Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Carmelo Catania Era II vintage jazz guitar from Sicily

For me there is nothing worse design-wise on an acoustic guitar than weird soundholes that just don't work aesthetically. A number of modern guitars have soundholes of different shapes placed in various different positions - no doubt for tonal properties rather than for aesthetics - but often I just think how dreadful they look.

I do however, quite like this design on this 1950s Carmelo Catania Era II. It seems so weird to see an archtop jazz guitar with anything but f-holes, but look at the photo from Carmelo Catania's catalogue (below) and you'll see that their basic jazz guitar was offered in four versions each with different soundhole designs.

The eBay seller tells us this about Carmelo Catania:
Throughout the 900 Sicily was one of the most relevant production centres of musical instrument together with The Marches and Lombardy. Set so far away from the high standards of the arch instruments made in Cremona and from the quality of the Neapolitan mandolins, Sicily was quickly renown as the land of luthiers. Curiously, all Sicilian luthiers were born in Catania, at the feet of Etna, the volcano.

The poor economy of the region highly contributed to the huge migrant wave in the 20s towards France that gave birth to an extraordinary school of French luthiery. The luthiers from Catania are to be mentioned: Pappalardo, Di Mauro, Amico, Anastasio, Busato, Bucolo, Castelluccia, Favino, Olivieri, Burgassi, Martella, Grizzo, Rossito, Petillo...among many others.

Luthiers in Sicily were always open to both the Baroque influence from Spain and to the innovations coming from Europe and The States. The first great star among Sicilian luthiers was surely Carmelo Catania who was the only one to understand that the image of the luthier had to become more of a businessman to survive on the internal and international market. Carmelo Catania’s golden age was from the end of the war to the 60s. The cultural and economic situation brought Carmelo Catania to produce an incredible wide range of crafted instruments on industrial scale. The few pages of his catalogue here reported show his skills in bringing together all the different external influences in a typically Sicilian sensitivity. Carmelo Catania was probably the first luthier to organize himself industrially, promoting himself, exporting guitars, settling commercial alleys and trades. He created a real production headquarter in Sicily making instruments or parts on behalf of third parties.
Currently listed on eBay UK with a starting price of £350 and Buy It Now price of $675.

G L Wilson

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