The Ibanez catalog is full of guitars with extreme shapes, wild and colourful finishes and technologically advanced trem systems. Their image is chiefly that of suppliers of instruments to players associated with metal and hard-rock. Shredders, widdlers and wangbar freaks all over the land identify themselves with the guitars and the brand. Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert and the like all use Ibanez. If violent usage of the trem arm is the main feature of your guitar acrobatics, the chances are that you own an Ibanez or three. However, tucked away in the recesses of the Ibanez range lurks a different sort of beast altogether. Beast is actually the wrong word, there’s nothing aggressive or remotely edgy about the more traditional looking guitars on the other page to the pointy jobs, the hollow-bodies associated with a different sort of music altogether. In fact, Ibanez have form when it comes to producing guitars specifically for jazz and fusion aficionados. Take the George Benson model which appeared in the late seventies. It was fully hollow – with no centre block – and had a vintage looking violin sunburst or natural finish that was more than a little reminiscent of the great Gibson arch-tops and hollowbody guitars of the golden era of the jazz guitar in the the forties and fifties.
The Ibanez Artcore series, and in particular this AF95 model, continues the line. It’s larger than the Benson and presumably aimed squarely at jazzers and the like. It features flamed Sycamore top, back and sides which have been finished in a rich sunburst. The set Mahogany/Maple neck has 22 medium frets and there’s a rather snazzy tailpiece and lightning flash logo on the headstock. Pickups are Ibanez ACH1 in the neck position and ACH2 in the bridge. All hardware is gold-plated and the large scratchplate has been finished to match the body colour.
The Ibanez AF95 is built for jazz , western swing, big band comping or fusion. It will also cover blues, rock and roll and rockabilly. The only caveat is that you stay well clear of the overdrive channel on your amp, this guitar simply won’t handle high or even medium gain channel volume unless you can manage to get well clear with a wireless system or a long cable. The guitar offers all the best tones a hollow-body can produce, warm and mellow with the neck pickup only and the tone rolled off, a clean fusion-type lead sound with both pick-ups on and and a more biting bluesey sound by using the bridge pick-up on its own. With a good measure of reverb on the amp, you’re in jazz heaven.
For an affordable hollow-body guitar, the Ibanez AF95 is hard to beat. It has the Ibanez name on the headstock and a build quality far in excess of its price. Fitting a heavier set of strings than the factory standard issue would only improve matters further – after all, this guitar is meant for extended jazz chording, not screaming leads, and a fine job it does too.