Allan Gittler

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Allan Gittler -- who became known by his preferred Jewish name, Avraham Bar Rashi, after 1982 -- was an established guitar virtuoso in New York City during the early 1960s, a kind of musician's musician,…
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Allan Gittler -- who became known by his preferred Jewish name, Avraham Bar Rashi, after 1982 -- was an established guitar virtuoso in New York City during the early 1960s, a kind of musician's musician, sufficient to be cast as a guitar virtuoso in one key scene of a 1962 episode of Naked City ("Hold For Gloria Christmas"), alongside percussionist Cotch Black. Born in New York City around 1930, Gittler's musical aspirations dated from the 1940s, and his early influences came from figures such as late swing era guitarist Remo Palmieri, pianist Gil Evans, and bebop drummer Elvin Jones, with whom he later worked and recorded. He also worked extensively for a time with flutists Lloyd McNeil and Genji Ito. Gittler was employed in the movie business in New York during the 1960s and 1970s as a film editor, and also patented several devices in that field, including a photographic printer and various reels and containers for motion pictures, wrote and published a novel (The Rose-Colored View), and made a short film comprised of his own stills, New York, New York, New York, set to a soundtrack by Gittler and Elvin Jones. He also began devising electric guitars that, at least in their early years, tended to outrage fellow musicians and delight artists with their unorthodox designs -- Gittler realized that, as they didn't work acoustically, there was no practical, technical reason to retain the traditional design, shape, or structure of an acoustic guitar in an electric guitar; rather, one could design electric guitars according to their unique characteristics, and the capabilities of the materials used. This freed him to create instruments that, at least for a time, looked more like works of art than actual guitars to be played and utilized -- artists and curators who saw them felt they should be in museums, and the Museum of Modern Art did acquire a Gittler guitar for its collection. For a time, Gittler was something like the musical equivalent of Howard Roarke, the visionary architect in Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead (and the King Vidor movie adaptation), who also abandoned classical designs in creating buildings for his own time, resulting in dazzling structures that the masses found, at least at first, difficult to love or accept. Gittler did eventually find a group of enthusiastic supporters among musicians, including Andy Summers of the Police, who bought several of the guitars and used them in a video by the band. Ironically, the release of the latter, featuring the "fishbone"-style guitars, coincided with Gittler's leaving New York on a personal spiritual odyssey with his wife and children and emigrating to Israel, where he took the name Avraham Bar Rashi. He was out of touch with anyone in the business while the video had aired on MTV and elsewhere, and discovered, when the smoke cleared, that hundreds of serious inquiries had come in about his guitars. He continued to design instruments in Israel and, at one point, licensed their manufacture in a deal that he later disowned because of poor workmanship. Gittler died in 2003 at age 73, still renowned among guitarists, while his instruments are considered some of the best of modern times -- his son Yoni is a musician, specializing in percussion.