By Chris Gill
Most guitarists, when asked to reveal their influences and inspirations, will rattle off a list of progenitors and peers. Not Pat Metheny, who is as likely to mention Toronto, Canada–based luthier Linda Manzer as he is players like Wes Montgomery and Ornette Coleman. That’s because Manzer has built more than two-dozen instruments for the jazz great over the past three decades.
Several of Metheny’s Manzer-designed guitars continue to inspire him to explore new sounds and directions. They include the 42-string Pikasso, which has four necks and two sound holes, and the steel-string baritone he used for 2003’s One Quiet Night. But of all these various instruments, it is the first model Manzer built for him—a Linda 6, in 1982—that remains Metheny’s mainstay acoustic both onstage and in the studio.
In 2007, Manzer celebrated their 25-year association with the Metheny-Manzer Signature 6, a limited-edition six-string acoustic based on the original Linda 6. Three years later, she is close to completing the last of only 30 Metheny-Manzer models to be produced.
“Nobody has played one of my guitars more often, and in more places, than Pat has played his Linda 6,” Manzer says. “I’ve had the chance to observe what happens to one of my instruments when it’s been on the battlefield and someone constantly tortures it for almost 30 years. With this limited-edition model, I went back to the headspace I was in when I originally built that guitar. I was a pretty young builder then, but I think I had good instincts about what I was doing. Pat says that his guitar keeps hitting new plateaus and it continues to open up every few years. I guess I was on the right path.”
Like the original Linda 6, the Signature 6 is a cutaway model featuring a German spruce top, Indian rosewood back and sides, and ebony fingerboard, bridge, and peghead plate. Surprisingly, most of the materials used for the 30 guitars date back to when Manzer first made the Linda 6. “I’ve had the spruce for the tops all this time,” she says. “I knew I should save it for something, and this project was it. But it’s also partly because I’m disorganized—that wood was at the bottom of my pile, so I’m reclaiming my own wood, so to speak.”
For all their shared features, the Signature 6 and Linda 6 differ in several ways. The Signature 6 has enhancements that include an intricate fretboard inlay design consisting of over 200 pieces of mother-of-pearl and black pearl, a thumb rest/neck groove carved into the body where the neck meets the upper bout, the distinctive Manzer Wedge body shape first developed for the Pikasso guitar, copper side markers with luminescent paint center dots, and a genuine diamond inlay at the seventh fret. The guitar also comes with a custom Calton case decorated with Metheny’s “scribble” designs, similar to those on the instrument’s fretboard (no two cases have identical graphics), and an impressive signed-and-numbered leather-bound book detailing the Metheny-Manzer’s construction, with photos by Pulitzer Prize–nominated photographer Norm Betts, available only with the purchase of one of the 30 examples.
Of the number being offered, Manzer says, “I’ve never made 30 of the same thing before. Most of my instruments are one of a kind. It was a challenge to make each guitar as identical as possible, but I brought in some outside help. Mark Kett [of Kett Guitars] did most of the inlay work; [luthier] Tony Duggan-Smith did the fretwork and setup; and Joe Yanuziello [of Yanuziello Stringed Instruments] did the finishing and polishing. My goal was to capture the vibe of that first guitar, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job. It’s a labor of love to build 30 instruments at once with so much attention to detail, but this guitar was designed to pull out all the stops.”
The Signature 6 has already attracted some high-profile buyers—one of its first purchasers was Paul Simon, who selected #10. According to Manzer, he’s been joined by guitarists the world over, who are buying the instrument to treasure as a family heirloom. But, she affirms, her most satisfied customer is Metheny himself, who promised to explore new avenues with this updated interpretation of his old, reliable friend. “It feels very personal when Pat plays my guitars,” Manzer says. “It’s a luthier’s dream come true to have someone like him to work with.”
For more information visit Manzer Guitars