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A mahogany and spruce OM designed in collaboration with jazz guitar virtuoso Julian Lage.

by Teja Gerken
April 02, 2018

Julian Lage could trade licks on jazz standards with seasoned pros before he reached his teens, and today he’s one of the most creative guitarists and composers on the scene. Though he often wields a Fender Telecaster or Linda Manzer archtop in his jazz trio, Julian also often plays flattop steel-string guitars, especially when in acoustic settings like his duo with bluegrass guitarist Chris Eldridge. A fan of Collings guitars, Julian met with Collings Guitars founder Bill Collings prior to Bill’s death in 2017 to design a signature model that would incorporate elements of Julian’s 1939 Martin 000-18, and the new Collings OM1 JL model ended up being one of Bill’s final projects. I recently had a chance to check out an OM1A JL (the “A” indicates an Adirondack spruce top), generously provided to us by Gryphon Stringed Instruments.

The OM1 JL is based on Collings’ T series guitars, which are built lightly using animal protein glues, a thin finish, and other vintage-style features, setting them apart from standard Collings instruments. The model’s standard top wood is Sitka spruce, but our demo guitar had an Adirondack spruce top (a higher-priced option for the model) with beautiful even grain and coloring. The back and sides are Honduran mahogany and the quality of the wood was top notch. The guitar’s special satin finish is striking in that it is so thin that the wood’s grain and pores can be felt and it has the appearance of an aged vintage finish. Julian specified Collings use a regular long OM scale for his signature model, but asked the company to duplicate the unique shape of the neck on his 1939 000-18, which has a short scale and is narrower than an OM neck, measuring 1¹¹/₁₆ inches at the nut and flaring to accommodate the string spacing of 2³/₁₆ inches at the saddle.

In his own promotional video about the guitar, Julian says that he wanted a guitar that “rewards strong playing, and doesn’t hype weaker playing.” Playing the OM1A JL, it became clear what he meant by that. The guitar’s incredible response and tonal balance throughout its range allows it to do whatever the player asks of it, while producing great volume, dynamics, and beautiful overtones. Fingerstyle players may find the neck and string-spacing a bit narrow (the guitar can be special-ordered with more standard OM neck dimensions), but I found it very appealing for playing with a pick or using traditional jazz-style comping.

Without a doubt, the Collings OM1A JL is a fitting instrument for a stylistically diverse virtuoso such as Julian Lage. By fusing specific vintage elements with its own refined OM design, Collings has created a guitar that spans the vintage and modern guitar worlds like few others.

SPECS: 14-fret 000 body. Adirondack spruce top with scalloped X-bracing. Honduran mahogany back and sides. Bolt-on mahogany neck. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.5-inch scale. 1¹¹/₁₆-inch nut width. 2³/₁₆-inch string spacing at saddle. Waverly tuning machines. Made in USA. $6,150 list as shown. Collingsguitars.com


Category: Instruments & Gear

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