It all started with a radio broadcast Daniel heard in September 2008; the Dutch prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende was visiting New York to address the United Nations, but also to discuss celebrations in 2009 around the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson to what is now Manhattan. Balkenende also planted a walnut tree on Governer's Island!
The year 2009 marks the 400th Anniversary of the day that Henry Hudson set sail from The Netherlands, to arrive in what is now Manhattan in September 1609. His landing on the tip of Manhattan was the start of a settlement of colonists in what is now New York, the world's trade capital.
The Jazz Mannahatta guitar was made to commemorate this event, and by doing so making a statement about the historical ties between the USA and The Netherlands.
The top is carved Western Red Cedar, the back is carved walnut. Neck in flamed mahogany, ebony fingerboard. Lollar 'Charlie Christian' pickup. Inlays are made in wood, mammoth ivory, pearl, abalone and reconstituted stone (turqoise).
2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the day that Henry Hudson set sail from Amsterdam in April 1609. Hudson was hired by the Dutch VOC and his mission was to find a fast way to the Pacific. But after a short journey north, Hudson faced a possible mutiny from his crew, turned his ship, the Half Moon, around and - ignoring his contract terms - instead headed for the New World and warmer climate.
He dropped anchor in New York Harbor five months later in September 1609. His first steps on the tip of Manhattan eventually gave rise to a thriving settlement on what is today New York, in many ways the capital of the world.
Interview with Daniel Slaman about Jazz Mannahatta
as published in Just Jazz Guitar, issue August 2009
Daniel Slaman's "Jazz Mannahatta"
by Axel Hagen
Over the years I have seen and played some special guitars from Dutch maker Daniel Slaman like the Ancient Kauri 'Ice Age Jazz", I even own quite a few Slaman guitars but this project shows a new side of him; a "theme" guitar dedicated to Henry Hudson's voyage to the New York area in 1609. Time for some questions and answers !
Axel: Why did you start out on a special project like the Jazz Mannahatta?
Daniel: It all started with a radio broadcast I heard in September 2008; the Dutch prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende was visiting New York to address the United Nations, but also to discuss celebrations in 2009 around the 400th Anniversary of Henry Hudson to what is now Manhattan. Balkenende also planted a walnut tree on Governer's Island! The year 2009 marks the 400th Anniversary of the day that Henry Hudson set sail from The Netherlands, to arrive in what is now Manhattan in September 1609. His landing on the tip of Manhattan was the start of a settlement of colonists in what is now New York, the world's trade capital.
I thought it would be nice to commemorate this event, and by doing so making a statement about the historical ties between the USA and The Netherlands.
Axel: Tell me about the Hudson voyage; was it successful?
Daniel : Henry Hudson was English, but was hired by the Dutch VOC, or Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (East Indies Company). The VOC is often referred to as the first multinational. It had a board of governors and issued shares, much like companies today. Launched in 1602, the VOC was granted a monopoly of the trade with the East Indies.
Hudson was hired by the VOC to seek a Northeast Passage to the Orient. The VOC wanted to shorten the lengthy and expensive voyage around the Cape of Good Hope to the Orient. Hudson set sail with a crew of 16, half Dutch and half English. But after a short journey north, Hudson faced a possible mutiny from his crew. The ship ran into ice and gale winds near Norway, and instead of returning home, Hudson reversed course to head west towards the coast of America, in search of warmer weather. Based on his research and study of maps, Hudson believed he would find a strait somewhere between New England and Virginia that would lead him to a passage to the Pacific. He turned his ship, the Halve Maen (the Half Moon) around and headed for the New World and warmer climate.
Hudson explored the north-eastern coast of America, eventually sailing into the mouth of a wide river near today's New York City. He hoped the river - now named the Hudson River - would provide a passage west to the Pacific. But after 150 miles (240 km) - and reaching a location near where Albany sits today - he found the river had become too shallow to continue. The Half Moon run aground several times. Hudson had to turn around and head home, proving unsuccessful at finding a way to the Orient.
The Half Moon left the river on October 4, sailed across the Atlantic and reached England on Saturday, November 7. Hudson and the English crew members were not permitted to leave England, but eventually the Half Moon returned to Holland without them.
Axel: So what would you say is the historical importance of the event?
Daniel: The importance of this voyage was in the explorations and its influence would come later, when the Dutch settled around today's Manhattan Island and founded their New World settlement, New Amsterdam. The Dutch not only founded New York, but their progressive spirit of enterprise in many ways provided the roots for the character of New York as we know it today. In the 17th century, since Amsterdam was considered the most liberal city in Europe, Dutch settlers brought with them a deep tradition of tolerance, which became a hallmark of its new world colony. The early settlement of New Amsterdam with its multi-ethnic, dynamic inhabitants mirrors the diverse, cosmopolitan culture for which New York City is known throughout the world. The celebration of these noteworthy beginnings 400 years ago plans to reinforce the deep ties between these two cultures.
Axel: Isn't there a dark side also to the activities of the VOC?
Daniel: Well, several actually…. Initially the VOC brought a sense of trade to the Manhattan area, not to occupy land or drive away it's indigenous people. There were friendly encounters with trade and meals, even feast-like activities in which Hudson was involved himself, but also fighting with the natives, killing and drunkenness. The crew was generally negative towards native Americans, and even afraid of them, which may have influenced later relations between native groups and European settlers. In this way it was not a glorious expedition in terms of future diplomacy.
