Teye Wijnterp is a top-shelf guitar craftsman whose work brings to mind Keith and Ronnie’s famous Zemaitis guitars of the ’70s, but with an obvious Spanish influence.
With its semi-hollow construction and Bigsby vibrato, Teye’s Jazz Cat has a bit more twang than other Teye (pronounced tie-uh) models. It also has quite a few features to unpack.
For starters, the body and two-piece set neck are made of spalted black limba. The front and back are topped with raised flame-maple caps stained a blood-orange hue and edged with white binding. Details include diamond-shaped inlays of turquoise and, in the front, an etched metal pickguard that playfully includes a cat and the rockabilly saying “Go cat go.” Even the sound hole is edged with etched metal and turquoise diamond shapes.
As with most Teyes, this is just the beginning. The Jazz Cat has two TV Jones humbuckers surrounded by ornate metal rings, plus the Teye SuperSustain bridge and a Bigsby vibrato. Even the knobs and selector tip are unique, grooved and shaped like Arabic minarets. The massively decorated neck has a bound ebony fingerboard with 25.5″ scale and 24 frets (nut width 1.75″). The intricate inlays are in Teye’s Touareg fingerboard style. The asymmetrical headstock has an etched-metal faceplate and Grover Super Rotomatic machine heads topped with Teye’s pronged buttons.
Likewise, plugged in, there’s a lot to dig into. Though it’s a semi-hollowbody, the Jazz Cat weighs in around nine pounds, and like most Teye guitars, it has a chunky neck profile; Teye adheres to the notion that a neck delivers much of a guitar’s tone, and a big neck yields big tone. You can’t argue with that, as the Jazz Cat has real sonic girth and resonance. Another facet that will jump out is the guitar’s sustain, delivered courtesy of the combination of materials, pickups, and the SuperSustain bridge. The Jazz Cat sustains for days, even without much overdrive. It’s quite remarkable.
The other kicker is the Jazz Cat’s special Mojo control. Joining two Volume controls and master Tone, the Mojo knob is an analog passive circuit that delivers a genuine boost to volume and tone. Teye is rightfully secretive about its workings, but you can use it to alter the tonal character of the guitar, as if going from low-output to high-output pickups at the roll of a knob (or perhaps, mini humbucker to full-size humbucker). As you play with the pickups, volume, and Mojo, you’ll uncover all kinds of sonic flavors, from humbuckers to single-coil Fender tones. The Mojo even throws a few dB of pure boost, too – all the more remarkable for a passive circuit.
The Jazz Cat is an altogether impressive achievement. No question, Teye excels at creating some of the most decorative, ornamented guitars around, yet it’s also a serious instrument with practical uses and great sounds. With its sustaining qualities and that fascinating Mojo control, it’s a wondrous piece of guitar craftsmanship. – Pete Prown
This article originally appeared in VG’s June 2018 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.