top of old-growth, “Lucky Strike” redwood from Northern California with Brazilian rosewood back, sides, fretboard and bridge. The owner explains how this instrument – and this remarkable design experience – came to be…“It all began with a bridge.
“A 50-year passion for wood, woodworking, and guitars led me on a quest to commission the building of a handmade instrument. As a lifelong player of production guitars, the idea of acquiring an instrument born from the skills of an individual craftsman captured my imagination. As the idea evolved, I realized that while the tone, playability and aesthetics of the guitar I envisioned were all important, the connection I hoped to make with the builder was just as important to me – a bridge between this musician and the luthier.
As my long search narrowed, I showed one prospective builder an image of a sculptural work of art that I'd found on the internet. "Your guitars are indeed amazing,” I said, “but can you design one with a bridge like this?"
"If you want a bridge like that," he said, "you'll need to talk to Michael Bashkin.” I followed his advice, and I never looked back. I met with Michael and experienced, hands-on, several of his guitar models. I quickly discovered that Michael Bashkin is a 'luthier's luthier' – a man whose thoughtful, methodical, and artistic approach to instrument-making bridges the divide between form and function perfectly.
“And so began a nine-month journey, which was linked by over a thousand build pics arriving incrementally via e-mail most Fridays. In frequent design conversations with Michael, we agreed to marry the brightness of old Brazilian Rosewood with the warmth of Lucky Strike Redwood – an inspiring combination! Partial to art deco detailing, Michael worked with me on the headstock, rosette and lower bout designs. The lovely spalted oak came from his father's property in North Carolina. Lots of stories…
“Each day now, when I pick up this magnificent Bashkin Belleza Grand Concert, I appreciate and savor the effort and skill that brought this amazing instrument into being. The guitar plays and sounds like a dream, feels like silk, and is indeed a piece of art to behold.
“Thank you, Michael Bashkin.
Placencia OM #131
The body of this special Placencia OM is built with a set of Brazilian rosewood that is exceptionally dark and deeply colored – as deep and rich as the tone is produces. The body is matched with a top of redwood recovered from the famous, old-growth “Lucky Strike” redwood tree in Northern California. The bindings and bridge are also Brazilian rosewood. The rosette and headstock are distinguished with intricate accents of Koa, and a 24.9" scale suits the owner’s playing style.
African Blackwood OO-12 Fret
“This OO-12 fret model guitar is an homage to my love of black and white photography,” says Michael, whose career includes experience in commercial photography in New York City. “I used materials that were either black or white, or gradients of gray between these to two opposites. I balanced all the components (black, white and gray tones) to make a visual ‘yin and yang’ guitar.”
The headstock overlay, rosette and endgraft were cut from a White Oak burl Michael discovered in his father's backyard in western North Carolina. He then segmented the burl and torched it in hot sand to create the shading effect.
The inlays in the rosette and fret board are bone. The top is heavily-silked, creamy white German spruce, and the back and sides are dark, dense African Blackwood. The binding and purflings are Macassar ebony with holly and maple veneers. The neck is highly figured birds-eye maple.
“This guitar also features frets that are canted a few degrees towards the player’s shoulder (a novel idea in lutherie that I had been eager to apply).
“The fretboard is asymmetrical in cross-section, with the bass side being thicker than the treble side. This asymmetry enables the player’s wrist to engage the frets in a more neutral position and therefore reduce fatigue. The effect is subtle, but I believe it may be significant for longer sessions as well as over the long-term.”
Michael’s Great Wave guitar was inspired by his fondness for Japanese wood block prints. The top is Adirondack spruce and the back and sides are a unique set of CITES-certified dark Brazilian rosewood. The binding is curly koa, as is the rosette. The headstock inlay was inspired by Hokusai's Great Wave, probably the best-known example of Japanese wood block art, and was executed by master inlay artist Jimmi Wingert.
The Great Wave guitar is a multiscale design (25.75-25"). The splay or motion of the frets visually "pushes" the wave across the headstock. Further elaborating on the inlay theme, Michael used fossilized walrus ivory for the nut.
Gaz Bray, the owner of The Great Wave remarks "Such a tonic of warm rich tones and crystal bells. It encourages you to give wide chords space to breath as harmonics swell. The sustain gives you time to lay melodies over the top with a sweet metallic ring. With it's unworldly three dimensional quality, it sounds like it's running through a stereo effects unit! Pure acoustic magic. As for the aesthetics, just breath taking - perfection personified. The build quality is flawless."
The following description was provided by the guitar’s owner.
“Michael Bashkin and I have a love for Japanese woodcuts. There is a minimalism to their lines and colors, and yet the works are not simple in either composition or theme.
"The woodcut Fujiwara no Yasumasa Plays the Flute by Moonlight by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi was the inspiration for the headstock of my Bashkin guitar. The woodcut is a personal favorite and a copy graces a favored wall in my home. It depicts a Japanese folk story:
"Fujiwara no Yasumasa (958-1036) was a celebrated poet and flautist in the Heian court. Legend has it that one moonlit night, as Yasumasa was strolling along the roadway on the lonely moor of Ichiharano, the bandit Hakamadare Yasusuke lay in wait, determined to kill him. As Yasumasa drew closer, the sound of his flute enchanted the highwayman, who was unable so much as to draw his sword. Entirely charmed by the power of music, he followed Yasumasa to his home, where the flautist took notice of the docile brigand and presented him with a suit of clothing. The story was first performed by Onoe Kikugoro III and Ichikawa Danjuro VII at the Ichimura Theatre in Edo in 1822. It was performed again in Edo at the Morita Theater in 1862, when Yoshitoshi was designing many woodblock prints of the kabuki stage. (Stevenson, John. Yoshitoshi's One Hundred Aspects of the Moon)
" met Michael at the Healdsburg Guitar Festival in 2007. Amongst so many masterful luthiers, Michael’s guitars stood out for me, for both their tone and beauty. He had one of his Great Wave Collector Series guitars which, naturally, got us talking about Japanese woodcuts in general and Fujiwara no Yasumasa Plays the Flute in particular. I sent Michael a photo of the woodblock and he took elements of it create the beautiful guitar you see here. The inlay was done by Jimmi Wingert."
This guitar was made for Italian guitarist and composer Massimo Santantonio. Massimo has been profiled, and awarded twice with a prize, by US magazine "Guitar Player." His work has been published by the Acoustic Music Records label.
The distinctive visual feature of the guitar is the Abalone details. The headstock, fingerboard, rosette, top, back and sides all have full Abalone purflings that outline and frame the guitar. Michael and Massimo chose an Italian spruce top for its responsiveness and warmth. The Madagascar rosewood back and sides support sustain and richness from the high to low end. To accommodate Massimo’s playing style, the spacing at the nut and bridge are wider than Michael’s standard spacing.