Kingsley Durant

SPOTLIGHT

Babs / Kingsley Durant

Kingsley plays

Unicorn “Babs” Classic, Mojo Grande & VSOP Classic

Kingsley Durant is known for the wide-ranging scope of his guitar playing, from solo acoustic, as on his CD, Away From the Water (Alchemy Records), to modern jazz with the Kingsley Durant Trio, to straight-up vintage pop, R&B, and rock, with bands such as The No. 2 Pencils and Say Uncle. He is also known for his collection of guitars and amplifiers, which include vintage guitars alongside many instruments from modern builders such as Matt Artinger, Johan Gustavsson, Ken Parker, Steve Klein, Scott Walker, Saul Koll, and Paul Reed Smith.

Kingsley is currently working on recording a new CD and developing a website, Kyngsland, devoted to all things guitar, which will focus on high-quality video and audio demos of gear, interviews with guitarists and guitar and amplifier builders, technical information, and live-in-studio performances. Some of Kingsley’s guitar demos can be found on YouTube, and his music can be accessed through his website as well as through iTunes, CDBaby, and Amazon.

“My interest in Ruokangas guitars started when I read the interview with Juha in Tone Quest Report back in 2005. I knew from how Juha talked about his ideals and his work that I would like his guitars and him as a person as well. We had a chance to meet at the 2010 Montreal Guitar Festival and my expectations were confirmed on both accounts: Juha and I had much in common, in terms of our ideas about how guitars should and could be, we could talk all day about this and many other topics, and his guitars were simply wonderful.

My only problem was that I already had a whole lot of wonderful guitars! It took me quite a while to figure out what I wanted Juha and his colleagues to build for me, because I wanted it to be something special that I would use a lot but that would not usurp the place of some of my other favorites, such as my Artinger guitars. The answer came to me in a dream. The main guitar that I use in my Trio is a semi-hollow Artinger that has vintage dog-ear P-90 pickups and a Bigsby vibrato, that is named “Lily” after its green finish. At the same time, I have always loved Les Pauls and Les Paul recipe guitars. I have several of those, including some vintage ones, that I play all the time at home but not so much in bands or on gigs. Eventually, I had a dream of a guitar that was a “Les Paul version of Lily.” It was Juha’s Unicorn model, with a Bigsby, P-90 pickups, and an absinthe green finish.

As the idea evolved, it struck me that what I was after sonically was a guitar that someone like Bruce Conte (from Tower of Power) or Bill Connors (from Return to Forever) would be happy to play, which meant changing to humbucking pickups. The resulting guitar surpassed my expectations in every way. The ebony fretboard gives me plenty of the crispness and definition that I normally have to use single-coil type pickups to achieve, but the humbuckers allow me to get a sound that also works beautifully in contexts where I would normally use my PAF Les Paul. Overall, the sound is open, warm, full, and detailed, with plenty of that magical “thing” that the vintage Les Pauls have.

The name, “Babs,” evolved out of a conversation with David Torn, in which he pointed out that the green finish was a color he associated more with bad absinthe than the good stuff. Bad Absinthe is now the official Ruokangas name for this color, and my friend Tom Kesel, who has named several of my guitars, had the idea of shortening it to Babs. Tom describes the guitar as “Lucille’s better-looking, and naughtier, sister.” Indeed. Babs has quickly become one of my favorite and most often-used guitars.”

– Kingsley Durant