I fell in love with Dennis Fano’s Alt de Facto SP6 and this Custom JM6 Set-Neck built by Dennis himself has the same instantly-bond-with able appeal. The premise of the Alt de Facto series–Fano’s creation of a “missing link” line of collaborations between the great American guitar makers of the 1950s and ’60s–might read a little clunky on paper, but the guitars are so well executed that I have yet to find a player who hasn’t uttered a heartfelt “oooh!” when handling one in person. While most Alt de Facto guitars are built with bolt-on necks, Fano kicks it up a notch with this JM6, as he does occasionally, by using a glued-in neck joint.
A list of this JM6’s pertinent details reveals the middle ground between Fullerton and Kalamazoo circa 1962. The Jazzmaster-shaped body is made from a single piece of solid mahogany, wears a nitrocellulose faded cherry finish, and carries an aged nickel TonePros Tune-o-matic bridge with nylon saddles and a Bigsby vibrato. The four-ply tortoiseshell pickguard is loaded with Lindy Fralin P-90 pickups, black top-hat knobs and a 3-way toggle switch. The glued-in mahogany neck runs to a 25.5″ scale length, with aged nickel Kluson-style tuners on a back-angled headstock, and a width of 1 11/16″ across the Tusq nut. This Custom JM6 has a sumptuous dark-chocolatey Brazilian rosewood fretboard–though this option will no longer be offered–with clay dots and 22 pristine Jescar 6105 frets, and the neck back is carved to a rounded late-’50s profile. The neck has a superb feel, and the compound 7.25″ to 9.5″ radius takes you easily from low-fret chording to upper-fret rifting and bending. The entire guitar, other than fretboard and frets, has been given Fano‘s medium-heavy distressing, a notion that might seem a little phony in theory, but which feels very authentic in the hand. The dings, chips, forearm and left-hand wear and buckle rash, as well as the gentle patina of the hardware, all help to bring home the “long lost legend” premise at the heart of the Alt de Facto series, while making the guitar feel like an old friend the first time you lift it from the case.
Tested through an EL34-modded silverface Fender Bassman and a Matchless HC-30, the JM6 displayed a willingness to go just about anywhere you want to take it, and have a great time on the journey. The entire vibe of the guitar seems to lean you toward loose garage and grunge at the outset, but excursions into country, jazz, funk, or even some early-’70s classic metal are easily navigated. Tonally, look at it from either direction: The set neck and mahogany construction add warmth and depth to the traditional Fender formula, or the 25.5″ scale livens up the Gibson-esque fur. Either way, there’s juicy bite and snarl aplenty in these Fralin P-90s, but with a bolder low-end boing than most Gibsons offer, a sophisticated sparkle in the highs, and a tautness that helps each note cut through. And the bonus is that the guitar stays in tune remarkably well, even with considerable Bigsby use. Ultimately, the Fano Custom Alt de Facto JM6 Set-Neck is a guitar with boatloads of character and surprisingly versatile talents.