GREAT ACOUSTICS -
By Michael Simmons
Acoustic Guitar Magazine,
Most fretted instruments made in the United States tend to take their cosmetic cues from
either Gibson or Martin. But when chanteuse Janet Klein designed the uke pictured here,
she was unaware of the conventions. "When I was traveling in Europe, I saw these beautifully
decorated old lutes and mandolins in the museums," she recalls. "They really inspired me.
When I showed the design to my friends they all said,'You can't have inlays in the top.'
But when I asked Tony Graziano if he could make it he said, "I can do it!'
Graziano says that Klein knew from the beginning that she wanted a black uke with Japanese
designs. "She was visiting my shop with some mutual friends and saw a black lacquered uke I
had just finished for a customer. When she got home, she started working on designs. We just
kept refining them until we came up with something that we both thought worked." Because of
the black finish, Graziano decided to make the top, back, and sides out of mahogany instead
of the fancy koa he usually uses. And to match the color, he used ebony for the fingerboard,
bridge, and peghead overlay. The inlays are a combination of pearl and abalone.
Although the Japanese floral motif is unusual on a modern ukulele, American instruments with
internationally inspired decoration were quite common in the 1920s and 30s. Gibson made the
Florentine banjo that, despite its name, had scenes of Venice engraved on the inlays. And Leedy
made a banjo called the Egyptian and another called the Hollander. Janet Klein is so pleased
with her uke that she is thinking about ordering a few more. "I want a red one and a white one,"
she says. "If Tony ever wants to start marketing my designs, we could call it the Klein Line."
You can visit Janet Klein's web site at: www.janetklein.com