In the late ’70s, Ibanez debuted the GB10, a signature jazzbox for crossover icon George Benson. It turned heads with its novel approach – a smaller design, but still fully hollow. It remains in production with models at a variety of price points; the latest is the GB10SE.
As construction quality has improved in Asia, the GB10SE was ripe for reinvention. Basic specs of this Indonesia-built model include a spruce top with maple back and sides, sprayed with that classic brown-sunburst finish. Its neck is three-piece maple with a 12″ radius and 24.7″ scale, while the upscale fretboard is ebony and sports acrylic/abalone inlays, 22 frets, and the Artstar fret-edge treatment. There’s also an ebony bridge with GB10 tailpiece and two floating GB Special Alnico humbuckers with individual Volume and Tone knobs.
In hand, the GB10SE delivers that small-but-deep-body experience, almost unparalleled in the guitar universe, though many have tried. Unlike some big archtops, the Benson is easy to play standing up. The neck has a full (but fast) profile; its extremely comfortable and low action is player-friendly. Naturally, the small body will yield quieter acoustic tones, but plugged in, it’ll get as big as you want.
For fat jazz tones, medium or heavy flatwound strings are de rigueur. Next, grab the GB10SE’s neck Tone to dial down a warm tone; add the amp of your choice, a dab of reverb, and you can play “Breezin’” all night long. For more-rockin’ tones à la Brian Setzer, flip on the bridge pickup and go to town with overdriven licks and rockabilly twang (just remember the GB10 is a real hollowbody, so the normal volume/feedback concerns apply).
There are GB10s at different prices ranging from the $700 GB10EM (VG, September ’20) to the Japan-built GB10 for $3,600. The GB10SE splits the difference, maintaining the look and feel of the fanciest Benson-box, but holding the line on cost. If that sounds like your cuppa, you’ll dig this timeless jazz machine. It’s even better if you can pick as fast as George himself – one of the cleanest alternate pickers of all time. No question, the GB10SE is ready for your quickest, slickest chromatic runs.
This article originally appeared in VG’s May 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.