The Zebra Hummer is a
positively striking instrument, and
maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise,
as the guitar’s designer, Phillip
Jarrell, is a fine art photographer
with dozens of magazine covers and a
recent gallery showing on his résumé.
His latest objets d’art are Jarrell Guitars,
which in a few short years have attracted
the attention of a wide range of players
from King Diamond shredder Mike Wead
to Sonic Youth mad genius Lee Ranaldo.
Jarrell clearly has little patience for
the ordinary (check out the “mythical
creatures” in his latest photo
exhibit), and his guitars reflect that
same imagination, starting with the
cases: the Zebra Hummer lives in
a form-fitting silver metallized
cocoon (with integral hygrometer)
that looks like something
Frodo might have found in the
recesses of Mount Doom.
Flip open the six latches (this
is truly one of the coolest cases I’ve
seen on a production guitar), and
behold the Zebra, with its eye-popping,
and white striped finish. According to
Jarrell, it’s a veneer created by press-heating
wood sawdust and vacuum-gluing it to the
maple top and mahogany back of the double cutaway
body, then finishing it in glossy clear polyurethane.
The Zebra’s body also draws the eye with its swooping,
ergonomic cutaways, and its ebony
fretboard and headstock overlay are highlighted
by colorful, mildly gothic abalone
inlays. Subtle touches like ebony pickup
rings and a sturdy recessed output jack
reveal careful attention to both form and
function. Jarrell Guitars are built in China,
but they’re more boutique than mass-produced.
Jarrell himself oversees manufacture,
and the resulting fit and finish
is excellent, from the sharp-edged
inlays and tight neck pocket to the
smooth, well-dressed frets. The
neck is a comfortable mediumslim
maple “C” shape, and the
factory setup delivers low action
and easy bending across the 12"
radius ’board. A sculpted neck
joint allows excellent upper-fret
access. My only playability suggestion
would be to move the
pickup selector farther from the
easily bumped coil-split switches.
Played acoustically, the Zebra’s
tone was clear and resonant, with
notably more sustain and a less percussive
attack than I expected. Testing
through a Suhr Badger 30 and Vox AC15C2
revealed a warm and well-balanced clean
tone. The Zebra Hummer’s pickups are a
Duncan ’59 neck
and Custom bridge—but they somehow
speak differently in this animal, delivering
strong note definition and smoothness,
but less bite and snarl than the PRS
Custom 22 and Les Paul ’59 reissue I used
for reference. The parallel and split pickup
switching yielded a wide array of plucky
and sparkling tones, yet I found the radicallooking
Zebra Hummer ironically sounded
rather mellow at clean and low-gain settings,
possibly more suited to smooth jazz
than blues or classic rock.
But, as I started pushing the gain,
everything changed. The Jarrell rapidly
began to out-evil the other guitars in the
room for detuned metal grunge and highgain
legato and tapping. The Zebra has a
powerful fundamental with more muted
overtones—a tonal recipe that can sound
one-dimensional at lower gain—but the
payoff is it stays tight and well defined at
extreme thrash settings, practically begging
for more and more distortion while
remaining razor sharp, precise, and brutal.
The Jarrell Zebra Hummer isn’t for
everyone, and that’s largely intentional.
Its cosmetics are impeccably designed
and classy, but likely too bold and aggressive
for some. And while it can deliver a
wide range of tones, I found the Zebra’s
real magic might be in unleashing fullfrontal
assault through a high-gain
amp. For those drawn to less venomous
styles, Jarrell Guitars offers the graceful
contours of the Zebra with a variety
of pickups and finish options, and
it’s worth noting that his semi-hollowbody
instruments are being endorsed by
jazz and country artists like Jake Langley
and Mac McAnally.
Big props to Renaissance man Phillip
Jarrell for infusing the guitar world with
a fresh dose of imagination and design!
CONTACT Jarrell Guitars LTD, (229) 232-8371;
JZS-1 Zebra Hummer
PRICE $1,400 retail/$900 street
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16", Graph Tech
SCALE LENGTH 24 3/4"
NECK Hard Maple, “C” shape
FRETBOARD Ebony, 12" radius
FRETS 22 jumbo
TUNERS Jarrell top lock
BODY Maple top, Mahogany back, “Zebra”
wooden veneer front and back
BRIDGE Tone Pros Tune-o-matic and stopbar
PICKUPS Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 neck, TB-5
Duncan Custom bridge
CONTROLS Dual Volume, Tone, and series/
parallel/split mini toggle,
3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario XL120, .009-.042
WEIGHT 9.3 lbs
KUDOS Stunning style, great build quality and
playability, wide range of tones.
CONCERNS Better suited for high-gain players.
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