Fibonacci Chiquita £3,499
on the niche world of the jazz guitar, Fibonnaci is a new name on the scene, although the brand’s founder Graham Essen is no newcomer, having looked after Peerless in the UK for many years. But while guitars like the Retromatic certainly put Peerless on the original retro map, Graham wanted more control over the direction and quality of the guitars he and his small team were creating. Fibonnaci is a marriage of (mainly) Far Eastern guitar building that is assembled, sprayed and finished in the UK.
“We use people in Korea, China, Croatia and we’re speaking to makers like Scharpach Guitars in Holland about carving some soundboards,” he tells us. “It is quite convoluted but each source is good at certain things, be it hand carving or laminating. We then bring it all together here in the UK: some bodies might be done but need the necks adding. All the peripherals are done here like the tailpieces, bridges and fingerboards which are CNC’d here in the UK.”
Our prototype, 625mm (24.6") scale Chiquita is the smallest guitar in the current five-string range (which starts at £1,799 with the laminate Tomcat) and, as its price suggests, is all hand-crafted from solid woods – American AAA spruce top and flame maple back and sides. It’s also the smallest body guitar in the range, virtually the same width as a Les Paul 325mm (12.8") but with a depth of 76mm. “It’s aimed at the player perhaps making the transition from playing rock and blues to jazz,” says Graham, “a sort of small Les Paul-sized jazz guitar whereas a 432mm (17-inch) wide, more traditional style might simply be too cumbersome.” It’s a classy package with a nicely understated violin-like gloss nitro Auburn Sienna ’burst – the standard finishes are antique natural and antique honey. The maple isn’t overly flamed and gives a very classic appearance – this is certainly not an over-blinged piece.
The classic simplicity extends to the guitar’s details – a simple script-inlaid logo on the head that’s bound, like the fingerboard, with a figured maple, its black (ebony) facing matching the fingerboard which joins the cutaway body at the 15th fret. Dense black ebony is used for the tailpiece, bridge and minimalist pickguard to which the Kent Armstrong Smooth Sam humbucker is attached, which ‘floats’ free of the top or indeed the fingerboard end. The slot soundholes allow you to see the clean internal construction with kerfed linings from what looks like mahogany, while the side braces and the top’s longitudinal braces are spruce.
Played seated with legs crossed flamencostyle or with a strap – seated or standing – the Chiquita, despite the depth, virtually disappears: its light weight and compact body size suggests smaller instruments like this have been rather overlooked. The playability is first class and anyone crossing over to this style should feel at home with its 43.5mm nut width and 54mm spacing at the bridge. The neck measures 21mm at the 1st fret and 23.3mm by the 10th fret with an endearing full oval shape.
If it looks almost demure its sound, played acoustically, matches. The flatwound strings give a slippery smooth feel yet there’s surprising crispness to the balanced voice, the trebles are strong and the basses have a centred fundamental tone that sounds percussive and clipped played with a pick and much silkier smooth played with the side of your thumb, perfect for bass lines to underpin those crisper highs. Certainly mic’d the woody voice isn’t overrun with low end and mixing this with the more mellow and probably more classic jazz voice from the neck pickup achieves both clarity and thruminess that’s rather special.
With a price that reflects its considered design and build it might not be the cheapest hand-carved guitar of its type, compared to brands like Peerless and Eastman, but it’s made of the right stuff, impeccably nitro finished (by Bow Finishing here in the UK) and can be custom spec’d if you want something a little different. Classy stuff for the serious jazz aficionado with a timeless, classic voice in an altogether more condensed package. A new brand to keep your eye on. [DB]