I first discussed commissioning this guitar with Ari during the Classic American Guitar Show in New York. I had previously purchased his “Jazz Tango” model, and was impressed by the artistry and quality of construction. Ari’s guitars have a great sound and feel, different from the many other luthiers at the show. What I was looking for was a nylon string guitar with action more like an archtop, which could be amplified yet retain the beautiful acoustic sounds of a classic guitar. In addition, I was looking for a new direction in esthetics. Ari’s Tango guitar was influenced by the Spanish painter Miro, and I thought that this guitar could also be influenced by an artist. The designs of architect Frank Lloyd Wright have always interested me, and I approached Ari with the possibility of having this guitar reflect some of Wright’s aesthetic sense. Ari was interested in the concept, and agreed to take the commission.
As the project progressed, we communicated with each other on Wright’s designs. I asked Ari to include a motif present in the skylight of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. I gave Ari a few other ideas, but the design of this guitar was his brainchild. I always loved the highly figured koa wood, and Ari was able to get his hands on some wonderful Master grade pieces. We discussed amplification options, but again left it to Ari to use what he thought was best.
The instrument that resulted from our initial concepts is truly wonderful. It is a delight to play, and has a soul of its own. When I play this guitar on a gig, it always gets comments from even those people who have little knowledge of guitars. Last year, I was playing at the Washington National Symphony Showhouse fundraiser. This event is put on every year to raise funds for the Symphony, and a large house (mansion) is totally redecorated by designers, and tours are given. Thousands of people come through, and music is always a part of the event. I had so many people stop and talk to me about the guitar (hard to do while playing!) because it is so beautiful and unusual looking.
I am grateful to Ari for his attention to detail and dedication to his art. Also, I was happy that he agreed to take a chance on a different kind of project. I truly believe his skills coupled with his artistic sense makes Ari unique in today’s arena of luthiers.
-- Salvatorre (Sal) Selvaggio