Brian Cohen, Guitar Maker

I became a professional guitar maker in 1972, and am now the longest-established independant classical guitar maker in the UK. As well as classical guitars I make many other types, including flamenco, requinto, multi-string, steel string 'acoustic' guitars, archtop Jazz, as well as historic reconstructions. 'Special commissions' are welcomed. (Member of the Crafts Council Selected Index.)

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Instruments for Sale

I do have some guitars in stock for sale: some new, some pre-owned older master guitars and some rare antique guitars too- enquire please. I also look to buy outright fine master guitars- contact me with what you have for sale please.

Lute, ex Julian Bream, 8 course.( 2 top strings single). Probably tuned to a g': dated 1960, one of at least 3 commissioned by JB from these makers.(Goff and Cobby)

A lute commissioned by Julian Bream and used extensively by him for many years and possibly featured on some of his record covers - made jointly by T Goff and J Cobby, and bearing the monogram of 'JAB', this is an historic and famous lute: As far as my research reveals, there were at least 3 lutes made by these makers for JB, the first being dated from 1951, the second dated 1957, and this one dated 1960 now- there may even be others as yet unknown. The Tony Palmer book, 'A Life on the Road,' states all the pre-1967 recordings were made on the 1951 lute, but this is not actually correct - I think personally the reason for this attribution in the book was that Bream had simply forgotten which lute he used, and attributed all to the 1951 example. The later Rubio lutes- there was more than one made and used, I have the 1967 model in my possession now, ( but I know of another from the same date also made for, and used by Bream) which is for sale but not yet listed on this site ( but enquire please).
This 1960 model is in near perfect original condition, and has had two subsequent owners besides Bream himself. This lute is photographed on some of his Decca record covers, and used in some recordings, detailed below. I will and also try in the near future to get a letter from Julian about the lute. ( but no promises!) There may also be some other paperwork as yet to be discovered concerning this lute, which comes from a deceased estate, being sold on behalf of the executors.
Additional note: There are some who have questioned my lack of certainty on this issue but the written evidence is contradictory, and Bream himself as yet is unable to clarify these details- I am endeavouring to do so now, but in the meantime the lute remains for sale, but do not want to mis-represent this in any way- It would be wrong to make any 100% categoric statements about recording/lute attributions now , without the 100% certain knowledge to back it up, but I am 100% sure that the attributions in the Palmer book are not correct. See my added comments below:

Condition: The lute is 51 years old but is in virtually 'mint' original condition. The pegs are all original, the single treble peg carried in a 'rider' on the pegbox, all ending in a fine detailed filial, the headstock monogrammed with the initials, interwoven, 'JAB' in gilded brass ( some wear to the gilding), and the neck of fine old dark mahogany, while the body is a lovely aged golden colour, made from figured maple ribs. The table is of fine-grained spruce, with a fine inset gilded rose.The frets are of the 'T' shape type similar to guitars, rather than the more traditional gut tied frets, while the body frets are glued on wood. Action is good, and very playable and the lute will be sent out with a new set of strings, fully set up and ready to play. There are no cracks, and no visible repairs at all, but there are a few minor blemishes consistent with normal useage. This is a piece of history, with impeccable provenance. Bream drove the early music revival, and it was with this particular lute, amongst others, that he did so.

Recordings on which the 1951 lute was certainly used:

Recordings which possibly the 1957 lute was used but possibly also the 1951 lute
Recordings possibly made on the 1960 lute, but possibly also on either of the previous 2 lutes

NOTE: There is a large degree of uncertainty about this, due to the details as recorded in the Tony Palmer book being incorrect-If anyone has firm 100% information to add please get in touch with me- I will amend this as soon as I can get confirmation, hopefully from JB himself, soon.

