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Old 08-05-2007, 05:04 PM
Jim Henderson Jim Henderson is offline
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Default In praise of AES Fine Instruments

Many months ago I sent a carved, mid 60's Juzek/Wilfer to Arnold Schnitzer. Not exactly a Rolls Royce but rather a 57' Chevy of basses. The bass was purchased from Ruben Gutierez in Brooklyn and was essentially an encyclopedia of cracks, splits, and damage in general.
I don't know if the bass could meet the local definition of a restoration but, a new bass bar, re-graduations, new finger board, new tail piece, new sound post, new saddle, bridge and nut, scroll/neck spline, carbon rods in the neck and countless edge and interior patching, et. al., have now been completed.
Arnold has told me that Jed Kriegel performed much of the repair under his watchful eye. What they (AES Fine Instruments) have done is nothing short of amazing. They have taken a disaster of a small 3/4 student bass and made a tight little jazz box of it. Warm, plenty of punch, balanced tone across the finger board, low end growl and a dream to play.
If you have a bass that you wish to be either returned to, or made better than, what it used to be, take advantage of the talents and skills of these luthier masters. It will be worth every dime you spend and in return you'll receive countless hours of beautiful music. While it's not my Cleveland (forgot to mention that I own the finest Cleveland ever made) it is exactly the sound I knew was in there but needed a luthier's genius to release.
Thanks Arnold and Jed, you fellas are amazing.
Jim
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Old 08-06-2007, 06:04 PM
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Drake Chan Drake Chan is offline
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Ruben Gutierez? Of Brooklyn Brass and Reed? Isn't that the same Juzek that he had been trying to sell on eBay for 5 years or so, advertised with "no cracks on its face" and "sound that Juzek's are famous for"?

I remember seeing the Juzek on eBay for $500, "reserve not met" and wondering if I was getting a excellent deal. I would never buy a bass without trying it out, so I arrange to try out the bass. He tells me he wants at least $4000 for the bass and claimed to have an offer from Indonesia where the guy basically gave his credit card number and told him to charge whatever for it. I guess that he made up that story given that it too him multiple relistings and five years to finally sell the bass.

But I was only a doe-eyed 17 year old who had heard that Juzek basses were pretty good basses. In fact, the NYC's All-City High School orchestra featured several Juzek basses, all sounding absolutely magnificent. They had not been setup in years and had a lot of grime on them from the crappy "bass bags" that were used to transport them to the annual concert at Alice Tully Hall. But they were such magnificent basses that even with my limited experience, I knew that they were good basses. I offered to buy one but was rebuffed by my orchestra teacher, a bassist who knew that they couldn't get better basses for the money.

This tangent has a purpose. When it came time to try out $4000 Juzek, I had in mind what it should have sounded like. I was completely disappointed. It had a murky sound that was vaguely deep, but with absolutely no clarity. It did play well at all for such an "expensive" instrument. I was (and still am) no Ken Smith and could not spot the value in the bass. Ruben set it up by himself, doing all the repair work, "restoration", and putting on old strings. So I guess there's a reason why I was disappointed by it.

But given how good the bass has turned out (if it is indeed the same bass), all I can say is that I have no talent in finding basses. I can only hear what I can hear. So kudos to the AES shop for turning what I deemed a disappointment into what sounds like a pretty good bass.

One silver lining though; I had an old plywood bass of my own that was hard to play, and I was looking for an easy playing, good sounding bass as an upgrade. Ruben happened to have his personal bass on hand that was setup by a local luthier, Damon Walker. That bass played absolutely perfectly, like a dream. Of course, I had no idea that basses could be "setup" at the time to play like that. I really was young and naive then (not much different now). So I had my old plywood bass setup by Walker, and that worked pretty well until the old endpin snapped.
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Old 08-06-2007, 08:08 PM
Arnold Schnitzer Arnold Schnitzer is offline
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Jim's bass had an inscription inside that read "Brooklyn Bass Rescue". It should have read "Brooklyn Bass Butcher".
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Old 08-08-2007, 07:16 PM
Jim Henderson Jim Henderson is offline
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Default Could be, but probably not.

Drake,
I don't think that it is the same bass since it was about three years ago, but it could have been. Reuben said that he had sold two or three and had listed them on Ebay for a while. Even now he occaisionally gets a Juzek and puts in on Ebay from time to time. When I was there there were two other Juzeks there, both previously the property of P.S. 235 and also in various states of drastic disrepair. Juzeks, down here, are fairly hard to come by, especially carved ones. They are a little more frequent around Washington, D.C., Baltimore and points north, but Kays and Englehardts are pretty much the order of the day down here with the exception of the orchestra boys that tote fairly mean axes (you know, like one of Kenny's killer basses). If you purchase a bass that you know students have abused for X number of years you should make your offer with repairs in mind. In my case, the value was not in the bass and the purchase price reflected it, rather it was in the expertise of the Jedi Master that I wished would bring it back to life. From what I have learned here and on the "other" bass forum, and in my humble opinion, there are only about a dozen luthiers worth working on a bass that is in need of serious repairs or rebuilding. Of that dozen there are only three that I would ask and one of them doesn't repair basses any longer. You, having seen the state of repair that Reuben's basses are in, know better than others, the level of expertise necessary to turn this mess of splinters, cracks and patches into one tight-assed little jazz box. Now please understand that the Juzek ain't no Cleveland and I know the difference. I have a Cleveland that is such a killer that it should have come with a warning label, but the little Juzek is what it is now only because Arnold and Jed have worked their magic on a previously unplayable instrument. If you are having problems with you instrument, don't give it to some hack that will take your money for poorly executed repairs with nominal or no improvement. Listen to the fellas on this and other forums, save your bucks and avail yourself of the services of one of the artisans they suggest and have your instruments sound as they were intended to sound. When it is returned to the sound that you were seeking it will be worth every dime you spent and then some.
A brief aside to Professor Arnold. I'm searching for a set of D.S. Freeman's "Lee's Lieutenants" for you. If you already have a set let me know. The dinner invite is still good when you are passing through this neck of the woods.
Jim
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