Looking back at the last hundred or so years of popular music, it could very well be said that every era is defined and delineated by a particular make of guitar. It’s difficult to imagine music in the 60’s and 70’s without a Les Paul or a Strat showing up in your mind’s eye, it is well known that the 90’s was the age of the offset and, for better or worse, the arse end of the last century was littered with seven-strings and shredders. Before all that though, the first hero of guitar catalogues was the regal hollow body whose F-holes and rounded, sonorous quality set the benchmark for fans of jazz and blues alike. Big bands put the guitar player in the front row thanks to the inimitable talents of Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery who paved way for torchbearers like Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, all of whom would be unrecognisable without their wide profile, single cutaway guitars. As I mention elsewhere in this issue, Gretsch have been a big name in the hollow body game since Robert Johnson made his infamous pact and it is with the full weight of that history that they present the Streamliner G2420T.
Gretsch have really pulled out all the stops on this one. From the closed back, Gotoh style tuners to the licensed Bigsby B60 vibrato tailpiece, there is a balance of modernity and antiquity here that opens up the idea of the jazz guitar to a much wider audience. The broad 12” radius of the shallow, U-shaped neck is slimmer than many of its predecessors, leaning towards the more fleet fingered player, while the proprietary Broad’Tron pick ups, designed specifically for this build, offer the papery sensitivity and jank that comes with wandering around in 9ths and 13ths like Django taught us all. Sustain is accounted for by the fixed rosewood bridge piece and it is all tied together by a champagne-classy, gold dust veneer.
There is a danger with ‘legacy’ or ‘genre’ builds like this one to venture into one trick pony territory. Some designs do well to match their research exactly but Gretsch have noticed, rather adeptly, that times have changed as much as the players therein. Aside from material and technological advances, there is something in the design that meets my lack of jazz training head on. It may be the stability of the hardware, the minor tweaks and updates to the wiring and pick up system or just the fact that I like having the thing in my arms, but the G2420T makes me feel and sound like a much better player than I am without beating myself up too much. Acoustically the body sings with that familiar delicacy, but once plugged in there is so much more variety than expected. On a whim I ran it through just about every pedal I have and it was only the super high gain ones that beat it to the punch. Everything from post-rock reverb tails to jacked-up, modern tremolo to POG 2 weirdness was taken firmly in stride, all the while retaining a certain dynamism and delicacy that could not be beat.
On first glance the Gretsch Streamliner G2420T looks like a challenge. There are precious few six-stringers who dare to tackle jazz they way they should but if ever there was a build that could bring you permanently into that world, it is this one.
Hits and Misses
Unmitigated tonal delicacy
Player friendly feel
Doesn’t djent but nobody asked it to