Those who know me, will no be surprised: I love handmade harmonicas and gear, and I surf the internet looking for genuine products, custom harps made with precious materials and built in an artisanal way. Today I introduce you to Pablo Gentile:
Pablo Gentile is a harmonica player and a jewelry designer from New York City. He studied Painting and Sculpture and 3-dimensional design at the prestigious New York School of Visual Arts, then studied jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. His paintings and sculpture are in galleries and private collections worldwide.
His creations in silver and silver buckles and belts, have appeared on the fashion runway in collections of Giorgio Armani in Milan, and were featured by the fashion house Lowes in Barcelona, appeared in collections by Antik Batik in Paris, in New York in Bloomingdales, and again Lord and Taylor and Billy Martin’s; the list is long.
Celebrity clients include Richard Gere, David Bowie and Tina Turner, just to drop a few names. Here is a picture of a belt.
In addition to Art and Design, Gentile is a harmonica player and enthusiast.
“I started playing as a teenager in the parks of New York. Paul Butterfield was a major influence as a kid, and wherever he played in the New York area in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I was there. Including all the free shows in Central park, the Fillmore East and even at Woodstock.”
Now semi-retired Gentile devotes his time to painting and playing music and making custom harmonicas in sterling silver and exotic woods.
“I still practice the harmonica almost everyday, jam with other musicians on weekends, and make things in silver. I guess for a harp player who designs jewelry, the marriage of the two was inevitable.
I first made one for myself, I love the Hohner Golden Melody Harmonica and I wanted a unique set of cover plates. What I hadn’t expected and a very nice surprise, was to find that the higher density, and slightly increased thickness of the solid silver cover plates, deepen the tone of the harmonica.
The first thing you notice about my harps is the weight. An extra 50 grams of silver gives the instrument a different feel, more solid, it comes out in the sound.
A friend who also plays heard the results asked me to make a set for him, and so Black Rock Harmonicas was born. A few well known players got the word and orders started coming in. Some of these guys are my harmonica heroes, so its nice to work with them.
We have now expanded into making cover plates in silver, in a variety of designs to also fit Hohner Special 20 harps and Hohner Crossover Harmonicas. I’m starting to see every harmonica as a potential work of art, each has its own character, its own voice. In my personal collection I know each harp for its own idiosyncrasies and tone and color, and I design for specific harmonicas.
I have been pairing custom set ups with these cover plates and coming up with a few killer combinations. Brass and Corian and wooden combs from other designers, Im working on a solid silver comb for a special harmonica entirely silver, but for the best stainless-steel reed plates.
I started making a few wooden cover plates, even made an entirely brass harp, with custom brass comb and double brass reed plates and covers, even the screws are in brass. Its sound?..’Brassy’ loud and clear. It fits the instrument right into the brass section between the trumpet and the sax.
The Harlequin design has little decorative scalloped scoops that are carved out from behind to actually project sound louder and more clearly, it’s more than just bling for bling’s sake.
At the moment its more of a labor of love than a company. Music and art meeting in these lovingly crafted instruments is a reward in itself.
My wife designs Leather belts and handbags, and she’s now making a collection of leather harmonica belts and gig bags to appear under the Black Rock label. I’m also working on more new ideas and we will unleash the whole thing at once and watch the fun. We are hoping to roll out the complete family of our harmonica related creations at this year’s SPAH (Society for the Preservation and the Advancement of the Harmonica) show, to be held this coming August 2020 in St. Louis.
We’ve been wanting to make the journey there for a long time, and look forward to the chance to meet and learn from the great harmonica players that are sure to be there.
You can see the full catalogue clicking on the banner: