This extremely cool harp mandolin (of the “Hollow Arm” variety with no extra strings) was offered back in May on eBay. The seller pulled it early, as no one jumped on it (I forget the original starting price). He didn’t want to give it away, but finally offered me a fair price.
He (Russ Parker in the U.K.) got it (plus some other nice instruments) from the son of Louis Gallo That’s him on the cover of the June, 1968 issue of the English BMG journal (courtesy of Russ; here is the inside write-up). Russ says that Louis was “regularly featured in it from the mid-1920’s right up to its conclusion in 1975. He was well loved by all who met him and a personal friend of Django, as well as many other great professional players, including Joe Pass who regularly stayed with Louis and his family when he visited London. He was a great player of the plectrum arch top style, but an even greater teacher over six decades. He was also a keen student of what made a great guitar and formed a lifelong friendship with Mario Maccaferri, and along with Maurice Summerfield, designed the excellent Japanese-built CSL Maccaferri copy.”
Russ continues “I purchased the Laurenti from Louis’s son Ray, who remains a professional player and teacher in London and a much loved friend. I have acquired several of Louis’s historic instruments, (but) this is the first and last of the Gallo instruments that I will be selling and I can only bare to part with it because I know you will cherish both the instrument and its history (indeed I will – thanks, Russ! GM). At the same time I bought Louis’s other mandolin, a superb example of a Calace Mando-lyre!”
Louis had it listed in his instrument inventory as “Mozzani mando copy.” It’s actually a closer copy of a Masetti, a firm, who in turn, closely copied many of Mozzani’s designs (though I don’t have hard proof yet – it may be that they came up with some of their ideas first).
Here’s a Mozzani:
Here’s the Masetti:
And below is the new Alfredo Laurenti, built in 1938. Laurenti is not mentioned in the 1937 Dictionary of Italian guitarmakers (perhaps because he was known as a violinmaker?). I’ve only found one other mandolin (a Neapolitan style) on the web by Laurenti, and many references to his violins. But if he built this, he may have built similar harp guitars.
It’s a very attractive, 3-dimensional work of art, especially the complexly carved maple shell. I don’t know how he did the machining, but he copied the Mozzani 6-point neck-floating system (that the Masseti firm likewise copied). I’ll wait and have the couple minor cracks restored before re-stringing and giving a listen, but I can already hear how the sound curlicues around the players head out of the front and two arm soundholes. This one’s a keeper!
Hmmm, I wonder if Django ever picked it up and noodled on it…
For Further Reading: