At Summer NAMM last July, I made a stop at the Grez Guitars booth, where founder Barry Grezbik introduced me to his Mendocino Baritone model, a follow-up to the standard Mendocino, which received our Editors’ Pick Award in 2017. The Baritone played beautifully and had a light and compact feel similar to the standard, although its B-to-B tuning obviously opens up other avenues of expression in the lower range.
The Mendocino Baritone borrows from the standard’s design by having a one-piece semihollow mahogany body and neck, and a top of solid old-growth redwood. The body’s dimensions — 13.25 inches wide by 1.75 inches deep — make for a svelte instrument that balances well whether you’re playing it sitting or standing. The nicely grained Macassar ebony fingerboard has a span of 28.5 inches and is fitted with 23 expertly dressed and polished EVO Gold jumbo frets. The medium-thick, gloss-finished neck feels great, and the setup on our review instrument was spot on. The guitar arrived with easy action and sounded nicely in tune when playing chords in all positions.
Pulled to pitch by ultra-smooth Grover Sta-Tite machines, the strings ride over a TonePros AVR2 bridge (a TK Smith vibrato is available for $200 more) on their way to anchoring into a trapeze-style Grez stainless-steel tailpiece. Electronics consist of a pair of sweet-looking Lollar Goldfoil humbuckers that feed master volume and tone controls and a three-way selector.
In terms of playability, the Mendocino Baritone is great all around, as the feel is smooth and even, with easy string tension. The string spacing feels very guitar-like, which makes fast runs a breeze, although bending the wound strings is a bit of a workout.
You can hear how nicely voiced the Baritone is when playing it acoustically, and it was clear, deep and vibey through a Fender Deluxe Reverb. The Lollar pickups are an awesome match, as they have lots of detail and dimensionality and are very responsive to picking dynamics. The volume knob also yields great sounds no matter where you set it — the tone never darkens or gets muddy when you turn down. Through either the Deluxe Reverb with a Tube Screamer in-line or an overdriven Naylor SD100 profile on a Kemper Profiler, the sounds cleaned up beautifully so that I could play clean chords with the guitar about halfway up and have a cool dirty lead sound when I dimed it.
The Mendocino Baritone makes playing low-down lines and chords a lot of fun. It blends well with other guitars, and it stands out with plenty of presence and definition when you turn it up for melody lines or solos. All in all, it’s an exciting new model from this Petaluma, California–based builder, and well worth checking out if you’re looking for something different from the solidbody baritones that dominate this sector of the guitar market.
PRICE $2,800 street, hardshell case included
NUT WIDTH 1.687”
NECK One-piece Honduran mahogany
FRETBOARD Macassar ebony, 28.5” scale
FRETS 23 EVO Gold jumbo
TUNERS Grover Sta-Tite, 18:1 ratio
BODY One-piece Honduran Mahogany, with solid old-growth redwood top
BRIDGE TonePros AVR2
PICKUPS Lollar Goldfoil
CONTROLS Volume, tone, three-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario EXL158 .013-.062
WEIGHT 5.75 lbs
KUDOS Impeccable workmanship, fabulous playability and tone