Video Review: Cort’s Frank Gambale Luxe Is a Fast-Playing Flattop
The Cort Frank Gambale signature model is a collaboration between the guitar company and the artist, who oversaw almost every detail of this guitar. Gambale, a jazz-fusion shredder who often records and performs acoustically, wanted an acoustic that played like an electric, and he has put his personal stamp on the Luxe. For example, some of the design features are whimsical—like the Jetsons-style swoop and the trio of crystals on the headstock, as well as the horizontal inlay on the fretboard. But the Luxe also sports such sophisticated features as an Adirondack spruce top, Australian blackwood back and sides (a nod to Gambale’s Australian home), a custom wood rosette, and an L.R. Baggs EAS-VTC EQ pickup system. The Luxe will favor those seeking a fast-playing acoustic guitar. Set up almost like an electric with extra-light gauge strings (10–47), with an unwound third (G) string, it’s easy to bend and fly around the neck, which features a 1 11/16-inch nut and tight string spacing. One drawback to extra-light strings is that the guitar can sound out of tune if you fret too forcefully. For those who are used to heavier-gauge strings, you will probably need to adopt a lighter fretting touch or change to heavier strings.
It really does play like what an electric-based jazz guitarist might want out of a flattop acoustic.
Put to the Test
The concert-sized body is small enough to sit comfortably in most anyone’s lap and the cutaway gives the player access all the way to the 20th fret. Strings are surface threaded through the ebony bridge without going into the body of the guitar. The ebony fretboard yields to a silky touch.
I played a “La Grange”/“Boogie Chillen”-style groove and was able to fly around the neck picking lots of cool blues riffage. The Luxe has a punchy midrange that makes it a guitar that should be able to cut through in the mix. Since the Luxe handles like an electric, I played a few chunky power-chord rhythms, which sounded good as long as I didn’t hit the strings too hard (that produced a buzz on the sixth string). As a strummer, the Luxe has a nice sparkle, but not a whole lot of bass.
I fingerpicked my way through Merle Travis’ “Cannonball Rag,” thinking this guitar is, in some ways, similar to what Travis played—he favored thin necks and lighter-gauge strings. The thinner neck of the Luxe makes it easier to wrap your fretting-hand thumb around the neck to reproduce some of the chord grips that Travis used.
Plug & Play
The L.R. Baggs pickup reproduces the acoustic sound with astonishing clarity. Plugged in, I realized that the Luxe really responds better to a lighter touch. I played a bit of Martin Carthy’s “Scarborough Fair” and the ever-popular Beatles song “Blackbird.” OK, now I get it. This guitar is actually quite pretty, and even though you can play fast runs on it, it’s not a guitar you want to dig into. Better to let it chime away, using your finger and pick softly.
Cort and Gambale have put a lot of thought and care into the design of the Luxe. It really does play like what an electric-based jazz guitarist might want out of a flattop acoustic—it’s fast and responsive, not requiring too much muscle, which just might make you want to play the guitar for hours and hours without getting fatigued.
At a Glance: Cort Frank Gambale Luxe
Solid Adirondack spruce top
Flamed blackwood back and sides
Custom wooden rosette
Sonically enhanced UV finish
43mm (1 11/16-inch) GraphTech black Tusq nut
25.3 inches (643mm) scale
Custom fingerboard inlay
L.R. Baggs EAS-VTC EQ
D’Addario coated string: custom gauge 1st–6th: 010, 014, 018 (unwound), 030, 039, 047
Hardshell case included
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.