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Help With Potential Juzek Purchase

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by asg618, Mar 30, 2006.


  1. asg618

    asg618

    Jan 9, 2006
    I've got a local music shop with a Juzek showing as an "antique" for $6,000. It's obviously been hanging unplayed in the store for a long time -- probably years judging by the amount of dust on it. I had them take it down for me today to check it out. It's in pretty good shape as far as I can tell. Quite a few scratches and some areas where the finish is worn, but after rapping gently against the wood all around the body, it all seems solid. The neck and fingerboard appear to be in great shape. I'd say the wear and tear is probably average for a bass this old and used.

    On the date of mfr - the shopowner has no idea. The label inside looks just like the label posted here at the upton bass site: http://www.uptonbass.com/images/juzek/John_Juzek_013.JPG -- except that it says "formerly" right under the Juzek logo, i.e., "Violinmaker formerly in Prague". So my first question is: does anyone have any idea how to date this bass? Does the "formerly" reference in the label suggest any range of years?

    My second question has to do with pricing this bass. I'm sure it can be had for less than the $6K asking, but I'm not sure how much I'm willing to pay and still be sure I'm getting good value. In my rather inexperienced estimation, I'd say the bass needs the following in order to make it playable:

    1. New strings -- no question! The strings on it now were probably once quite good, but they've no doubt been sitting on the bass out in the open for several years. They feel pretty grimy.

    2. New bridge -- the bridge on it is old and yellowed. It seems to be set fairly well, but I'd like an adjustable bridge, so it has to be replaced.

    3. Top to bottom cleaning, and maybe some refinishing. If there's some way to treat or coat the wood to better protect it and enhance it's longevity, I'd like to do that. I want to pretty her up, and would guess it's more than just mere cleaning, probably just enough to take it to a professional shop that knows what they're doing and will really treat her right.

    4. New tuners? The tuners seem to work fine, but they look old and tarnished. Perhaps a cleaning with the right materials would make them just fine. Same goes for the endpin.

    I realize this is tough without anyone else having seen the bass, but I'm wondering if folks can share some guestimates on what I can expect to pay to get this bass ready to play, and what a fair discount off the $6K asking price might be.

    In spite of all of the above flaws, the bass feels quite nice and plays comfortably. It feels and sounds much better than the new $900 "ebonized" laminate job that the store also sells, even through the filth! So, I'm very tempted to try to cut some deal here. Reading many of the posts in this forum, it seems a good Juzek, once cleaned up, may be well worth the time and effort.

    Thanks all!
    Alan
     
  2. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I love my Juzek, but some are great, some not so good. If you have a teacher, ask him/her to go along with you. They will probably have more expirience on the subject. Also, take it to a luthier that both you and your teacher trust. If you decide it's the one, ask if you can have a one week trial. Alot of stores will do this if you pay in full, or put down a deposit up front. A good dealer wants what's best for you and for the bass.
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Without pics we can't help except 'formerly in Prague' means made in Germany after wwII. The Juzeks are all made in shops mostly by various generations of the Wilfer Family. All were sold out of NY and some were purchased from other suppliers to fill orders that would be from other Germanish shops as well and still were labelled in NY by the Juzeks. John Juzek was out of the picture by then. I assume is was only involved from the 1920s to maybe 1936-39 working with the shops making his models for export to USA.
     
  4. asg618

    asg618

    Jan 9, 2006
    Thanks, Ken -- that at least provides some cutoff range for the earliest date of manufacture.

    It's not a bad idea to see if the shopowner will let me take some pictures of the bass. If he won't, well ... that's a pretty good reason to pass on this one.
     
  5. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    Pre - War (World War Two, that is) Juzeks are generally better basses than Post-War, and from your description of this label, it appears to be a Post-War. There is a world of difference in the sound (and crafstmanship) of, say, a 1920 Juzek and one rolled off the factory floor in 1960. Some of the best ones I ever heard belong to Ron Carter (1910 vintage) of New York City and Mike Fitzmaurice (1920 vintage ), of Denver. Generally speaking, Juzeks have a good reputation as modestly-priced carved basses go, but clearly the Pre-War instruments are more prized for their tone and especially their punch. There are a number of ways to spiff up the finish, posted on numerous threads in the forum. Best bet: take it either to your teacher, another experienced bassist, or to a Luthier, and have them evaluate this bass. Good luck.
     
