The Gibson 17” wide L-5CES is, of course, the classic and droolworthy-design electric archtop that has been in the Gibson line since 1951. It has the soft Venetian cutaway, the 25.5” scale, the 1 11/16th” nut width, the low oval neck shape; it has speed, it has power, it has the optimum jazz response desired by nearly all practitioners. It responds to the keratin klaw and it responds to the plectrum. It is the model of choice for Tuck Andress, and quite frankly, fine fingering doesn’t get better than that. The body measures 3 ¼” in depth at the bottom side, string spacing at the adjustable bridge is an even 2 inches.
This example, even though it’s 5 years old, is cleaner than most showing only the tiniest indications it was even held, let alone played. However, it is not dead mint. A discerning eye may see only the most minor signs of use - a teeny scratch here and there, a scuff or two, and pick marks on the pickguard, much of which may buff out. The headstock displays tulip-shaped gold- plated Gibson-logo sealed-back tuners, a white-bordered “Custom L-5” engraved in white on a black truss rod cover, a Gibson postwar logo and torch inlaid headstock. It proffers 8 large mother of pearl block inlays in its four-ply bordered-on-the-front ebony fingerboard that ends in a carat, plus twin gold-plated full-sized humbucking pickups with black surrounds, a floating tune-o-matic bridge with metal saddles and an ebony base that proffers twin inlaid fleur-de-lis inlaid floral images in mother of pearl on each side of the bridge bottom. Its tortoise shell celluloid pickguard has four plies of black and white purfling and then white outermost; this is one classy chinchilla.
The sides, back and neck are ringed in white and black purfling and the top in 6-plies. There are few archtop guitars as stately or soaring as the Gibson L-5CES. It is a model whose significance to the modern jazz player borders on reverent. As the late 2000s moves closer and closer to vintage-era (v e r y slowly, of course) you will find this to be a keeper and a sleeper – that is, an unexpectedly advantageous purchase. It is, and I mean this with not the slightest hint of hyperbole, one of the most beautiful and iconic jazz guitars that the world has ever seen.