The more I play this guitar, the more it just tickles me from the inside.  The big warm sound radiates from the wood with such a silky glow that it sparks an uncontrollable giggle.  Walden’s “boutique for less” approach hit it again!

 

Creator, master luthier, friend: Jonathan Lee (and for all you cinderblocks out there, yes, he was born in the USA)

Instrument specifications:

 
 
 
Body Shape:                          Walden Grand Auditorium
Soundboard:                          Solid Sitka Spruce
Back and Sides:                     Laminated Rosewood
Bracing:                                 Baritone Specific
Body Binding:                        Solid Rosewood
Rosette:                                Rosewood & Abalone
Neck:                     Bolt-on, graph. reinf. Mahogany w/ 2-way Truss
Fingerboard/Bridge/Headplate: Rosewood
Nut material:                          Bone
Nut width:                             46mm /  1 – 13/16”
String Spread at Bridge:         57.5mm / 2 – ¼”
Scale Length:                         26 ¾”
Tuning: (recommended):        B-E-A-D-F#-B
Tuning Machines:           Gold Diecast w/ Black “Soft Feel” Buttons
Logo:                                      Pearl Inlay on Headstock
Finish:                                    Nitrocellulose Satin Lacquer
Case:                                      Hardshell
Electronics:                             Fishman Prefix Pro (B-1E Model )
Price:                                      $800/$1100 – acoustic/with elec.

 

 

 

B-1’s First Night Out

Baritone guitar first entered my awareness with the Danelectro, as used by some guy in a hippie rock band in upstate New York.  I went into a store right away to check one out and ended up with a Fender Subsonic electric [sparkly blue!].  What fun!  Instead of using it the way most would – for low register single note lines a la spaghetti Westerns – I found it to be really fun for the Joe Pass/Tuck Andress approach.  Independent bass lines and chord rhythms and/or melodies become really pronounced.

As the baritone became more and more a part of my front line of guitars in use, more and more I wanted an acoustic one…

I host a show at the Metropolitan Room in New York City the first Thursday of each month called DUOS.  Each month I bring up two guests, one at a time, and we play a few tunes, talk a bit, and include the audience in the conversation.  The guests are all from my circle of friends and colleagues, and all are top shelf, established artists.  They vary from singers to instrumentalists of all kinds.  My guitar of choice has always been my G1070ce, as it has a broad enough range to handle any situation that might arise – it rocks, it swings, it arpeggiates, it grooves blues and R&B…  Everything sounds good on it, and the soundman loves it because it’s easy for him to dial in a great tone.

The October 4 show was Guitar Night.  My two guests were guitarists Julio Fernandez of Spyro Gyra and Gil ParrisSince there were already two great guitarists, my role changed a bit.  Julio played mostly a Godin nylon electric and some Strat.  Gil played a stock ’87 Strat Plus and a gorgeous Artinger Custom hollowbody electric.

Gil has a very refined tone on his electrics and Julio’s voice on the guitar covers a lot of ground.  My function was to glue them together; give a context to their riffs and melodies.  The new B-1 Baritone was the perfect complement to support them, both individually and for the all-in encore.  Its warm, woody tone was very much what you’d expect from a Grand Auditorium bodied steel string.  Plus, the added low frequencies made it sound as if a bassist were in the room.  The instrument has so much presence that minimal playing provided ample compliment to Julio and Gil’s guitar mastery.

Personally I have to ‘transpose’ to a different key – try as I might, that shape will always be a ‘G’ chord in the first position, even though now it’s a [concert key] ‘D’.  Everything is still very accessible, though.  For instance, Julio’s song De La Luz is mostly in ‘E minor’ with a

||: E-     | A-  B7  : ||  progression.

That simply becomes ||:  A-    | D-   E7 : || on the baritone.

Walden did plenty of soul-searching in the development of this fine instrument.  For instance, the finish is very light to allow the wood as much vibration as possible.  The bracing is different, hence the offset placement of the soundhole.  The 26.75” scale length sets the bridge back an inch or so into the body, more like a classical.  That puts it closer to the center of the lower bout, adding to the low frequency resonance.

Far from being boomy, the low register is clear as a bell, with a tight, punchy response that feels almost electric even when playing acoustically.  The fit and finish is right on par with what I’ve come to expect from Walden – “boutique for less”.  As your eye scans the various details of the B-1, from the soundhole rosette, to the inner bracings, to the joints, to the lovely rosewood binding, you discover the care and thoughtfulness that went into creating this very new, very sensible instrument.

Deeply rooted in classic guitar design, this is a breakthrough instrument with a personality all its own.

 

 

 

B-1’s Second Night Out

The next appearance for this fine axe was a concert called “Blue: The Music of Joni Mitchell” with Rachel Bay Jones and Bob Stillman.

On a side note, I have to tell you the music was stunning.  This was a spectacular homage to some of the most beautiful songs of the 20th century, and I was honored to be a part of it.

Anyhow, my part of it was a little different from usual – I was the bassist.  Most of the songs had me on a fretless four string with flatwounds and big single-coil passive pickups.  Warm, and then some.  I brought the B-1 to the rehearsal, though, to see where it might fit in and everyone loved it.  It came in very handy for songs like Circle Game and Both Sides Now; and especially Coyote, where I even got a nice long solo.  Once again, the B-1 bridged the gap between guitar and bass – this time from the other side!

In fact, it was very interesting to play a song on the B-1 as a bassist, and then when my instrumental feature section came up I explored the song and the instrument from the bottom up.  The low register is very bass-like, full and rich.  Then as you go across the strings and up the fingerboard, it’s all the familiar shapes of guitar, just with a different color.  This is a healthy exercise for any guitarist!

At the end of the show as we’re clearing the stage I thanked the soundman for doing such a fabulous job of keeping us all happy on stage and making it delicious in the house.  He commented on how he enjoyed my bass playing, but he actually liked the sound of the baritone better!  Unsolicited.

My fancy, sophisticated guitar rig for these and most events, by the way, is a George L.’s cable with a right angle plug on the guitar end going into a Radial Passive DI box.  The end.  You hear guitar, strings, and fingers.  That’s my signal chain to the board.  No complaints yet!

Cheers,

Sean

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