Instruments in The Small Change Diaries and the Shimo Connection
The first ukulele I bought was a pre-production Collings UC1 concert ukulele from Matt Umanov Guitars in New York. I was familiar with Bill Collings work as a guitar builder and through this ukulele looked quite cool, so I bought it on impulse. Little did I know that after a few years of dormancy this tiny mahogany instrument would spark an entire creative process to generate “The Small Change Diaries”
Ukulele Mania in Tokyo and Takahiro Shimo
During one of my trips to Tokyo I discovered the wonderfully named “Ukulele Mania” store and met Dean Leoni. My first purchase from him was a Kanilea Ku’uipo Tenor Koa ukulele is made in Hawaii and has a wonderfully sweet resonant sound, suitably different to the Collings UC1. The following year I was introduced to the extraordinary luthier Takahiro Shimo and bought two of his individually made ukuleles the “Comet 7” and the “Comet 3”. The Comet 7 is made from Honduran mahogany and is highly unusual in that it allows the player to choose between a high or low G, so the instrument has five strings. The Comet 3 is the most resonant ukulele I have ever played and was featured in volume 1 of the Ukulele Rhythms magazine
Each instrument has a very distinctive sound and the Shimo instruments are the very best I have found. I met Shimo in Tokyo in July 2014 and have commissioned another instrument from him. There is usually a two year wait for such items!
Custom Made Rob Collins Ukulele
One of my current playing instruments for live work is a custom made tenor ukulele made by Rob Collins from Tin Guitars in Hebden Bridge; I decided to commission Rob to build me an instrument based on a Stephan Sobell New World guitar I own. This meant using the notoriously difficult African Blackwood material for the body and sides, and a spruce top. Rob added an internal Baggs pickup and the instrument has an ebony fingerboard. It’s a great playing ukulele and really loud too! I have already commissioned two more ukuleles from Rob which will appear later this year!