Rhumba Retro

Name Some customs are commissioned with very specific details in mind. Others come to us with a broad outline and the freedom to embellish within the spirit of the design. Rhumba Retro is just such a bass. Vincent Hamamdjian is a life-long fan of Casady and Lesh, and though he loved their sound early on, he didn't know much about their basses. As a teenager, pictures of Louis Johnson and Stanley Clarke in Rock & Folk, intrigued him. He asked his music teacher if he knew what kind of basses they were playing. His teacher explained that they were Alembics. His teacher further explained that he had learned about them from his own teacher, Francis Darizcuren one of the most successful working bassists in France, who had both a fretted and a fretless Alembic. Vincent found that “unimaginable.”
Fast forward through Vincent's own 30 year career, playing on 40 albums with a variety of French and African artists, owning dozens of different basses, until one night "I was listening to the Grateful Dead and was crazy about the bass sound. A bit of research on the web, a call to Mica, and I took the decision." All without ever having played an Alembic bass.
Wood Vincent’s research led him to request an homage to Lesh’s "Osage Orange" bass. He gave us the freedom to update and reinterpret the original design. We took the shape from a 1974 template known as the "Soft Horn Omega." Mica listened to Vincent’s music, recordings of Lesh, and put her tone wood listening skills honed over the last decade to work, deciding on Shedua for the front and back. More commonly used in the ‘70s, Shedua reinforces deep bass tones. To maintain that deep, round, organic tone, she chose Mahogany as the primary neck wood. Walnut was added to the neck to give it a more focused attack, and a single stringer of Ebony to keep the deep bass large. We added Birch to make all of the different dark neck woods stand out using it as a pinstripe and additional laminates separating the different tone woods.

Hippie Sandwich Mahogany, a neutral tone wood, was selected for the body core to ensure the neck and laminate recipe stayed true to Vincent’s sound profile. Zebrawood as an accent laminate with Shedua has a subtle but memorable visual effect. In some places, the grain of the wood lines up between the accent laminate and the top and the back and then moves apart. If you look at the bass along the edge while you rotate it, it creates a subtle optical illusion that the lines are moving. There are probably fewer than 10 Alembics with Zebrawood accent laminates.
The overall effect of the design and wood recipe is subtle. The Shedua grain on the front very slightly angles inward toward the neck, drawing your eyes to the inlay. The shading of the shedua lightens toward the neck for a graceful transition to the Mahogany. The rear features continuous wood back plates made almost invisible by the straight, parallel grain on those laminates.

peghead peghead
The front of the peghead is bookmatched. The peghead veneers were cut from the same slab of wood as the front and back laminates. Interior veneers alternate Maple and Walnut.
Fingerboard Inlays In searching for an appropriate font we selected "Caliph" (meaning “ruler”). We had to slightly modify the letterforms to better suit the inlay medium. The stylized letters fit the musician and the instrument while adding a bit of mystery and the exotic. At the same time, it feels familiar, like many of the name-inlaid instruments played by ground-breakers in early rock and roll.
Each of the 11 curving, swooping letters is hand-cut from mother of pearl and then each recess is hand-cut into the Ebony fretboard to match the letters.
Adjustable nut Other than the wood recipe, the only other concessions to newer instruments was the adjustable string nut and the choice of a gloss finish to best display the figuring of the woods. As is our new standard, we left the neck in our traditional satin finish, for a fast and comfortable feel.

hardware Gold plated hardware was a rarity on the 1970s builds, but is now included on a Series II bass or guitar. We sort of think you really shouldn't need to add much to a Series II - it already comes with all the cool options!
Besides coordinating with the warmth of the woods, the gold plated hardware has the added benefit that Vincent will not have to polish away tarnish.
inlaid logo Fitted to every modern Series II bass is an inlaid bronze logo with mother of pearl and abalone. This particular shell is ablaze with striking color that contrasts beautifully with the more mellow tones of the wood.
After inlaying the logo, we cover it with an optically-clear epoxy and then the remaining coats of finish are applied. The result is a smooth to the touch masterpiece, but that won't stop you from rubbing it just to prove to yourself that you can't feel it!

Inspection Alembic has always been a family business, and we’ve already started the third generation with Erik in the quality control department. He has quite a keen eye and ear, and loves to test out instruments with mommy.
When Vincent received his instrument, he shared with us that “it took me a few months of working hard to discover and master my new instrument, but I guess I will never buy another bass. I left many of the choices up to Mica, with my only direction the Osage Orange bass and to make the bass as 'woody' as possible. My first instrument was a cello left to me by my grandfather. My wish is to have an instrument that I can leave to my grand grand grand children.”
We calculate that as about a 100 year old bass, and given that the earliest Alembics are now approaching 50, we are confident your decendants will be enjoying the Rhumba Retro, and the music you have made with it.

Front Back


  • Series II 4-string bass
  • Schedua top and back
  • Zebrawood accent laminates
  • 70's soft horn Omega body shape
  • Mahogany, Birch, Walnut, and Ebony neck
  • Mother of pearl "V. HAMAMDJIAN" fingerboard inlay
  • Ebony fingerboard
  • Continuous wood backplates
  • Gold plated brass hardware
  • Inlaid logo with shell
  • Side LEDs in red
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Text by John Terry and Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2014 Alembic, Inc.
Photos by Mica Wickersham Thomas, © 2013, 2014 Alembic, Inc.

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