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Veillette Concorde Bass
by Rod Taylor, Bass Player Magazine, July 2011
Since the early 1950s, solid-body basses have dominated the groove-making sector of the market. And while most players prefer the weight, density, and tone such instruments offer, hollow-body and semi-hollow basses have enjoyed a measure of success among a variety of players. Gibson, Höfner, Gretsch, and Guild are among the manufacturers who have made a mark with hollow and semi-hollow bases. So too is Veillette Guitars of Woodstock, New York. At the Winter NAMM Show, Veillette debuted it's new Concorde, a chambered, acoustic-style fretless bass with passive electronics. Unlike Veillette's similar Archtop and Paris models, the Concorde employs a single magnetic pickup, rather than a conbination of magnetic and under-saddle piezo-electric pickups.
Twin sound holes adorn a beautifully crafted spruce face that sites atop the Concorde's single-cutaway, semi-hollow mahogany body. A single strip of ebony nestles into the Concorde's pau ferro bridge to serve as a saddle, and a lined fretless pau ferro fingerboard caps the Concorde's mahogany neck, which is attached via Veillette's signature next joint; underneath the neck-side strap button, an adjustable machine bolt assembly makes it possible to adjust the neck angle without having the futz around with the truss rod.
Picking up the Concorde, I immediately noticed its light weight, one of the obvious benefits of chambered-body bass design. As Veillette identifies the Concorde as its latest endevour in producing acoustic-style instruments, I help off from plugging the Concorde into an amp for the first few days with the bass. Straight away, I could hear what Veillette is after; the chambered body gave voice to the warmth imparted by that mahogany body, and the spruce top helped the Concorde's airy upper-register resonance ring clear.
The Concorde sat comfortably in my lap, but it hung on a strap in such a way that the fingerboard's 1st position felt especially far from my body, forcing me to adjust my left and right hand playing positions. Though the shift was disconcerting at first — especially on a fretless bass — it was something I got used to in time.
For the Concorde's fingerboard, Veillette opted for pau ferro, a wood that has the same feel and tonal qualities of rosewood, but that is a bit more dense and durable. The fingerboard lacks the gloss finish common on many modern fretless basses. When the Concorde's nylon strings hit that naken fingerboard, the result is a distinct, vibrant string-to-wood sensation and tone, something akin to the sound and feel of an upright with gut strings. I found that this combination inspired me to play the bass differently than my other fretless, which has an ebony board and nickel strings.
The bass retained its wonderfully warm and organic tone when plugged in, and the combination of the Citron HB pickup and Stellartone ToneStyler tone control gave the Concorde a wide range of sounds. The ToneStyler functions as a rotary tone selector switch comprised of 16 individual ceramic capacitors. Rolling back the ToneStyler knob gave the Concorde a deep, upright-like tone that was just this side of muddy, and turning it up accentuated the instrument's clear highs and thumpy mids. My favorite setting ay somewhere between the two extremes. I appreciated the 16-position detented tone pot, as it allowed me to go to my preferred setting without needing to fish for a "sweet spot" (You can find a full review of the ToneStyler at Bassplayer.com). Though the Concorde lacks the array of controls you might find on an active bass, the bass's single pickup and flexible ToneStyler control gave me all the range I needed, whether I wanted to lay low or step out in the mix.
As an accomplished player and master luthier, Joe Veillette is no stranger to fine instruments, and the Concorde proves that he knows how to transfer his knowledge and experience into the design of a bass. The price point of the Concorde indicates that it's designed for serious players, but that's precisely who Veillette guitars has in mind when building their instruments. In the sea of solid-body guitars, the benefits of acoustic-style basses tend to get lost sometimes, but instruments like the Concorde, with its superior craftsmanship, vintage look, and superb sound, remind us that the inspiration for our instrument is found not just in the amplified sound of the electric guitar, but in the airy, natural voicing of the bass violin as well.