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Laurent Brondel – “Nardis”

Episode 15: ——- Dig what I’m doing? Consider donating $5 or more at the bottom of this post. *photos courtesy of Laurent Brondel, video below

l_brondel2Upon finishing our first international tour that Morwenna and I took in 2012, we visited her family in Maine and I spoke with her father, Tom Lasko, about how most of the guitars I have owned didn’t really suit me comfortably (size-wise as well as the sound). Mr. Lasko, a seasoned musician and lover of exquisite hand-crafted instruments has taught me a lot about fine guitars. It’s truly fascinating learning about the differences in tone woods, various scale lengths, string spacing, and other great details that go into the construction of a guitar. We both revel in the excitement of discovering new guitars and their makers. Having heard rumors about a great luthier in Western Maine by the name of Laurent Brondel, who happens to live not too far from Morwenna’s parents’ home, we decided to take a drive and see what he had for us to play. Long story short, we both fell in love with what we discovered. A few weeks later I sold some of the fine guitars that I had attained over the years and commissioned Laurent to make me my first custom-made guitar.

Originally from Paris, France, and now residing in West Paris, Maine, Laurent builds exquisite acoustic guitars, many of which are inspired by pre-war Martin models, but he has a style and sound that is completely his own. He first gained interest in luthiery when he was a teenager living in France.

“I played, recorded and toured indiscriminately with jazz-rock and rock bands, starting at 17 -I played my first gig at 15-. One of my early highlights was to play on a recording session with the great drummer Billy Cobham when I was 22! I also played quite a bit of “avant-garde” music (I have duets recordings with Noel Akshote, Cuong Vu, Andrew D’Angelo etc.). I had given up touring before moving to NYC, and was invested in electronic music from the mid ‘90s on.”

Laurent released one CD on Tone Casualties, a couple of vinyls and compilations on Statra Recordings and his last 12” was released on the UK label Skam in 2003.

Around 1999, while living in NYC, he started buying old Martins, Guilds, and Gibsons which all needed a fair amount of love, so he decided to work on them himself after going through some awful experiences with subpar repairmen. A little later down the road he and his wife, Virginia, relocated to Maine where he worked on all aspects of repairing guitars. One day a childhood friend asked him to find a vintage Martin for him and instead, Laurent offered to build him one. He then became obsessed with guitar building and was soon noticed by luthier Dana Bourgeois who hired him as part of the Pantheon Guitar crew. After a year spent at Pantheon, he decided to go off on his own in 2007 to make guitars solely under his own name.

The beauty behind Laurent’s work is not just in his fine craftsmanship but it’s how that craftsmanship reflects his own musicianship, attention to detail, and artistic taste. Anyone who sees, hears, or plays his guitars knows how truly great of a luthier he is. Those who take the plunge to have a guitar built by him will witness how much thought and care he takes in building the perfect guitar for his clients. After reading various threads on Acoustic Guitar Forum one can definitely gain a sense of how much people are truly recognizing and respecting Laurent’s instruments. From picking out the combination of woods to use, to matching the colors on the tuning pegs and the bridge pins, his sense of detail is impeccable. I also personally love the fact that he does not have an “Artist” page on his web site. His work speaks for itself and does not need famous names to sell it.

Just a taste of a few of Laurent’s guitars below*All photos courtesy of Laurent Brondel [envira-gallery slug=”brondel-guitars”]

It’s quite easy to be enamored by Laurent’s guitars but I’m guessing that many people don’t often have the chance to see him play. I imagine that it is usually not in the forefront of people’s minds since he is the one making the instrument, so why would it matter if he plays or not? For me, it’s the icing on the cake because it shows what taste he has as a musician, not just a builder. And guess what? His playing is really tasteful and he’s got mad chops to boot! To paraphrase something he said to me recently, “great guitars are wonderful to have, but they won’t make us better players… only practice will.” Laurent went on to tell me about seeing Eric Johnson (one of his favorite guitarists) in concert when he was living in France, saying that he was right up in front of the stage completely inspired by his playing. I thought it was so cool that the guy who built my acoustic guitar was saying that one of his favorite guitarists was an electric player! Some of his other favorite guitarists include Allan Holdsworth, Eric Johnson, Paco De Lucia, Caspar Brotzman, Lenny Breau, Geordie Walker (of Killing Joke), Jimi Hendrix (of course), Tom Verlaine, Martin Simpson, Bill Frisell, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, to name a few and he is also hip to music outside of the guitar world including indie rock group Alt-J. Laurent’s openness to different kinds of music is just one trait which I believe influences his artistry as a unique luthier. His experience as a former touring musician, teacher, producer, and engineer, definitely sets the groundwork for this rising star in the world of fine luthiery.

Here’s Laurent playing Miles Davis’ “Nardis” on one of his Honeycaster electric guitars, which are his interpretations of the classic Fender 50’s & 60’s designs. He makes these for fun on the side.

To find out more about Laurent and his fine guitars, please visit www.laurentbrondel.com

Some other great write ups / interviews with Laurent can be found at:
Work & Worry
Acoustic Guitar

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