A long time ago in an issue far, far away, hidden amongst six other contenders in one of our legendary Magnificent Seven features, we boldly investigated (in somewhat abbreviated form) the Tanglewood Curbow bass. The Curbow’s basic design, featuring a luthite body and Ebonol-coated fingerboard, all collided at the grid point marked 'contemporary'. The man behind the bass was Greg Curbow, one of the USA’s most respected luthiers, who sadly developed a brain tumour and passed away in 2005. His original concept has directly inspired Tanglewood's Canyon series, and we've managed to get our sticky paws on the flagship model, the Canyon III.
The rather sexy Canyon III adheres faithfully to Curbow's design template in both scale and form, and it's still pretty diminutive, measuring less than 300mm across the lower bout. As this is a thru-neck construction, the body comprises wings glued onto a core section, and Tanglewood has replaced the luthite composite of before with good old wood. Each wing comprises a chunky slab of mahogany capped with a further slab of walnut. Good choice, we say, as the multi-faceted grain pattern and black veins are not only rather beautiful but imbue the Canyon with modernist credentials that are totally appropriate to the overall design. Rather than provide a forearm chamfer, Tanglewood have chosen to reduce the mass of the rear upper bout, fading it into a neat ribcage recess on the back. Bevelling the edge of each wing from close to the bridge around to the neck is another neat touch, adding a tasty three-dimensional look.
One of the main variations on the Curbow theme is the aforementioned thru-neck/body core which comprises a five-piece maple/mahogany sandwich. The neck itself is reasonably shallow and pretty comfortable under the hand with hardly any increase in depth until way above the 12th fret, although there is a volute at the point where neck morphs into the headstock for added strength at the accepted weakest point.
Most of the headstock is covered by a thin walnut veneer with a small unadorned section at its furthest extremity. We're not really sure if this is a cool detail or simply looks like the factory ran out of walnut at a crucial moment, but whatever your conclusion, the headstock provides a suitable home for four Spear Special Tuners – cool black nickel, like the rest of the hardware.
The ebony fingerboard houses 24 neatly-fitted medium jumbo nickel frets and carries offset abalone dots on its face and plain white markers on its top edge. You'll have noticed the blank half-moon section of fretboard at the body end which bore frets on the previous Curbow incarnation, making 25 for the D and G strings and 27 for the E and A. We should be thankful that Tanglewood have seen fit to rid the Canyon III of this unnecessary encumbrance. The fitted bridge is a chunky Tanglewood diecast model, and the strings are designed to slot into retainers rather than being fed through openings.
It won't surprise you to learn that active electronics are the order of the day, given the Canyon's contemporary bent, and we're happy to report the presence of a quick-release battery compartment on the back. The Mighty Mite pickup of old has been usurped by Tanglewood's own East River soapbar in central position; the controls – volume, bass, middle and treble – sit neatly in circular recesses, with the three EQ’s being handily centre-indented.
The Canyon's down-sized body means that it doesn't feel natural or particularly comfortable in seated position. Slung round your neck is a different matter, as balance is decent and the reduced weight will be a positive advantage on a long gig.
Description: Solidbody bass. Made in Vietnam
Build: Five-piece Canadian maple/mahogany thru neck with 24 medium jumbo nickel frets on an ebony fingerboard. Glued-on mahogany and walnut wings. Diecast Spear Special tuners and die-cast bridge. Black nickel hardware
Electrics: Active with one East River soapbar pickup. Volume, bass, middle and treble controls
Left hander: No
Finishes: Natural only
Range Options: Fretless, same price and finish. Canyon I four-string and five-string from £299; Canyon II four-string and five-string, fretless four-string and four-string leftie from £399
Scale length: 864mm/34"
Width of neck:
12th fret 55mm
Depth of neck:
1st fret 21mm
12th fret 22.5mm
Action as supplied:
12th fret treble 2.5mm
12th fret bass 3mm
Build Quality 19/20
Value for money 16/20