Altamira Guitars has made a specialty of classical nylon-string, replica, and gypsy-jazz guitars. The latter are created with the same meticulous methods and craftsmanship found in the old-world examples played by the likes of gypsy jazz great Django Reinhardt.
The TD-Birdseye Oval Hole is luthier Hanson Yao’s top model, built to the specifications of designer Tommy Davy. Inspired by Selmer models, its tonewoods include laminated birdseye maple back and sides, 670mm-scale mahogany neck, solid European spruce top, and an ebony fretboard.
traight out of its beautifully designed hardshell case, the TD-Birdseye sent for review was lightweight and comfortable to play, with a perfect setup, excellent fret dressing, and a Selmer-style bridge with leather padding beneath the tailpiece.
While the marker at the 10th fret might confuse non-gypsy guitarists, it’s a mark of gypsy-jazz authenticity. Other features include solid-brass AH tuners, newly designed soundboard bracing, and a luxurious French polish.
What older models and Altamiras have in common are excellent tone, strong projection, and feel. The TD-Birdseye is a loud and visceral beast. Its rugged tone cuts but never pierces. Punchy arpeggios collide with forceful chord work to yield the sort of tight aggression that can be dialed back to an earthy whisper. This is a midrange-forward acoustic shred machine with fullness and attitude that growls and spits, similar to ’30s Selmer-Maccaferri guitars. Taking into account its design, build, and performance, this jazz box was clearly engineered for clarity, definition, articulate chord melodies, and spitfire chromatic runs. And though it was built to accentuate certain sonic earmarks, it also sounds great in other musical contexts. Its bold personality cuts through a mix and sounds great for acoustic blues, rock, or roots music. It’s an excellent choice for the guitarist seeking options for attaining an authentic French gypsy sound. Altamira’s gypsy jazzers rival today’s expensive models, but at an affordable price.
This article originally appeared in VG March 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.