What do you get when you cross a Jazzmaster, Les Paul, Gretsch Duo Jet, ES-335, and Tele? You just might end up with an axe from Koll Guitar, a Portland-based builder who’s been at it for more than three decades.
One of their instruments is the Super Glide Almighty, a retro-themed electric with a chambered mahogany body and overall weight of just over eight pounds. The handsome hand-carved top is locally grown maple that shows ample figure under a natural satin-nitro finish. Its set neck (also mahogany) is topped with an ebony fingerboard offering 22 medium-jumbo frets, a compound radius of 10-14″, and a 24.625″ scale; speaking of the fingerboard, take a moment to appreciate the inlays – dubbed “pearl-striped thumbs,” they’re miniature Art-Deco masterpieces. You don’t see this kind of craftsmanship every day.
The headstock is lovely, too, with its unique shape echoing the horn on the upper bass bout. It’s finished with a veneer of Macassar ebony and pearl logo inlay. Tuners are Schaller GrandTunes in chrome. Down south, there’s a Bigsby B-11 and Schroeder tune-o-matic bridge tastefully mounted on an ebony base. Fitted with clear knobs, the controls include two Volumes and a master Tone with a three-way pickup selector.
Finally, on to those mysterious pickups…
If their design looks familiar but you can’t put a finger on it, look up Nashville session legend Grady Martin and his early Bigsby solidbody. The TK Smith C.A.R. (cast-aluminum replica) single-coils here aim to nail that ’50s tone that melds jazz, country, blues, rockabilly, and Texas swing with an emphasis on the woody/airy tones of incredible sonic girth. Videos online offer great examples of Grady’s magical low-output vibe.
On the job, the Super Glide Almighty combines a lot of old-school charm with modern playability. The neck on our tester was expertly set up, the frets perfectly dressed, and the Bigsby bar was also set at the correct angle. On so many guitars, it’s positioned too close to the body, but Koll has it angled up for proper twang-bar jiggling.
Tonally, the C.A.R. pickups deliver a sound that moves from jazzbox fat to country twang without much effort. Remember that ’50s and ’60s country guitar was not all about Fenders – the great players of the era used all manner of guitar to produce those twangy sounds, including models from Gibson, Guild, Gretsch, and a few great Bigsbys. You’ll be surprised how massive the neck pickup sounds, with its huge bass dimension. It has a dark, über-warm tone prized by players of the pre-rock era. The lead pickup jangles aplenty, with more of what we’d call a P-90 tone than Leo flavor. Don’t be afraid to dial in the overdrive, either. The Super Glide Almighty exhibits plenty of sass with gain, from Malcolm Young-fueled power chords on the bridge to Slowhand-styled “woman tone” in the neck and middle settings.
While the Koll is a pricey plank, it’s exquisitely crafted and has that hand-built vibe that can’t be duplicated by large-scale production. Keep in mind, too, that you can get the Super Glide Almighty in several variations with different tonewoods, finishes and pickup choices, as well as two- and three-pickup versions. Scanning the company’s catalog online can be a an enjoyable time-suck, and like this guitar, every one you see is pretty damn gorgeous.
This article originally appeared in VG July 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.