1966 D'Aquisto "New Yorker Special"
James L. D'Aquisto ‘New Yorker Special’ serial # 1015. An absolute top-level instrument by the foremost maker of jazz guitars of all time. Signed and dated 12/12/66 on the inside, but according to the shop ledger delivered early 1967 to Manny Dieli, whose name is (barely visible due to refret) engraved in the 12th fret block marker [Interestingly, Manny also owned a 1934 D'Angelico Model-A; seen here with jazz guitar legend Eddie Diehl].
D’Aquisto had been apprenticed in the John D’Angelico shop since 1952, continuously refining his luthier skills until the early 1960s. As explained in the “New Yorker Special” Movie, at that time he was doing all of the important work on the instruments, like carving the tops and fitting the necks, ex aequo with the master himself.
After the death of his mentor in 1964, D'Aquisto was encouraged by John D'Angelico's surviving brother Alfred to complete partially finished instruments and continue repairs in the 37 Kenmare Street shop. D'Aquisto took over the buisiness from the D'Angelico family for the sum of $3000.
Although the New York guitar buyers were accustomed to the D'Angelico name and reluctant to learn about D'Aquisto; about one year later at the end of '65 D’Aquisto started building under his own name. This very early example is basically a one-on-one continuation of the 60s D’Angelico guitar with the more elaborate NY-style inlays, larger stairstep pickguard, and all gold hardware.
As so many older jazz guitars that have been stored in their cases, the pickguard had deteriorated, also resulting in heavy corrosion of its original DeArmond 1100 ‘adjustable rhythm chief’ pickup. The pickup was re-plated and rewound by Curtis Novak.
Also a new scratchplate was installed, made by yours truely (more info here).
The guitar has everything to be expected for a world class instrument. It plays excellent with a comfortable neck profile, and 1-11/16 nut width. The sound is delightful. As it is x-braced logically it has a deeper bass register than a parallel braced guitar. Still, it is midrange remains pronounced, whilst evenly balanced. D’Aquisto’s usually are celebrated for perfect tonal balance, but rather quiet. Uncharacteristically, though, it is very loud as well.
Interestingly, the pictures below and this link show D’Aquisto’s next guitar #1016 which is nearly identical, except for a redesigned peghead, and more streamlined pickguard and tailpiece. Thus, my number #1015 seems to be the last to be built to the exact D’Angelico blueprint, whereas this #1016 is foretelling of what was still to come in D'Aquistos development as a luthier
The D'Aquisto with the next serial number is #1016, as pictured in a heritage auction April 2012. Note that this guitar is the first to have a re-designed peghead, pickguard, and tailpiece, whereas for the rest is identical to #1015. These pics make it look more brown, but the sunburst color in fact is identical also.