Burrell 4/4 Jazz

Leo Burrell is one of the guitar community’s mad scientists, and I salute these brave and inspired wackos because, even if they fail to produce a mass-market product, their ideas delight and embolden us all. As a teen, Burrell rebelled against adjusting his technique to a stiff board, so his mission has been to design a guitar shape that conforms to the player.
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His twisted creations are also custom works of art that can be ordered to accommodate a buyer’s choice of color, soundhole, and other elements. With its potato-chip contours, stunning evening-sun finish, gold hardware (excepting the pickup selector), and seagull soundhole, the 4/4 Jazz ($2,495 direct) is one striking guitar. Sonically, the 4/4’s EMG-81s and 24-fret neck—which puts the neck pickup nearer the position of a middle pickup—produce a snappy, aggressive tone that’s more prog-rock than jazzbo. It’s a unique sound that won’t enchant a Wes Montgomery type, but it pops quite nicely whichever pickup position you choose, and it retains string-to-string articulation when you crank the gain. The bizarre shape is really comfy—mission accomplished on that score—and the thick neck inspires fleet fingering. The only major disappointment is the 4/4’s workmanship. The ragged frets spite your fingers, the nut is sharp, major fret-buzzing occurs near the 12th fret, the bottom row of staggered tuners provokes clumsy tuning, and finishing glitches abound (putty-splattered binding with noticeable “piecing,” fretboard nicks, etc.). This handmade box is fun to play, and it’s a head-turner, but its build quality needs improvement.

Kudos Beautiful evening burst. Ergonomic shape. Unique tone. One-year guarantee (Burrell fixes any customer issues and makes any needed adjustments for free).

Concerns Workmanship too spotty for a $2,500 guitar.

Contact Burrell Guitars, (304) 429-4848; burrellguitars.com