  6. asg618

    asg618

    Jan 9, 2006
    Very helpful info, Strongbow, and great advice, too. It's clear I'm going to need a more experienced set of eyes on this bass if I'm going to seriously consider buying it. I'll talk to a local luthier about taking a trip with me to see it. Thanks!
     
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I don't know where you got that Date from But Juzek didn't "BUY" his first bass until after 1920. Even at that the buyer was Robert Juzek in NY using the John Juzek name and label. This is history and not speculation. Similar style Basses were made before Juzek bought them but that doesn't make them a Juzek. Before wwII most Juzek products were made in the Czech territory of Shoenbach bordering Germany. They mostly moved over to the German side after the war. I once saw Ron's Bass opened up in NYC and it looked like a plain jane commercial factory German bass to me. If you want to know just how good a bass is or not, play and listen to it without an AMP and without Rudy Van Gelder at the controls. How a Bass records is not how a Bass sounds live.
     
  8. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    Ken, I have a John Juzek that was estimated to be made in the 20's. At that time, did Juzek have any input into the design and construction process, or did he just buy them as is and stick a label on the inside? Either way, it is one fine instrument. It speaks so quickly and has this huge knock out punch up front. Perfect for jazz, but I've been able to coax alot out of it with the bow.
     
  9. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    As with all Basses and Violins everyone wants to have the oldest ever made. Even dealers have altered or switched Strad labels to put it in the Golden period to gain a higher price for his originals. Everyone claims to have an 1820 Prescott but I have his ACTUAL Sales records from 1809 - 1823 and most of them were Church Basses with Very few Double Basses made in that time.

    The same is with Juzek. So many claim to have a 1920s Bass but he didn't start the business until 1920-21 and Violins were the main Item. Only a few Basses I have seen with the squished down Purfled Horn design in the rear button seems to be as old or older than the 1936-1939 Basses I have seen that DO actually have a date in them. http://www.uptonbass.com/images/juzek/John_Juzek_006.JPG and the later design; http://www.nahrmannbass.com/cgi-bin/datacgi/download.cgi?file=Invent&download=0PHZ82YX

    Many many dealers date most of thier Bass stock as the oldest date of the maker or older maker within the family to get a higher price. This is the nature of the business. Back in the 1970s I read an atricle in Downbeat where someone claimed to have a 150 year old Juzek bass. That was made ofcource 75 years BEFORE he was even born.

    They don't usually make Basses or Violins before they are out of Diapers. Soon after I am sure if you check the dates some dealers use. It is not uncommon though to see a maker listed as making his first VIOLIN (not Bass) when he was only 13. I wonder how much help he had from Daddy on that fiddle.

    Both My Gilkes and Martini have early dates for the makers placing them each in thier 20s when they made these Basses. Don't believe all these early dates you read or hear about. Also, many of the people that claim to have a Prescott do not. It is another Yankee maker.

    I have a Prescott that could be 1818 or 1848. We can't tell but we can guess. All signs point to the earlier dates by the construction and finish but the condition is so good even though it was cut down in the same shop that I originally believed it was made in the later period when the Dearborns worked in the Shop. A Bass is what it is whether it's a Juzek or Prescott. Sound, playability and condition are more important than the exact date. In my business I always believe I can make the next one better than the last and my new ones are always better than my old ones. Ofcourse, the Vintage market says different. Drivin by money these opinions often are....

    The question of Juzek, Robert or John in Prague designing them I would guess they brought in what was affordable for Schools and those that could not aford the hand made European basses. The Juzeks presumably by Wilfer are similar to the Pfretchners and a dozen other commercial brands during the same time period.
     
  11. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005

    Precisely, which makes one wonder why some folks feel compelled to make a federal case out of the subject each and every time! Its really boorish as hell.....

    But I'm certainly not going to call Mr. Carter a liar!
     
  12. NickyBass

    NickyBass Supporting Member

    Nov 28, 2005
    Southern New Jersey
    I don't think that there is anything wrong with wanting to know the history of your bass. It's an interesting thought. Like I said, either way, it doesn't matter, as long as it sounds and feels good. When my Juzek was estimated as being from the 20's, I really didn't have any feelings about it either way. It is just interesting to know. If he would have said that it was made in the future, I don't think that I would like the bass any more or any less. Btw, my Luthier was the one who told me the date, not the dealer.
     