Additional information received recently (June 2011): This lute was owned after JB by another player, who has sent me this information now:
"quote: To the best of my knowledge and as far as I am aware, Tom Goff produced the following instruments for Bream:

Goff loaned me the last two to use. Unfortunately they were over gross baroque ‘gothic’, being far too weighty and furniture-like. (The reason why my Dunhill lighter didn’t go right through the top of the 1960 instrument is due entirely to the 3.5mm+ of thickness there!!). But beautifully crafted, nevertheless.
Thus, at one point in time, I was surrounded at home by no less than three Goff /Bream instruments! As far as I'm aware, Bream never actively used either of the two baroque instruments publically or in recordings.
Cobby (I forget his name/initials: ‘JC’?) was, effectively, Goff’s general fac totem and workshop assistant. He commuted in to Goff’s top-floor, Pont Street, workshop each day from south London. I seem to recall that their label read: ‘TRC Goff et JC Cobby. Fecerunt Londinii’.
Goff lived in very grand style indeed: vast high ceilings and priceless antiques. Also a man servant! A gentleman amateur (in the proper sense) of private means and very much of a bygone era. An ex-military man and, latterly, judge, I think.
end quote

and further quote from same source:
The instrument in question is the 1960, ex-Bream, Goff & Cobby, which I owned for a while in the very early ‘70s.
I knew Tom Goff slightly and at some point he alerted me to fact that he, and Bream, had agreed to put the lute up for sale at Sotheby’s. It was the instrument least used by Bream and they decided to see what it might be worth at auction.
I attended the auction but, In the event, I didn’t bid for it and it was bought by the Early Music Shop of Bradford. I think it realised Ł350. I obtained it from them very shortly afterwards.
I played it in lute song recitals (John Elwes mainly, and James Bowman and many others) and, to my utter shame, also in the first few concerts of my then, just emerging, group The Medieval Ensemble of London. At the South Bank, even. Ouch!
Everything changed soon after that, however, and, to be honest, I cannot recall with complete certainty how I disposed of it. I think via Sotheby’s again; I was a friend of Graham Wells and he may well have facilitated it for me.(NOTE: the owner now deceased acquired this lute in Sotheby's. so this ties in well)
As to Bream’s use of the instrument, I clearly recall Goff saying that it was the lute Bream used the least and that his (Bream’s) favourite was the one which started with seven courses but was modified to eight, using the extra bass ‘rider’ to match the existing treble ‘rider’.
Further than that, I cannot comment on your listing of Bream’s putative recordings using this particular lute other than to underline the above and to say that the ‘double rider’ instrument was –in it’s day, and of the Goff instruments – the maestro’s favourite.
On the other hand, I did accost Bream after one of his concerts and remarked that I now had his old instrument and that I was enchanted in that it seemed almost to play itself and knew all the tunes; Bream retorted in typical fashion, “well, it certainly has played some!”
For info: the very obvious dent at the lower bass edge was caused by my Dunhill cigarette lighter falling onto the instrument! I bitterly regretted that shameful accident – as much as I regretted ever smoking in the first place. That, happily, a thing of the past, by some three decades. With no regrets at all!!
end quote

(B.C: additional note on monograms: I personally made to commission by JB himself, many of the brass gilded monograms which I subsequently fitted to some of his his lutes and guitars, between 1991 and 1996. B.C.)


Photos: Click here

Price: please enquire. Sale includes the original black leatherette covered case, probably by Paxmans of London. All offers or prices agreed are 'agreed subject to approval by the executors of the estate'.

Please note: There are no CITES listed woods on this lute, so no export or ownership permit is required. For import into the USA, however, a Lacey declaration will be needed which I will supply, at no extra charge.

Price excludes freight, taxes etc. and VAT ( VAT zero rated if exported from EC, packing free, freight charged at cost- (ParcelForce, FedEx, or UPS)

The lute can be sent out for approval, for a 48 -hour period after receipt. However, all freight charges, inwards and outwards, must be borne by the client, import duties may be levied in some countries, and for the USA the 'Lacey Declaration' has to be completed in addition to any CITES permit needed. Payment must be in full in advance, and evidence provided of insurance for the journey. For these additional services, a charge will be made. Funds will be refunded in full, provided the lute arrives back in the shop in the same condition as when it left. If these conditions are not met, then the lute will be considered 'Sold'.

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