Therefore I wanted to include the element of the Lenape people, who lived alongside the Hudson River, on the headstock of the guitar, just to acknowledge the historical fact that after all, they were there first ! Mannahatta is the name that the Lenape used for the area.
In 1624 the Dutch founded New Amsterdam on the tip of Manhattan. New Amsterdam was not set up as a colony, but as a trade centre much like it is today. Of course later on the history of Indians and colonists took a very wrong turn, I wish it had not done so but I can't change history.
Axel: I thought the VOC has a history of slave trade?
Daniel: That's right, on the one hand the VOC brought the thought of free enterprise and trade; on the other hand, it led to unwanted 'trade' in human beings, the slavery, with much grief, pain and loss of life. I wish I could change that history but again I don't have a time machine ! In a way I think that history has taught us lessons and is still doing so. Ideologies may have great benefits, but there are flaws also which reveal themselves with time. For example communism has been around for a long time, but in some places had no chance to survive in the end because of fatal flaws, it had to come to an end.
Even as we speak, history is being made; for a long time the free market system is regarded to be the best available, but look what is has brought us; the international financial crisis. So the system is not able to correct itself, it takes a human effort to do so and it takes years to gain critical insights. In this regard the VOC free enterprise spirit led to a disgraceful trade in human beings; finally slavery was abolished worldwide by governments, but only after many hard lessons were learned, much of them at the expense of innocent people.
Same with the recent financial crisis; governments have to act to correct flaws in the free market system that simply do no correct themselves.
Axel: So why celebrate after so much hardship?
Daniel: I hope that the guitar will inspire people to think about their roots or history, I know for a fact that nowadays many Dutch people don't have a clue about their historic ties to the USA, and it may inspire Americans to look at their history and find out how it came about that the world is what it is today. In the words of a recently deceased Dutch politician; we can not look into the future or know where we are going, but we should never forget were we came from.
Axel: Tell me about some of the features of the guitar.
Daniel: The obvious details are the inlays of course; Mannahatta, the Halve Maen and the references to the dates and the Hudson / VOC connection.
The inlays are made in shell for the lettering, green abalone for the Mannahatta inlay. The Half Moon is made in flamed mahogany for the ship; the sails are mammoth ivory, the red in the Dutch flag is coral. All materials from nature itself, except for the blue of the Hudson River which is a synthetic made turquoise material.
Axel : Did you have the letters and inlays CNC laser cut ?
Daniel: No, it's just me and my jeweler's saw! It takes a long time but it makes the guitar unique, even when I would make another one it would be different from this one, that's what my customers like in the guitars, the unique and individual features of each guitar.
Axel: What is the white material where the bridge is made of?
Daniel: The bridge as well as the nut are made in mammoth ivory; another reference to the past. During the last Ice Age, the New York area was covered under an ice layer of 300 meters thick, woolly mammoths have populated North America before becoming extinct.
This mammoth ivory is Siberian in origin, however.
I know from the Ice Age Jazz guitar that I made earlier that the ivory brings a very special quality to the sound, being warmer and deeper then either bone, wood or metal.
Axel: Is there a reason for choosing a Charlie Christian style pickup for this guitar?
Daniel: Yes, every choice in this guitar is made for a reason! First of all, it is an archtop jazz guitar, an American invention of the twenties of the previous century. Secondly, the electric guitar is an American invention as well, the first commercially made electric guitar, the Gibson ES-150, launched in 1936, featured this particular pickup, later to become known as the Charlie Christian pickup. So every detail has it's meaning, did you see how even the truss rod cover reminds of the present day skyscraper skyline of Manhattan? The tuners reflect the Art Deco features of some of the buildings in new York, such as the Empire State Building and the New Yorker Hotel..
Axel: Why the Battery Park trees on the side of the guitar?
Daniel: Battery Park is the most southern point of Manhattan, I wondered where the name came from, till I found out that it is actually a Dutch name. The Dutch had set up a row of canons where Battery Park is now, to protect the harbor; a row of canons is een batterij kanonnen in Dutch! The trees are made in green abalone, the trunks are Spanish Cypress.
Axel: You decided on woods not often used in archtop construction, why was that?
Daniel: The top of the guitar is made in Canadian Western Red Cedar, a wood softer then spruce and used also in classical and flamenco guitars. I have made nylon string archtops with a cedar top, and I wanted to make a steel string archtop with red cedar for a long time, but until now no one has asked me to do so; here was a great opportunity. It turned out very well.
The back and sides are Claro Walnut from the USA, good looking and with a great sound. There still is debate on the woods where the VOC ships were made of, probably any hardwood available at that particular time when the ship was built. Therefore I decided to use wood that would not be considered perfect by modern standards, in a way that it is not bookmatched but slip matched; coming from the same longer board that was cut in half. It has good color and nice flame, but the main choice is of course structural and helpful to the sound. In a way like the VOC ships were built; with available wood, and until the 17th century they were even made without a drawing or plan; it was all in the head of the supervising master builder! The average ship took three months to build and could sail for about 15 years.
Axel: Well let's hope that this guitar will last longer then that! What would you like to see happen with it?
Daniel: Despite it's luxury looks and extended inlays, it really is a working instrument, no inlays are at places where the sound or performance would be harmed. So I would like to see it played rather then be on display, after all it is a musical instrument.
Axel: Thanks Daniel for this interview and I wish you continued success and inspiration!
Daniel: Thank you Axel, enough talking, now let's turn on the amp and make some noise!
Axel: I was hoping you were going to say that…………..