  13. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    There's nothing wrong with it...most of us with old basses spend a lifetime trying to date them or come up with some pedigree of some kind...that's what makes it interesting! That's what drives many of the threads on this forum! Its a real personal thing, man, just like everything associated with the double bass....if you instantly love it and dig holding it in your hands, chances are its going to become an artistic extension of yourself, regardless of pedigree. Short answer to your original enquiry: yes, Juzeks are generally fine sounding basses-- they have their champions-- players who would rather sell their old lady than their Juzek! Don't be put off or distracted by those with unfettered egos who seem to have a desire to want to impress you with their encyclopedic knowledge of the history of fiddle making. If you take the time to check some of these chaps you might even find that they have absolutely no feeling whatsoever for the instrincic or historical value of an instrument....no, all they give a damn about is that they have a bass with a master label in it...but that doesn't stop them from destroying the intrinsic and historical value of the bass by seeking to "improve" it -- making a slice here, a cut there, trashing the original hardware for something they think looks cool or prettier (sort of like mounting tail fins on a buggy). These are the guys one scholarly afficianado described as "vandals." They commit vandalism on old basses. You know, Scotty LaFaro sounded just as great to me when he was making his first records in LA (like "The Arrival of Victor Feldman" with Shelley Manne) with a common shop bass-- long before he ever got his hands on that nice old Prescott in NY. Likewise, Slam Stewart was equally brilliant whether he was playing his plywood Kay or his carved German bass. IF IT SOUNDS GOOD TO YOU AND IS COMFORTABLE TO PLAY, ITS THE RIGHT BASS FOR YOU. Once again, Good Luck and let us know whether you decide to buy it.....
     
  14. asg618

    asg618

    Jan 9, 2006
    Yeah, that's what it comes down to for sure. To that end, I'm going to take some more time to play as many other basses as I can, so I have several bases (pun intended) for comparison. And I've decided to enjoy the process -- I think the chase will be half the fun, and the bass I finally get will be all the more rewarding for all the work I've put into procuring it.

    Thanks again!
    Alan
     
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    STRONGBOW, are you referring to me? If so, try tuning your Bass with 14:1 ratio 100 year old hatpegs that slip in an Orchestra and see how well you do. I would only change Gears if the ones on the Bass were inferior. Many Basses I have used stayed as purchased as far as gears go.

    If the truth about a maker or shop bothers you maybe I shouldn't bother in the future sharing my knowledge about Basses. Also, if Lafarro's Bass was a Prescott then it's the ONLY one with those FFs out of the dozens we have seen. So there, another fact given for free directly to you and for others to read.
     
  16. metalbass.com

    metalbass.com

    Mar 20, 2006

    Personally, I appreciate Ken's input and experiance
    in the field.

    I have learned alot and continue to.

    Perhaps the question is "What Impact with the bass have on my Spiritual Worth?"

    Peace
     
  17. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    ya ya ya.... Now! What was the original enquiry about?
     
  18. I have a JUEK of unknown year (probably 20-35 years). It sounds great but has gashes down the right ribs. the ribs is the only thing that really needs replacing. Doesn't have a adjustable bridge though. I'm trying to get rid of it for around 12000$ if you want to come my way.
     
  19. I hope you mean $1200. Are you still playing that plywood Bass?
     
  20. b1644

    b1644

    Aug 24, 2005
    Northern Ontario
    Hopefully this will help the prospective buyer...

    My Juzek was labelled similarly, "...formerly of Prague" etc. It was dated at about 1950 by Barrie Kolstein, from whose shop I bought it via an Ebay auction for $4950 USD in 2000.

    That price included one of Barrie's nice padded covers, a fresh set of Spirocore's, a bib and quiver. The bass also has a Kolstein shop label inside saying "repaired 1995". The bass was in great shape and perfectly set up of course.

    It might not be fair to compare an auction price to that of a regular shop but that $6000 had better include a decent setup, at the very least.

    Maybe you can swing a deal on the Juzek but don't get too hung up on it. There are decent basses available for less like the New Standard's and Shen's. They seem pretty hard to beat in their price range. I'm sure there are others too that I'm omitting.


    - Martin
     

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