000-18 Kenny Sultan Sunburst Custom Edition<br>Pays Tribute To California’s Premier Bluesman
Source: Sounding Board Newsletter Vol 22 - Jan. 2007
000-18 Kenny Sultan
Kenny Sultan has played ragtime, old time and even folk during his career – both as a solo artist and with musical partner Tom Ball – but his true passion is acoustic blues. For more than 25 years, he has shown an uncanny talent for taking various blues styles – from Chicago and Kansas City to Delta and Piedmont – and making them his own. A noted teacher, consummate performer, and unsung hero of countless soundtracks and commercials, he and his blues are accessible, engaging and downright fun.
Over the years, Kenny has accumulated an impressive collection of small-bodied Martin guitars from the 1930s and 1940s, including one that has become his favorite: a 1936 Martin 000-18 Sunburst. He bought it more than 20 years ago and it has been his primary instrument for concerts and recording. When approached regarding a namesake Martin guitar, Kenny was quick to suggest a modern version, but one with a definite “old school” character.
“I really pushed to get it as close to the original as possible,” he noted. “We added a few eye-catching appointments, but the new guitar duplicates all of the essential elements that make my vintage 000 great.” The 000-18 Kenny Sultan Custom Edition is a beauty that sounds and plays as good as it looks. The solid premium tonewoods include back and sides of rare fiddleback mahogany, a top of Adirondack spruce and a neck carved from genuine mahogany. Scalloped 1/4” width Adirondack spruce top braces give this guitar impressive tone, with uncommon power and clarity for its size.
The rosette features a single ring of herringbone pearl inlay flanked by black/white/black fine line inlays. Traditional tortoise-color binding is accented by multiple black/white fine line purfling on the top and black/white purfling on the back. But the real showstopper is the unique “Kenny Sultan Sunburst” top. Narrow and dark around the perimeter, and quickly feathering to amber, it – complemented by the other appointments – looks spectacular.
The solid, square tapered headstock on the 1-3/4” (at the nut) modified V neck features a headplate of polished ebony, a stunning backdrop for the “C. F. Martin & Co.” logo inlaid in beautiful mother of pearl. The fingerboard and belly bridge also are black ebony, the former accented only with short pattern “diamonds & squares” position markers.
As can be divined from his Custom Edition guitar and his music, Kenny Sultan values tradition. He began playing guitar as a child and quickly gravitated to the blues of T-Bone Walker and Lightnin’ Hopkins. In 1979, while studying for a degree in Music/Ethnomusicology at University of California at Santa Barbara, he met harmonica and guitar player Tom Ball. The two quickly bonded over their love of acoustic blues and their musical partnership – now more than 25 years old – has yielded eight albums. Their latest, 2005’s Happy Hour, is an unusual concert album that features tours of Europe and steady gigs around their home base in Santa Barbara, and studio work that has been featured on everything from the memorable “Levi’s 501 Blues” commercials to the movie “Walkabout.”
In 2001, Kenny released West Coast Blues, his first solo album; a second solo album, Guitar Blues, followed in 2002. Widely respected as a blues guitar teacher, he also released four instructional videos and published five instructional books, including the Kenny Sultan–Guitar Blues DVD in 2004 and its companion book, Guitar Blues, in 2005.
Kenny loves his work and shows no signs of slowing down. “Tom and I have a new duet album due out in 2007 and I have also written a new instructional book, Blues Tricks, Turnarounds and Endings, that will be published soon,” he observed. “In addition, I’ve been asked to play on an album of Cole Porter guitar instrumentals, produced by the same people who did Pink Guitar, the CD of Henry Mancini music that won a Grammy.” Add a full schedule of concerts, teaching and session work, and he is one busy musician.
The Martin 000-18 Kenny Sultan Custom Edition is outfitted with Waverly nickel open-gear tuners with butterbean knobs, a polished and beveled acetate nitrate laminate vintage-style pickguard, bone nut and compensated bone “drop-in” saddle, and plain black ebony bridge pins and end pin to approximate the vintage character of Kenny’s 1936 000-18. Vintage-appropriate dark stain on the mahogany and Martin’s flawless polished gloss finish allow the beauty of this new classic to shine.